Nine o’clock Sunday morning a notification goes off on my cell phone. Amy, my wife, picks up my phone to see what the buzz was about while I was readying breakfast for our 3 children. Was it an emergency? Was it an invite for an outing during the day? Was it Grandma asking us to attend church with here? NO, a work colleague had sent our building staff a survey to take by Wednesday to plan a parent engagement night for our school. Amy threw my phone down on the table with disgust:”Why is your work ALWAYS budding into family time?” A teacher working at 9 AM on a Sunday morning? Yes, this is the teacher’s life. So much work that even the day of rest gets compromised to check things off the to do list.
Teachers are overload with work, left with little time to check things off their “to do” lists. Often when teachers find time they use it for much needed unwinding and family time than to dive into new needed tasks. Teachers show up for their days early and work late into the evenings focusing on lessons plans and feedback. We worry about our students and spend time focused on relationships. Our jobs are full of activity and stress. Kaye Wiggins writes that teaching is one of the top three stressful careers.
There is this SUPERTEACHER myth advocated by education reformers that many believe. If teachers just gave more time, students will achieve. How much time can educators give? Most educators have families that they need to have time to support. Educators are overloaded! It would be great if education was like many other professions, where time was flexible and work stayed at work.
To reform education, one might start by unloading the teachers, so they can FOCUS on their jobs of educating students.
Thursday morning our staff received a urgent plea from our principal, “We are short 4 substitute teachers for Friday. The district has spent precious funds to send our Language Arts department to a conference. We need teachers to volunteer their preparation time to make it happen.” Our staff knows the drill most of them volunteered their valuable time to make the day run smoothly. Sadly this is all to frequent a story for teachers. Teacher preparation time is valuable. It allows for collaboration and planning to occur. The rest of the day is spend in front of our students teaching. Where have all the subs gone?
Billboards and yard signs are all over Michigan, yet there remains a shortage of substitute teachers. When I started teaching sixteen years ago, subs were abundant. Rarely was there a shortage. Most teachers would never have to give up their preparation time for the entire year. So far during the first five weeks of school, I have given up 3 prep periods and I have heard of teachers giving up as many as 5 prep periods. This is an unacceptable rate to be loosing preparation time. If the shortage continues the lack of subs will have a huge impact on student learning.
Schools need subs for a variety of reasons. Teachers get sick and have doctors appoints just like anyone else, can’t just leave the classes unattended. School districts also have to provide professional development and staff trainings as mandated by state law. Every teachers needs to be offered 30 hours of professional development per year.
Friday was a rough day for our teachers and students. Not only were preparation times lost, the few subs that our school could obtain were inferior. One sub was so bad our principal had to send him home in the middle of the day. Our schools deserve better. Our administrators and teachers should not have to worry about subs to start everyday. I know teachers who show up to work sick because they don’t want to be a burden to fellow staff if a sub can not be found.
Where is the administrative, parent and media outrage? When will our legislators address this issue? Probably never sadly. The responses I see some people asking why subs are need in the first place.
The time is NOW to address this issue. Subs are needed in every school district. Heck some school districts still have open full time positions. If you have a day or two free during the week sign up to be a sub, it will change our students lives!