Cold and flu season is upon us, impacting schools and districts throughout the U.S. Though certainly a challenge throughout the year, the problem of adequate staffing levels is exacerbated during the long winter months when inclement weather compounds the difficulties caused by seasonal illnesses. In fact, it is arguably the most difficult time of the year to keep everyone in the classroom.
The demands of the 21st-century classroom coupled with a nationwide teacher shortage are creating unprecedented staffing challenges for K-12 school districts. Unfortunately, the combined effect has led to larger class sizes and prolonged vacancies. In an effort to minimize the impact on student achievement and provide adequate supervision, school districts are realizing the importance of having an accessible talent pool of qualified substitutes. Their value cannot be overestimated. In today’s educational climate, quality K-12 substitute teachers are as necessary for efficient daily operations as are permanent staff.
Why Are Substitute Teachers Important?
On any given day, teachers are absent due to illness, professional development, family leave, and jury duty. Without substitute teachers, these minor hiccups could cause major complications: instruction is interrupted, classes are doubled up, and preparation periods are lost. Without capable substitutes at the ready, teacher absences can have a domino effect that impacts the entire school.
Maintaining the quality and consistency of your education system on an ongoing basis means having a qualified professional in every classroom. And since teacher absences are a dynamic phenomenon, the ability to seamlessly compensate for their occurrence while maintaining continuity and minimizing disruptions is invaluable. Quality substitute teachers contribute to maintaining progress in the learning environment, thereby helping to promote student achievement.
What Are the Expectations for Substitute Teachers?
By some estimates, students spend 5-10% of each school year under the care and supervision of substitute teachers. All told, that is an accumulation equivalent to nearly one whole school year spent with substitutes during their K-12 experience. From that perspective, the need for quality substitutes is heightened.
Administrators want substitute teachers to arrive on time and be ready to meet the challenges of the day. They expect confident professionals who maintain order in the classrooms and hallways. This requires flexibility, organization, and a calm demeanor. Teachers anticipate that substitutes will follow lesson plans and reinforce behavioral guidelines. They expect them to supervise students appropriately and to safeguard classroom equipment and supplies. Students hope for substitute teachers who are kind and fair and who provide a sense of security. For professional substitutes to meet all of these expectations, expert management and thoughtful training is required.
Providing Added Value to Your District
Access to quality K-12 substitute teachers adds value to any school district. The best substitutes are effective generalists able to adapt to a variety of teaching assignments. Ideally, they are involved in ongoing training that keeps them up to date on best practices in instruction and classroom management, as well as with district policies and procedures.
In addition, well-trained substitute teachers are patient and adept at managing the complex needs of early childhood and special education students. They have the skills necessary to communicate effectively with students, staff, and administrators. They are familiar and competent with classroom technology. Scheduling is streamlined and automated so that teachers, substitutes, and administrators receive notifications and confirmations in real-time. And a valuable subset of the pool are those long-term substitute teachers trained to capably fill vacancies or cover staff on longer leaves.
Quality K-12 substitutes can be an integral component of any school district helping to move its mission forward. But without help, finding quality substitutes to meet current needs can truly be a challenge, especially for those working under time and budget constraints. Amassing that talent pool requires active and consistent recruitment, hiring, training, and management of a team of professional substitutes customized to meet the needs of your district in an effort to keep instruction on track despite the inevitable teacher absences.
By investing in a well-trained pool of quality K-12 substitute teachers, school districts can minimize disruptions and maintain forward momentum in spite of teacher absences. For peak efficiency and continuity, substitute staff should be oriented to the district and its schools in order to best support learning and behavior initiatives with diverse learners. The process of obtaining subs should be streamlined and well-managed so that they can be easily scheduled via an automated system.
Phil has been supporting school districts across the country for more than 12 years. He works hands-on with districts implementing customized solutions to improve their substitute teacher and support staff programs. When he’s not increasing districts’ fill rates, Phil can be found swinging his clubs on a golf course.