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National Substitute Educator Day: Subs Are Superheroes

Written by
Leigh Dunn
Contributing Educator
Published on
January 10, 2023

Did you know National Substitute Educator Day is the Friday before Thanksgiving? This year, it falls on November 18th. When I was in college, many peers mentioned they may “just sub” instead of diving straight into teaching full time. I remember a professor saying, “A substitute teacher is like a deer on the first day of hunting season.” 

Twenty years later, I found myself as a substitute teacher. I now understood what that professor meant! I had sarcastic 5th graders applaud when I would say something profound. I believed a group of 4th graders when they said they could “research” on their laptops for the afternoon. I spilled an entire cup of coffee down a teacher’s bookshelf. One lesson plan stated, “Get the ice that was dyed blue out of the lounge freezer and thaw it for a bit” for a science experiment. I was in a precious classroom with a pet turtle and another classroom that truly could’ve been on an episode of Hoarders. I was in a lockdown for a few hours with a student who had chicken pox. 

I can say - subbing was not for the faint of heart. 

A few months later, I became a bit wiser. I showed up with a bag of tickets and prizes to bribe reward the kids for good behavior. I dried tears when a 3rd grader became overwhelmed during testing. I learned fire exits quickly and had extra indoor recess games for rainy days. I learned which schools had quality coffee in the lounge and which principals were the most empathetic. After about a year of substitute teaching, I remember thinking, I think I’d rather have my own classroom. Walking in as a substitute teacher, never knowing what the day holds, was just a bit unsettling. 

Now that I’m a classroom teacher, I’m forever grateful for substitutes.

When my grandfather passed away, I knew my class was taken care of by a sweet substitute teacher. When my daughter spiked a 2 AM fever, I knew a sub would cover. When I desperately needed a mental health day, I was confident my class was in good hands. 

Thank you to all of the subs who give teachers a much-needed break, who fill in in a pinch, and step up and step in with confidence every day. I’ve been there, and I know the job is difficult. $150 for the day does not come close to rewarding what your job entails. You are needed, valued, and appreciated. 

You’re not “just a sub.” You’re a superhero.