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thecoast thecoast is offline
 
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Dissertation on Subbing: questions
Old 02-04-2018, 06:51 PM
 
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I've been doing some basic research for a dissertation on substitute teaching. Seems like academics and practitioners know what ought to be done about professional preparation for substitutes, the need for subs, the amount of time children spend with them, and perceptions (both negative and positive) about subs, etc. I have some questions for those who are interested in research on substitute teaching and would like to put in their greatly appreciated x > or = 2 cents.
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Do you think there should be a professionally recognized substitute teaching track or specialization?

Should substitutes be assigned to specific schools so that students know the subs and so that subs know the school routines and the administration in order to mitigate the disruptive nature of substituting on students?

Should subs only be assigned to their specializations? That is, in California, for example, you can be a multi-subject teacher (K-5th) or single-subject
teacher (6th on up). Should subs only function in their area of competence?

Should school administrators get training in order to appropriately utilize subs?

Should teachers get training in order to appropriately utilize substitute teachers?

=============================
Any other questions that you think might be covered in a dissertation on substitute teachers?

Thanks for your thoughtful consideration of these questions and issues.


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Interesting questions
Old 02-05-2018, 12:33 AM
 
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I think however that you are missing some important considerations.

First, people who substitute teach require sufficient funds to support themselves unless they are subbing to supplement retirement income (still requiring funds), have a highly paid spouse, or have a huge inheritance. Districts need to give a descent whack at getting employment or loose their cadre of subs.

Substitutes are the lowest paid members of the staff in most districts. When it looked like they might have to provide medical insurance for subs under Obamacare, some districts outsourced their subs to private companies to avoid that support. Others began limiting how many days a week a sub could work.
In my district the schedule is such that to earn a January pay check there are 7 possible working days--four of which precede a three week vacation, so 3 days pay to survive from mid-January to the next pay day in mid-February, if there is any need during those three days. There is a drop in available subs after January.

Many districts also use a Letter of Reasonable Assurance (indicating an intent to continue employment) to avoid unemployment insurance claims during the summer.

[The economics of substitute teaching for both employee and district might be an interesting dissertation topic.]

Assigning subs to specific schools will severely limit the number of positions available and many will stop subbing to survive. Also some schools will need a large number of subs on a few occasions and those who would have answered the call will be working in other fields. Those days with no one sick, the sub will be seen as an overpaid aide.

Some administrators are trying to eliminate "the disruptive nature of substituting on students" [do you really believe that???] by using teacher absences as part of evaluations forcing sick teachers or those with sick family members to zombie through the school day. Thus further reducing opportunities for employment.

Second, assigned to their [substitutes'] specializations only? I think you need more research on what it takes to be credentialed as a substitute in the various states. Some states want only a high school diploma, mine requires 60 college units in anything and no education courses, others want a degree. If subs only functioned in their "area of competence" there would be no subs for
a myriad of academic areas physics, math, music, special education, biology, P.E., home ec, shop, history, etc.

Given the array of classes and ages subs are expected to handle, I think a specialized track would not be economically feasible for most subs.Many subs are doing it to get a foot in the door to a full time teaching job, training to be a substitute would defeat that ambition. For others, there are many places to invest educational dollars that will result in truly gainful employment.
The only specialized training that I know of can be investigated here: https://stedi.org They are happy to take money for training. I'm not sure what the Return on Investment is--likely not much.

Should school administrators and teachers get training to appropriately utilize subs? I'd like all admin to provide support for behavior issues, to provide a key to lock the classroom in a code red, to smile in welcome to all subs. It would be nice for all teachers to leave lesson plans and class lists, for all subs to have access to the technology that's listed in lesson plans.

Substitutes need training in all the various models of computers in classrooms, in the interactive white boards of various brands and years, in the huge array of document cameras in various schools, etc.
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My responses
Old 02-05-2018, 02:06 PM
 
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Do you think there should be a professionally recognized substitute teaching track or specialization?

I feel that subs should have training, especially those with degrees in other fields. My county ROE offers classes, but they are not required. Too many times, subs think they are coming and babysitting. And that's not how it goes. A substitute teaching track/specialization would never pay for itself. I earn 90 dollars a day. And I know I'm not the lowest paid sub out there.

Should substitutes be assigned to specific schools so that students know the subs and so that subs know the school routines and the administration in order to mitigate the disruptive nature of substituting on students?

No. Subs find their own niche. For example, I have a special ed degree, elementary teaching degree, and middle school endorsement. I am most comfortable with grades 6-12. I taught middle school for most of my career. Looking at my degree, I would probably be assigned either special ed or elementary. But I got my middle school endorsement because that was MY niche.

Should subs only be assigned to their specializations? That is, in California, for example, you can be a multi-subject teacher (K-5th) or single-subject teacher (6th on up). Should subs only function in their area of competence?

No. I taught middle school for 20 years, yet I have subbed in all grade levels. I prefer middle/high school, but am comfortable with anything above second grade.

Should school administrators get training in order to appropriately utilize subs?
No. I don't understand this question. But if they know how to direct their staff, they should automatically be able to utilize subs.


Should teachers get training in order to appropriately utilize substitute teachers?
No. But they should be directed to have a sub folder, emergency plans for occasions when there is an unexpected absence, seating charts, classroom procedures, emergency/crisis folders, etc. The district where I sub requires all these and more.

=============================
Any other questions that you think might be covered in a dissertation on substitute teachers?

How about questions about the actual substitute qualifications/training? Seems like your dissertation is more about the administrative/school side of subbing.
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Old 02-05-2018, 02:35 PM
 
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Broomrider, you said it very well, and there's not much I can add.

At the end of your post, you mentioned training on how to use the computers, interactive white boards, etc. I've learned how to use a lot of it, but there are some things I'd rather not touch. This technology is helpful in the classroom, but there are teachers who prefer that we don't use it.

The original questions didn't mention it, but like Broomrider, I'm also wary of substitute training. There is nothing like experience. Nothing. When I was a regular teacher, I went to a lot of workshops, but very few of the ideas I heard made me a better teacher. I improved with experience and talking to other teachers. When I started subbing a number of years ago, I was decent, but got better at it after doing it for a while (and reading suggestions on Proteacher).

One of my districts once decided to have a summer training session for subs. It was a day long, unpaid, from 8:30 AM until 3:30 PM with an hour off for lunch. The presenter was pleasant, and she probably thought she had imparted some great wisdom. The truth was that most of her advice bordered on useless. We had to get up in front of the others and introduce ourselves as we would introduce ourselves to a class. The only other thing I remember was her suggestion that we bring pencils to give to students who didn't have them.

Here's what she didn't say because it didn't fit into the rosy picture she was trying to present. The district's high school had a lot of difficult and even dangerous students. One of the teachers quietly advised subs not to "bother" those who weren't doing their work because they could be dangerous. As long as they weren't hurting anyone or destroying anything, the advice was to leave them alone. In the middle school, administrative discipline was a joke. The place was so out of control that many subs wouldn't go near it.

I learned that the most successful subs in these two schools were not the ones who followed the cheerful advice from the the training session. It wouldn't have worked. The successful ones took attendance, read the assignment, and sat back and read a book or newspaper. If the class did the assignment that was fine, and if they didn't, that was fine too. In other words, don't bother me and I won't bother you.
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Hmm...
Old 02-05-2018, 11:01 PM
 
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Out of curiosity, why would teachers and admin need "training" to "utilize" subs?

Seems like all they technically do is give us lesson plans, (hopefully,) keys, (if we're lucky,) and a sub folder.

Honestly, they play a very small role in our jobs, ironically. A lot of times us subs are kind of "out of sight, out of mind." And to be honest, I kind of like being left alone to focus on my job without disruption.

Unless the students are poorly behaved. Then I could use a hand or ten. Lol.

Try wording it this way: How can we ensure teachers, admin, and subs are on the same page? How can we avoid disconnect?


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Right on, Subsaurus!
Old 02-06-2018, 02:28 PM
 
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I was frankly not inclined to answer what seem to be leading questions... and I think we (subs, teachers, admin) have more in common than different. Our energies might be better expended on those commonalities.

Subbing does require some different skills... we need to be more flexible and adaptable than a regular teacher. Maybe. But I think the best teachers have similar skills... so again, how different are we, really?

Sub/guest teacher and regular teacher... there is one word in common in those labels.

Strangely absent from most of these dialogues is conversation about what’s best for our customers, the learners. We aren’t likely to change some of the realities of the system. But we can make it less divisive by not trying to fix each other and focusing on the goal.
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interesting questions...heres my thoughts...
Old 02-07-2018, 10:25 AM
 
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been subbing a while, and yeah. We're thought of by a lot of people as nothing more than toilets...when they need us, there's no other alternative and they have to use us...
but when they don't need us, they flush us and forget about us....till the next time they need us of course....then the whole cycle starts all over again...

Prime Example:
Last week i was subbing high school. The counselor come in for college presentation day. None of the tech worked right for his laptop so I had to call for tech help. I did all the leg-work to get them in there, even though i had no help (no phone numbers to call, no support from office, not knowing how to get the help etc...)
when the techs finally came, they were all sweet and nice to the counselor going on about how dare they let them loose into the classrooms without training them first on the tech stuff...

But then they all but ignored me when i asked them to show me how to get the tech stuff back to where I needed it after the counselor left so I could continue with my lesson. They were short and stiff with me, and took less than five seconds to answer, implying that it wasn't their job to help me caz i was just a sub! Never said anything about needing to train us too!

It's like we're just second-class citizens in their world, just there for them to use and abuse! And we always are the first ones thrown under the bus when something does go wrong. And something pretty much always goes wrong!


Enough Said!

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Many of the previous....
Old 02-07-2018, 05:26 PM
 
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posts echo my thoughts very well. The points about training educators and administration on how to utilize subs gave me a chuckle. Yesterday I covered teachers for some computer trainings every single one complained about the waste of time. I can only imagine their reaction to training on substitute utilization.
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LOTS of important considerations missing
Old 02-07-2018, 10:47 PM
 
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After having a look at an article titled "Status of Substitute Teachers: A State-By-State Summary" (http://www.nea.org/home/14813.htm), it seem to me that there is little likelihood that the vast majority of substitute teachers reading my questions about substitute teaching will be in the same book, let alone on the same page. In other words, many subs will see lots of important considerations missing because of the disparate presuppositions about substitute teaching.

For example, you stated that "[m]any subs are doing it to get a foot in the door to full time teaching job...." My questions are: How many? That is, is it a significant number? And what are the other motivations? But if the desire is to get a foot in the door, then substitutes should be as well prepared as regular teachers--assuming "the door" they want the foot in is that of full-time teaching.

I was led to the article above as a result of searching for the phrase: "National Association of Substitute Teachers." I wondered whether there was such an organization and found that there isn't. From the article above, it is obvious why there isn't and, for the foreseeable future, absolutely cannot be one—at least not with sufficient numbers to exert influence nationally. Clearly, any association of substitute teachers would have to have, at the very least, similar educational backgrounds. That would narrow a dialogue for my research to states like California, Washington, and West Virginia where a bachelor's degree is the minimum educational requirement—shortages notwithstanding. And it seems the shortages are nationwide.

In states where substitute teachers can get by on a high school degree, there may be little that the state and/or the subs of that state can contribute to a meaningful dialogue that would lead to meaningful change for the teaching profession overall and substitute teaching in particular. (Full-time teachers must be, in my view, fully on board in order to make substitute teaching a fully acknowledged, fully respected group of teaching professionals). But the dialogue for substitute teaching standardization has to start somewhere.
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Old 02-08-2018, 04:18 PM
 
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I think broomrider and the others who posted have very good points. I don't think there's a need for more restrictions on substitute teachers, but rather better pay and better treatment.

Many people, including myself, are substitute teachers because they enjoy the variety and flexibility that substitute teaching allows. I think rather than focusing on over specialising substitute teachers, there should be more attention paid to how they are regarded and treated by. school staff and administrators.

One especially problematic issue for me is the conflicting roles between instructional aides and substitute teachers. I have found what I consider a huge waste of resources when, for instance, I arrive to sub for a second grade class that has been assigned three classroom aides who can think of nothing to do other than stand around chatting. Or even worse, they may interfere with my instruction and undermine my effectiveness with the students. There's no justifiable reason why there should be that kind of overstaffing in a single classroom! I also find that instructional aides often times lack training and are unaware of good classroom management approaches. They may also confuse their role with that of the teacher rather than understanding how to work behind the scenes in support. Instead of overstatffing with unskilled aides, how about dedicating more funds to retain the good substitute teachers?

I think a lot of the problem with the substitute teacher situation can be remedied if substitute teachers are acknowledged as valued members of the teaching staff and paid and treated as such.



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Enough said, indeed
Old 02-08-2018, 04:21 PM
 
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That's precisely why there needs to be training for utilizing educators who happen to be substitute teachers. I just found out that there is a National Substitute Teachers Alliance http://www.nstasubs.org/?page_id=146
I'm interested in finding out what they do, how they do it, and what the benefits of joining are. Even if it's a one-hour workshop, this is the kind of training that needs to take place:

Teachers: What they need to do to make the substitute as successful as he/she is. Other places on this forum have addressed those things. The research and the experience of others also address those thing that regular teachers can do to benefit both the learners' experiences and those of the substitute educator.

Administration: Training in how to make a substitute welcome as a full-time teacher. E.g., keys (where applicable) to the classroom, restroom; telling the substitute educator how they will support the substitute for issues of discipline; help with access to technology, particularly if one is staying for more than a couple of days.
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Old 02-08-2018, 05:50 PM
 
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Yes, of course only fully credentialed teachers are hoping for a full time classroom or other assignment. Based on the self-selected population posting on PT, there is an unknown N of fully credentialed teachers subbing in hopes of a position. Regular posters here appear somewhat skewed to those not seeking full employment. In terms of that being a viable way of getting a job, the general consensus is that good to great subs are more likely to be kept as subs than offered a classroom because of having a desirable skill set. It would be very difficult to quantify that supposition.

You may want to note that the NEA article you cite appears to have been written in the 2000/2001 school year and requirements may have changed in the interval. Although the need for substitutes appears (at least locally) to have remained high. The steep decline in applications for teacher training (documented in a variety of places) may well be increasing demand for long term substitutes. At one point, Las Vegas had 600 short and long term subs staffing classrooms
(per various articles over the last four years in the Las Vegas Review Journal https://www.reviewjournal.com/.

Are you searching for a thesis topic for a Master's Degree or a dissertation topic for a doctorate?
I'm trying to find a polite way to say this, and you may well be aware of the differing requirements for each, but your preliminary thoughts seem to be more for a thesis than a dissertation. I expect many of us would like to be helpful for your project, but we may need more of a focus. If you haven't already done a thorough survey of the literature regarding substitute teaching, that may well help to hone your focus.
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Some updates...
Old 02-09-2018, 03:33 AM
 
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while the link works, please note this site hasn't been updated since 2014. The last "regional conference" was held five years ago.

Since Broomrider mentions STEDI... I am somewhat familiar with their program. (I teach a one day workshop for substitute teachers.) I would concur, the "ROI" from their program is not huge--the program is dated and is totally focused on the basics (stocking a sub bag, etc.). While it is highly focused on classroom management, it doesn't really provide much practical help. (The concepts are good.) I would recommend it to someone who's never taught or never had any classroom experience--particularly if there's nothing else available.

There are two additional aspects of this discussion.

One is the realities of the "system." Substitute teacher turnover tends to be extremely high for a number of reasons--many of which are outside the control of the school/district. That being the case, school systems are disinclined to invest much in subs--particularly in these days of tight school budgets. (It really is not personal; it's a matter of ROI.)

Early in my subbing days, I was at an educators' conference and ran into a well-experienced teacher from our district. He was surprised to see me and said, "In all my years of teaching, I've never seen a sub at a continuing education event." I don't tell the story to brag. I offer it as evidence this is not a one-dimensional issue. (I should add that I am not a credentialed teacher.)

I have personally lobbied for "better treatment" of subs, including myself! But in my workshop for subs, we also spend some time talking about how a sub who wants to can improve his/her skills.

In what must be a strange irony, an administrator who I worked for as a sub took my substitute teaching workshop when she retired! (She was planning to sub herself and thought it would be helpful.)

There are reasons many teachers say, "As long as nothing gets broken and no one gets hurt, I'm happy with the sub."

Ultimately I think it's less about "who needs fixing" (training) and more about figuring out how to accommodate the needs of all the varied stakeholders within the system. (I can't document it with numbers, but I suspect the trend towards "building subs" is one attempt districts are taking.)
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Doctorate in psychology
Old 02-09-2018, 06:03 PM
 
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Academic, that is. So the the theories of psychology as they bear upon the given topic of my dissertation. That topic is not focused yet, but the reactions to the questions are, to say the least, psychologically interesting in and of themselves. Though I shouldn't be at this stage of my life, I still am surprised by the...I'm trying to find a polite way to say this...emotional zest in some of the responses to rather simple (as you noted) questions. On the date of the article alluded to, perhaps this newer one from 2010 (still not real recent) may be helpful. http://www.nea.org/home/52620.htm

In any case, the field seems quite open in terms of what I'd like to explore. For example, how do students (fill in the age) respond to substitutes on short term vs. long term? how does administration perceive substitutes that take the teaching vs. baby-sitting approach to teaching? I have been subbing for a school the past week. The principle told me she was commenting to other staff that I was legit. What did she mean by that? Clearly, that other subs she and her staff have experience were not. What factors accounted for that perceived difference?

Don't get me wrong, broomrider--I love this forum precisely because everybody feels free to comment and express and vent and opine. I see that as a gold mine and a mine field, depending on whether I'm reading as a scholar/researcher or as one of the wearied warriors of the substitute educator galaxy. But take note: there are times when I's both. And that probably has something to do with the fact that I'm human. So, as any good psychological researcher, (unusual transparency disclosure follows) I will ask questions that are intended to elicit information that the question may or may not actually look like it is seeking, and I may or may not do that intentionally all the time. :-)
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Old 02-10-2018, 09:59 AM
 
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I think you've chosen what could be a very valuable topic for your research. However, I am a bit concerned about your reasons for using this forum. I haven't been on this forum nearly as long as many here, but for me, it's been a lifesaver to get the support and hear the experiences of other substitute teachers. I'd hate to see the open, candid exchanges hampered because folks perceive that they're being used as involuntary research subjects.

You noted that people here have been deeply affected by the problems and inequities of our work. Maybe that's a red flag that it's best to reconsider your strategy? Maybe a better approach would be for you to conduct personal interviews with people in the field who are OK with participating in your research? That's my 2 cents anyway.

I've worked in other positions where there are similar inequities and resulting discontent. My teaching career began as a part-time (adjunct) community college instructor. I and many other adjuncts were trying to get our foot in the door for a full-time teaching position. We weren't allowed to teach more than 2 classes per district, so we tried to piece together a living traveling across town or even out of town to various other district campuses. However, after 10 years of that, I discovered that American colleges, in general, staff a large percentage of their classes with part-time instructors as a cost saving measure. Adjunct instructors are poorly paid, and the contract is on a semester (or quarter) by semester basis. They receive no benefits, no pay raises, no bonuses, and no job security. And after 10 years of waiting in the wings, I still hadn't gotten a full-time position.

To add to the injury, adjunct instructors are treated as second-class citizens. They are expected to conduct themselves as professionals inside the classroom, yet out of the classroom, they are at the bottom of the food chain. Most (including myself) become disillusioned and eventually leave the field.

If you look at the job market in general, or academic institutions specifically, what you'll find is a trend towards more and more cost-cutting at the expense of the employees. A popular trend recently is towards the illegal misclassification of many workers as "independent contractors" rather than as "employees."

I've even seen this being attempted with K-12 substitute teachers in my state! Those classified as "independent contractors" are paid no better, but because they are not "employees," taxes, social security, medicare, and other deductions are not taken out of their pay. Instead, they are expected to keep tons of expense records, file taxes as a "small business", pay their own social security and medicare taxes, etc., and even carry their own liability insurance. Even worse, they are not eligible for unemployment insurance!

There are strict legal requirements as to what work can be legally classified as "independent contractor," but the trend is for businesses to violate that law to save themselves money...at the great expense of the workers (who are unaware that their legal rights are being violated).

My point is that what you're seeing as far as the exploitation (my word for it) of substitute teachers is just the tip of the iceberg as far as employment trends in this country. It's just a microcosm that points to a much bigger (and bleaker) picture.

Last edited by luv2teach2017; 02-10-2018 at 10:15 AM..
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@luv2teach: Point taken
Old 02-10-2018, 05:48 PM
 
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Though I'm doing the research, I've come to accept that dissertations are just the academic version of hazing. It's something you gotta do. And people on this forum are posting anonymously, so it shouldn't be a concern. I'm subbing and it happens to be a topic worth looking into. There are so many factors. There are converging systems of systems.

Something else. The human interest stories are also what move journalists and Hollywood to bring our stories as educators to public awareness. A dissertation might be helpful toward that end, but the movers and shakers are in the media office buildings and our city, county, and state capitals. My dissertation is just the beginning. Or so I hope.
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Old 02-11-2018, 10:13 PM
 
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Since public education is basically a joke with how they treat teachers, you can see why subs get the treatment that they do. Even my mentor teacher made up her lesson plans for subs at the last minute and pretty much had the attitude that they would get nothing done.
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Wow!
Old 02-12-2018, 04:12 PM
 
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I get that. It's this vicious cycle. So that if a squared away sub comes in, you impress the daylights out of the school. But then when a mediocre sub comes in, that person simply lives down to the non-expectation. Clearly, their experiences with subs are the sources for what they expect. Hopefully, the people we work with are mature enough to treat people based on their individual merits rather than on some substitute stereotype. But being a sub is like being a cop (or any other profession in the public eye): just one bad sub makes all subs look bad.
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Old 02-12-2018, 04:26 PM
 
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But no one ever really sees us teach, or cares, so I wouldn't say it really matters if you're great or not. I come to teach every day, but the only contact I ever really have with admin is when the kids are nuts and they have to bring in a security or student management or whatever that school happens to call it. If subbing paid a living wage and had benefits, that would be a first step in the right direction.
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@Fractured
Old 02-12-2018, 08:43 PM
 
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I have to concur. I travel 100 miles round trip to the school I'm assigned to for 4 out of the 5 days this week. Over 10% of what I make goes to gas. Hopefully, the tax laws still allow for business expense deductions. That will provide some relief.
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Old 02-13-2018, 10:37 AM
 
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When writing a dissertation, the goal is to find an original topic. There also has to be a need--in other words, why is your research important? You definitely have some interesting ideas, but as others have pointed out, I'm not sure there's anything here that's all that original or useful. You could go ahead and write about the importance of more training, but that's a common mantra in education today. Will anyone really pay attention to your research? Will extra training really make a difference and improve substitute teaching? I doubt it.

It must be frustrating for you, and I understand totally. Coming up with an original research subject, something that hasn't been done before, is very difficult.

Since you're interested in a dissertation on substitute teaching, I think I have a great topic for you. Write about the effects of school districts outsourcing their subs to private companies. This is a fairly recent development, and it has become quite common. I haven't checked, but I'm guessing it isn't a topic that has been researched much.

How much money are school districts really saving? That seems to be a closely guarded secret. Are these companies trying to steer subs into investing their 401K dollars into a limited number of investments with high fees? Based on what I've seen from a couple staffing firms (which I'd rather not name), the answer appears to be "yes." Are school districts hoping that subs will feel as though they are "part of the team," and do subs have this feeling if they're really employees of a private firm? I'm not sure about that.

One school district I know of used to employ subs directly, and provided each one with an official picture id that looked just like the id badges regular teachers wore. It was a very nice touch, and it conveyed the message to students that subs were people to take seriously. A few years after switching to an outside company, the district stopped issuing the badges. They were replaced with generic cheesy looking ones with the company's name, stored on the office counter. If we want students to treat subs as professionals, is this a good way to go about it? I sure don't think so.

As you can guess, I'm not a big fan of these outside providers, but they're probably here to stay. I think they can provide a number of possible dissertation topics.
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outsourcing sub teaching jobs
Old 02-13-2018, 03:59 PM
 
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c6g: You bring up a very good point: the outsourcing of substitute teaching jobs. I worked a lot as an "outsourced" employee when I was a technical writer. There are pros and cons to working through a contracting agency. But let me assure you, when you work via a contracting agency, you are still treated as an outsider and 2nd class citizen by the full time staff. I think it's just basic human nature to create distinctions between "us" and "them." So I believe that mentality will always exist in some form or other when dealing with human beings.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the real danger is in substitute teachers being illegally classified as an "independent contractor." This classification has very specific requirements attached to it because an independent contractor is legally regarded as a small business and is taxed as such. If you are paid minimally and managed by an agency, you are not by law an independent contractor and are being saddled with liability insurance, detailed record keeping, and business taxes while being cheated out of unemployment insurance and fair wages.

I also agree that it's a big help to have an official district-issued badge that identifies you as an employee. Others note that you are a fellow staff member the moment you step foot on a campus. I've especially found that the students note the badge. It may seem like a trivial thing, but the badge really does make a difference. Unfortunately, of the three districts I've worked for, only one issues a badge to substitute teachers.
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Old 03-05-2018, 12:52 AM
 
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You bring a lot of interesting items up in your thoughtful response. Remember, I'm asking a group of people who are potentially from all 50 states. You obviously know this since you yourself alluded to knowledge of differing criteria for subs. Some of the questions I ask will apply to your state and some will not. For example, in my state, you cannot be a substitute teacher without at least a bachelor's degree and a passing score on a basic knowledge test. There are multiple ways to become a certified teacher in my state. To my knowledge, there are three companies that work with the school districts to supply subs. I work for one that only works with charter schools.

That means that my questions have to be broad enough to include my context.

"Subbing to survive." I suppose there's a lot you might want to unpack regarding your statement because you even mentioned the idea of a dissertation with an economic slant. My interest in "subbing to survive" (academically, I mean) might be how the economic motivation to do substitute teaching might impact the quality of instruction. The emphasis would be on motivation rather than on the economics. I get that teacher absences are the equivalence of job security for you--at least that's what's coming across to me in your post

Since my dissertation is about the psychology of subbing (to be less vague but not real specific quite yet), when I talk about the disruptive nature of substitute teachers, I'm referring to the psychological aspect of what happens when a student's routine is disrupted. This is a real psychological phenomenon. Just think about how you react when your routines are changed? My hunch is that the older a student gets, the less the psychological impact when educational routines are interrupted. (Hmm. I just remembered something one of the psychiatric nurses of my old Army combat tress control unit said about risk factors for PTSD. He said that the older people are and the more education they have, the more categorical boxes they have into which they can organize their experiences--traumatic or otherwise--to cope with them). So it makes sense that a little kid would have more trouble coping with a substitute teacher than a high school kid would). The question is how can that stress be mitigated for children? Is the problem/solution something systemic or individual? My hunch is that it is systemic, with differing weights for the factors in the system such as the individual regular teacher and the individual substitute as well as the particular administration of one school versus the particular administration of another school.

The idea of supply teachers working in their area(s) of expertise would be to insure quality education for the students who have to work with these educators. Children continuing to learn is, after all (at least reasonably presumably), the most important outcome of having a substitute educator. Why would you object to substitute teachers knowing what they are talking about when they get in front of a group of kids? I don't accept assignments where I would not know what I was doing. How would I be helpful to the students? Part of the reason, in my view, that some schools administrators and students see substitutes as little more than overpaid baby sitters is because some substitutes are qualified to do only little more than baby sit. That is not a good thing.

Regarding your response to training for substitute educators. For an educator, you seem to place a low value on education for educators. Why is that? I think substitute teachers should be at least as well qualified to teach as permanent teachers, especially the older the student population they get to teach. Again the phrase you used about stedi.org ("They are happy to take money for training.") is telling. But then you make it plain when you say in the same breath: "I'm not sure what the Return on Investment is--likely not much." I don't know if that means you know too much to be teachable or can't afford to get the education needed to be an educator. If the latter, I get it. I wasn't able to afford to go to college without school loans. But should you knock the training before you really know what the program entails?
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Old 03-05-2018, 01:18 AM
 
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Great ideas in your response. The dissertation is being researched from the point of view of psychology. As I mentioned to broomrider, the economics are not a direct concern academically. Clearly, the money is a concern to people. It is to me. As I see it, the only way to get leverage at the state or national level (to get better pay and treatment) is if there are national standards for substitute educators so that they are considered part of the educational team. How can we expect teachers who have invested the economic blood, sweat, and tears into becoming professional educators to have any sympathy for substitute educators if the latter simply want to get by with standing in as the adult in the room yet want the same kind of respect and compensation?

By the way, when you say that a dissertation has to be original, that's somewhat inaccurate because one has to do research on what other scholars have done in order to build on their work. By that requirement, dissertations are largely unoriginal. As one guy with a Ph.D. told me, you can be happy to have contributed a sentence of novelty to the body of knowledge. You can be considered extraordinary if you can come up with a little more. In other words, a raised eyebrow and a "hm" is good. It is very rare to get a wow. Mainly because the audience one writes for are experts in one's field.

The idea is to research something that has neither been over-researched nor under-researched. Easier said.

Though the literature I've been skimming so far leads me to believe that more training is, in fact, important, it is only one slice of the situational pie. That conclusion is further complicated because the size of the slice depends on what state you are from. It is also complicated by the different motivations people have for subbing. There are the starving actors in the L.A. area who substitute teach because it's better than being waiters. And probably more flexible. That said, does one's particular motivation for teaching have a bearing on how one receives ideas about things like national standardization of educational requirements for substitute teachers. I'm pretty sure it does. But I'm open to suggestions about the case being otherwise.

So keep the ideas coming. Just remember that I have to look at them at least as critically as you do mine. :-)

Last edited by thecoast; 03-05-2018 at 01:20 AM.. Reason: Grammar.
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Old 03-05-2018, 01:25 AM
 
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If I were an educational business lawyer looking to get a Ph.D., the things you've brought up would be interesting indeed. There are, however, some interesting ideas that are tangential to the economic and legal aspects but are meaningful psychologically. Hopefully, the conversation will continue.
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Old 03-05-2018, 02:02 AM
 
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There seems to be a lot of push-back at the mere suggestion of training. Very curious.

So you suggest different wording. How, then, would we ensure getting permanent teachers, administrators, and substitute teachers on the same page? The only word I can come up with is a synonym for training. Even the imagery elicited by your figure of speech (being "on the same page") evokes the need for content upon which to agree. There's no way around it. Whether more complex or more simple, education, training, seminar, workshop, pick your word--I'm not picky about which synonym works for you. It all comes back to having something to put on that proverbial page--a standard, a guide--so we can agree how things ought to work.

I suspect that you might minimize the importance of the person who signs your check just because you don't have contact with him or her. But if that person moves the decimal in the wrong direction, I'm sure that person's degree of significance will change abruptly for you. What I'm saying is that even the people who are peripherally (as we might perceive them) involved in the system are important to some degree in how the system works. Do they see us as peripherally important to their lives? Vicious circle?
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Old 03-05-2018, 02:24 AM
 
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I'm glad your disinclination did not keep you silent. BTW, do you know any questions that don't lead somewhere?

I concur that the best teachers have similar skills. Have to. And you brought up a very significant issue about the conversation. I thought it implied, but it's better that the topic is made explicit. If the best interest of learners is what should be uppermost in our minds, what is the criteria for maintaining their best interests? Are our customers' best interests met better with talented high school graduates or with talented college graduates? I think you know the answer to that question. Do we do better by the kids with skilled professionals or unskilled?

I don't see how my questions lead to the idea of fixing each other unless they lead to that incidentally. If the goal of teaching kids is met most of the time by requiring the primary/permanent teachers to be professional, how is that goal met by not requiring substitute teachers to be professional? It's a double-standard.

Say you're on the operating table and you're about to be put under for surgery. The nurse comes and tells you that you have a substitute surgeon. Would it even occur to you that the person who is going to operate on you might not be another surgeon but maybe a first-year med student? I don't think so.

If my kids had gone to a regular school (they were home schooled), I'd like to know that the substitutes aren't high school kids. I'd like to know that they are learning from books written by people who know what they're talking about. I don't think that's too much to ask for. How is expecting a person to be skilled/prepared/trained/educated--whatever word you prefer--how is that divisive?

Do education and preparation and experience make us different? Yeah, they do. Do they make one person better than another as a person? Certainly not. Let's not mix up personal worth with personal skill.

BTW, the only way systems can be changed is by changing the individuals in the system.
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