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Substitute Teaching as an Alternative Job Source

Substitute Teaching

A great noncommittal occupation is sometimes hard to find. You can try to freelance, sell on ebay or find a part-time job. Another, sometimes overlooked, noncommittal job is Substitute Teaching. We all remember Substitute Teachers when we were in school. A fun excuse to not listen, act up and party hardy while the teacher is gone, just hoping that the sub won’t rat you out for your behavior. Why not be that academic punching bag you remember so fondly? Honestly, it’s not that bad. The younger students think you are a real teacher and listen fairly well to your instructions. The older kids don’t care who is there and are pretty self-sufficient. Also, you are never bored because each day is a new adventure, teaching different age levels and subjects and you leave the stress at the door when you leave!

After graduating from college in 2003 with an English degree, I felt I would easily find a great, high-paying job. Well, six years later I am still trying to fit my way in to the successful working world. I decided to Substitute teach after graduating and did so for a couple of years while holding down another part-time job. I was younger and had trouble relating with the kids and simply did not like it very much. I then went into Retail Management for four years and made pretty good money but was miserable. Being constantly micromanaged to the point of no return, I decided that I needed to have more time for myself and travel less (I had a 2 hour a day commute). I decided to give Substitute Teaching another try. After being in the bowels of society (retail) it is so refreshing and rewarding now. I am in charge, respected and make my own schedule. Plus, you have so many funny stories to tell because the kids are hilarious.

So, how do you go about being a Substitute Teacher? I live in Ohio and in this state all you need is a Bachelors degree (in anything), a background check, a clean bill of tuberculosis and contact your local Substitute service center to fill out paperwork. Then you can renew your license every spring for the following year. It is good also as a back-up job in case, in these trying times, you lose your current job. In Ohio, once you are licensed, you can check for jobs online and pick the ones that you would like. Also, an automated calling system calls you for jobs too. You are not required to take the jobs that are listed so if you do not feel like going that day or have something else going on, you need not explain yourself to anyone. You are also able to cancel a job typically without even having to talk to anyone in person. You are like an independent contractor. You also are automatically set up with a State Teachers Retirement Fund. The more you work, the more you get paid. Also, sometimes you can land a provisional teaching job if you prove to be efficient because some teachers have to take a leave of absence mid-year and the school would be comfortable putting someone they were familiar with in that position rather than interviewing loads of teachers they do not know.

So there has to be a catch, right? Well…yes. If you live in a snowy state such as I do, and have a snow day with school being canceled, you do not get paid that day as a regular teacher does. Also, when summer approaches, you are out of a job for three months. And the occasional “sticky” situation can occur in the classroom. I once had a student chop off about 1/3 of her hair during a cut and paste activity and I freaked. I calmly took her next door to another teacher to ask her how to handle the situation. We took away her scissors, wrote a note to her real teacher so that scissor privileges would be enforced and then I had to tell the students mother what happened at the end of the day. You never know with parents how they will react to you as the teacher. But, surprisingly, she barely acknowledged me and focused on the student. Phew! I was so glad she did not blame me for the incident. You are responsible for the students’ safety but with 27 kindergartners and one of you, I call that a god day.

It is also really interesting to see the differences in school systems even though they are in the same vicinity they differ a great deal. I have seen some really great programs and staff and some not-so great ones. Some left me somewhat perturbed and a little angry. I wish that all parents could sit in for at least one day to see how their child’s day plays out. I think that they might appreciate a child’s struggle a great deal more.

If you do decide to Substitute Teach, get ahold of the educational services center in your area in late summer or the spring before school’s out to optimize the timing of being on the roster. Sometimes, it can take about a month for your background check and paperwork to be cleared. Also, check out thrift stores for materials because unfortunately some teachers do not leave you much work to do or none at all and believe me – especially if you have younger students – every second that they have nothing to do can result in chaos! I have found lesson plans, Dr. Seuss and Berenstain Bears videos at thrift store for 50-90 cents each as well as free print outs online. I take these with me as a back up so that I will be prepared. Most teachers will be more than happy to help you out if you are in this situation but there are schools that virtually ignore you and you are on your own. I once subbed for a sick Kindergarten teacher who was out for 4 days and was unable to leave lesson plans. The other teachers generously gave me print outs, activities and videos and checked in on me throughout my time there.

Substitute Teaching also opens up ideas on whether you would be interested in teaching full-time. In Ohio, it is rather difficult to get licensed, otherwise I would be a full-time teacher. But in other states, especially those who have teacher shortages (Florida, for one) you can find recruitment services and can teach even if you do not have a degree. My fiancé is finishing up his Masters in teaching and we are seriously thinking about moving down there so that he can find a teaching job more easily and perhaps I can teach too without falling further into student loans as we already are. Either way, I am enjoying Substitute Teaching and have a lot of stories to tell and feel good about helping students reach their potential.

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