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.