About a month ago, there was a big brouhaha over this article about substitute teaching. Most teachers (the non-substitute ones, that is) agreed that the author had some valid points and some invalid ones, and everyone wanted to address the issue from their own perspective.
I'm late to the party, and most of my issues have already been admirably covered by Mrs. Mimi and by Mildly Melancholy, but I just wanted to add a few thoughts of my own.
The article's author is "angered" at how many teachers are absent on any given day (er, except if they were in school, then you'd be out of a job, wouldn't you?). Teachers, she claims, "are most likely to be absent on Fridays, followed by Mondays."
This is an issue I can address from personal experience -- and it's not because teachers are party people who want a three-day weekend. Rather, it's the opposite. My first year teaching, I was out sick five times, most of those on Friday or Monday. And it's because I got sick (from a roster of 400 elementary school students carrying hundreds of millions of germs), but I continued to dddrraaaaaaaaaggg myself into work day after day until I was so sick by the weekend that I had no choice but to call in Friday and/or Monday. Sorry to burst your bubble there, sub!
One of her suggestions is that administrators "should check with their subs during the school day." This sounds like it's coming from someone who's never actually worked full time in an actual school. I'm not the World's Biggest Fan of my administrators, but I will tell you this: They are busy people. On any given day, we have state testing going on, or our suspension room is in effect, or inquiry teams are meeting, or there are grade conferences, etc. Checking in with substitute teachers? Is the least of their concerns.
My favorite part is when she says, "Principals should also try to arrange for other teachers to use their prep time to fill in for absent colleagues." Hi, that was my nightmare last year and I did not like it one bit. And guess what, those teachers didn't leave very detailed plans for me, either, but I sucked it up and dealt with it because I am an intelligent human being.
Last, she wants unsuspecting parents and educators to know "that too many teachers are leaving their children’s education in the hands of unskilled, untrained stand-ins." Okay, well, first of all, that's the district's fault, not mine. If the district is going to hire people as substitute teachers without requiring them to have any formal teacher training, does that mean I should refrain from calling in sick because God forbid my class have to spend the day with one of these "unskilled, untrained stand-ins"? Please, I have enough things on my mind already. Second of all, speaking as someone who's both subbed and had other teachers sub for me: When you're subbing, that day may feel like the longest day in the world, but in reality it's usually just one day out of a week or a month or a year. Most teachers I know are just happy to come back to a classroom that's not in complete shambles and the absence of accusatory notes from the sub on her desk. No teacher I know would leave an absolutely essential or vital lesson plan in the hands of a sub, even if they knew it was going to be a competent person, just because when something is absolutely essential or vital, of course you're going to want to teach it yourself.
I'm writing this as I'm sick at home with a cold, and will I call in sick tomorrow? Probably not, because I've managed to schedule three parent meetings for the morning that I don't want to cancel. Oh and also because, like the vast majority of teachers I know, I'm pretty dedicated. Don't forget it.