Friday started like any typical school day, teachers slowly trickling into school as the first bell approaches. The copy machine running, students being dropped off out front. Then the PA booms “Teachers were are short on Substitutes today, Please answer the phone when it rings.” Teachers’ moods instantly change as “not again” is moaned by one passing teacher. The Technology Director walks down to one classroom doorway with sub folder in hand stating “Not what I was expecting to do, but it can’t be that bad!”
I hear of this scene all over Metro Detroit. I assume it is happening all over the country. School districts are faced with a growing problem. Substitute teachers are scarce! This problem does a disservice to all staff working in education! Administrators have to scramble to find staff to cover classrooms or cover the classes themselves. Teachers have to sacrifice their limited prep time to teach other classrooms. Support personnel have to abandon their caseloads for the day. Some districts are still struggling to fill full time teaching positions.
This problem most effects out students. How can learning happen when high quality subs aren’t available? or when class size inflate due to lack of teachers? It has gotten to the point where State Superintendent of Education is offering ways to address the “teacher shortage”. “Teaching is the most noble and important of professions and I have no doubt there are people out there who are willing to make a difference,” Flanagan said.
The Michigan Department of Education proposal offers up alternative certification and accelerated paths into teaching. I don’t feel this helps with the urgent need for substitutes around the state. It might help fill the vacancies in some districts. Schools need subs. There are a few ways to fill this need!
1. College Students- Every college of education student should be registered to be a substitute this way when there is a great need to them in schools, they can step up and help out. Great experience and every college student needs some extra cash.
2. Substitutes should get service credit- When I was a sub, my hours counted as service credit towards my retirement. This left a few years ago when school districts were encouraged to privatize their substitute services. Look where this has gotten us. I know many qualified teachers who refuse to sub for this very reason.
3. Community outreach- Districts need to reach out the the religious and other community service organizations to help provide guest teachers when they are short. Local businesses can take an hour or two and let employees help out in the community by teaching the next generation of employees.
The education of the children of our communities should be addressed by everyone in the community. WE all need to work together to solve this shortage. It should not just be pressed upon the school employees.