Last night was a Monday evening and thus we had a Worthington Board of Education meeting. In order to allow for as much public participation as possible our Board of Education meetings do not begin until 7:30 P.M. Because of this, every other Monday is a fairly late night and last night I arrived home at 11:15 P.M. My family was all in bed.
When I entered our kitchen there was a note waiting for me from my nine-year old daughter. It was folded in a way that only a 3rd grade girl could fold and it had a simple “To: Dad” on the front. I looked at the note and smiled and imagined that the contents would say something like “Dad, sorry you had to work late tonight. Miss you, Love, your favorite daughter.” As you may imagine that’s not what the note said.
Instead the note from my daughter was her attempt to provide constructive feedback on her school experience. The note simply said, “Mrs. _____ is a mean substitute” and then because she is a third grade girl there were hearts, a star, and a peace sign drawn on the note. (I guess the peace sign was a hint that, “dad, I’d rather not have this substitute again, but don’t take this too far.” Maybe I’m reading into things.)
In Worthington we contract with the Educational Service Center Central Ohio for our substitute teachers. Most school districts in Central Ohio now use this approach and for the most part it is a win/win. Substitutes can sign up in one location and have access to work in any consortium school district and we get a larger pool of substitute teachers who may choose to work in our schools.
Substitute teaching is very difficult. You are asked to go into a school that you don’t know well, work with students you likely don’t know at all, and teach material that you may or may not have had time to prepare ahead of time. Furthermore, each school and classroom has different expectations for rules, procedures, etc. It takes a special person to do this job well.
Having a substitute is also difficult for students. As humans we are creatures of habit and our students come to understand the classroom environment with the regular classroom teacher. With a new adult in the room everything changes. Sometimes subtly, sometimes significantly.
With that in mind, my own children rarely come home with positive things to say about their substitute teacher. When I press them for specifics it’s usually that the substitute did things differently than the teacher my children have come to love and they just don’t like the difference.
If you see a substitute teacher, thank them for what they do to help children. It’s a tough, tough job. If you’re a classroom teacher and see a substitute in your school, please make an effort to say hello, to welcome them, and help them throughout the day. I’ll probably save this note, but certainly I won’t act on it.