It's February. Schools are getting closer to mid-Winter and Spring breaks. We have all been trapped in close quarters with each and every teacher, staff member, administrator, and student for the large part of six weeks (except for those few snow and ice days). The breeding ground for virus and bacteria has been incubated by the existence of furnace-pumped, artificial heat. And, this year it has hit hard. For the first time in my short six-plus year career, I had to take more than a day off to recover from a bug.
When I had asked my teaching cohort how my guest teacher had done with my students, the answer took me aback. "We didn't have a sub for you," explained one of my teaching colleagues. Another stated, "I was pulled during my planning to cover your first period." Yet another exclaimed that, "I had to cancel my health elective and cover your fifth period." Two feelings filled my mind and heart as I heard this. One, I felt bad for those people who had to alter their schedule in order to cover for me. Second, I grew angry. Where are all of the guest teachers?
I remember being a guest teacher before I earned my full time gig. In most cases, being a substitute meant you were going to deal with misbehaving students and lack of direction. It wasn't the most desirable position. But, for me, it wasn't about the pay check. I did it to get my foot in the door to a school district to advance my career. In the current climate of the education field, I thought others would be on the same path. I guess I was wrong.
The lack of guest teachers in our district has been a problem over the past few years. After doing some reading, it appears our district is not as unique in this capacity as I thought. I began reading an article titled A Day With No Sub in this month's MEA Voice. The article chronicled the day with a shortage of one guest teacher. I was intrigued. According to the article, "14 adults and 134 students were impacted by the missing guest teacher...a grand total of 148 people who had to be flexible and rework a portion of their day," (Denys, p.11). The impact of just one person being out with no coverage is monumental. Those 134 students do not get the full attention they deserve from their classroom teacher. What an absurd travesty. But, how do we get quality guest teachers back into the classroom? Do we bring in retired teachers? Maybe. Do we increase pay? Sure. But, that will not keep guest teachers coming back.
The one thing I always wanted during my guest teaching experiences was to feel as though I was supported and appreciated. I vividly remember going to work in a specific school in Lansing, Michigan where the principal and assistant principal would come out and welcome me. They would direct me to the room I would be teaching and ensure I had everything. Then, they said the words that made it easy to keep coming back: "If you need anything, make sure you contact me, and I will help you take care of any issues."
What made it so comforting? They meant it. Respected. Appreciated. That is what we need more of. And, I guess throw in that pay bump. Our guest teachers probably wouldn't complain.