Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Just Get a Sub

"Oh, I'm sorry, we don't have appointments past 3 p.m."

"Okay, I'll need to go somewhere else, then. I teach, and can't leave until 3."

"Well, can't you just get a sub?"


Just getting a sub isn't the simple task that most people outside of education seem to think it is, and here's why.

  •  It's not like every other job I've had where calling in meant that my work simply didn't get done that day. As a teacher, if I call in, and there is no one to do my job, then there is no one to teach my students.  There will be no one to teach your children. 
  • Absence takes planning. The work that goes into designing a plan for a substitute is hardly worth the absence, much of the time. So, although it may seem tempting to call in when, say, for a completely random reason and not actually what happened last night at all, the baby wakes up at 3:45 and goes back to sleep but the room is cold, and the baby's asleep ON YOUR ARM, and you can't get up to close the window or get a new blanket, so you don't go back to's not going to happen.. Just get up, get some coffee, and go to work.
  • A sub day is a whole day of leave. Even if I do have to take that appointment at 2 p.m., district policy is that sub days are entire days. If I take 7 hours off to attend a one hour appointment, that's a lot of lost time, not just for my students, but in my leave bank for those days when "just taking a sub" is my only option. 
  • When there is a sub, there's a chance that teacher won't get the best from my students that day. I teach students old enough to understand the choices they make, and we talk a A LOT about how they should treat a substitute teacher (or "guest teacher," as we like to say now, making it sound significantly more friendly).  Despite that conversation, by the end of the day, guest teachers and students are not always on the best of terms.
  • Even with perfect behavior, sub days are lost days. I try my hardest to make the lessons meaningful, the work time productive, but I often find myself repeating what the guest teacher should have done. It's not usually or entirely the fault of the guest teacher that the students didn't make the progress they needed to.  They don't know my students like I do. They don't know what kind of gentle encouragement they need or what kind of refocus techniques are most effective with which classes.
  • Business takes me away, so personal stuff should stay personal. As a leader in my district, I am called away for training, for observations, for various and sundry events that should take place during my regular work week (teaching is one of few fields where the public yells at us and suggests we do all of our training on evenings, weekends, or our days off...when we aren't paid). As my experience has grown, so have my responsibilities, and I try to be hyper aware of that impact on my students by not being out unless someone tells me I need to be out.  
So, no, I can't "just get a sub" for a medical appointment or to recoup from a late night concert.  I'll find a new doctor. I'll listen the music on Spotify, instead.  I knew what I was getting into when I chose this field, and I don't mind...though it is awfully tempting. Warm bed. Snuggly baby. Sigh.



  1. I have so much respect for teachers! It stinks that people aren't more understanding of your schedule.

    1. Thank you! I hope that someday people will really understand what a teacher's schedule is like - I hate moaning and groaning about it, but I also don't like the haters...

  2. As a fellow teacher I completely understand and can relate to this post. Some people have no idea the amount of personal time and planning that goes into teaching our students. The school day may end at 3:20, but I'm usually at school until 5:00 planning and doing paperwork related to my student's IEP's. I may have June and July off, but I teach summer school, reorganize my classroom, and begin planning for the next school year during that time.

    1. My mind never really stops thinking about school, and yeah, I've got plans for next year already! You get it!


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