Thursday, November 8, 2012

Substitute Teachers, Part one: Preparing to be a Sub

So for those of you who are not aware, I am a substitute teacher in two different local school districts.  For the record (in case anyone from said school districts reads this), I will not be referencing the name of said schools, teachers, support staff members, or students.  I will be making generalizations about my experience as a substitute teacher.

Each state has different requirements for hiring substitute teachers.  Many states require that you be a certified educator in order to work as a sub.  That is not a requirement where I live, though there is a tiered pay system depending on the level of education you have achieved.  If you are interested in being a sub, check with your local school district to determine hiring requirements.

If you pass the education requirements of your local district, there are still more hoops to jump through.  The information you need will likely be at the school district office but call to make sure.  The application is often quite lengthy and includes many steps other than just filling out paperwork.  In order to work with children, I can virtually guarantee the following will be included:

1.  A physical and TB screening
2.  Fingerprinting and a background check through state and federal systems
3.  A Child Abuse registry check

Yes, this means your fingerprints are now in the system so if you are planning on pursuing a life of crime in substitute teaching doesn't work out, then this is not the career path for you.  My experience was that it took about a week to have all of the paperwork, background checks, and physical taken care of, as these things take a bit to process.  In my state, the background check cost $75 and the physical and TB screening were covered under my health insurance.  The child abuse registry check was as simple as providing my information to the school district who sent my information off to the state.

In the probably lengthy application packet you will get, there will usually be instructions about when and how to bring your materials in when everything is completed.  In most cases, you must schedule an appointment to meet with the sub coordinator.  Even if they don't require an appointment, it is advisable to call ahead, lest you arrive just as that person is stepping out to lunch.

As I'm sure most of you are smart enough to know, dress nicely when you go meet with the sub coordinator.  He or she is now your boss, and depending on the district, he or she may be fully in charge of how often you work and whether or not you get the good classes.  Always be nice to this person.  Also the secretary of each school you are subbing for.

So let's imagine you've filled in all your paperwork and have been hired.  Yay!  I work for two different school districts.  In one of them, the sub coordinator calls me to see if I am available on a given day.  In the other, it is an automated system that allows me to go online to look for jobs or call the phone system to look.  said phone system also has a robot call me if I am being called in last minute.

As much as humanly possible, districts will try to schedule you in advanced.  These kind of jobs happen when teachers have meetings or training or a dentist appointment they scheduled six months ago.  Keep a calendar of all of these.  I have three of them:  my phone calendar, my purse calendar, and my calendar on the automatic sub system.  Why three, you ask?  The automatic sub system allows me to black out days I know I am working else where.  The phone calendar will remind me in case I forgot I agreed to go in, and the pocket calendar allows me to check availability if I am out of the house when my boss calls me to ask if I can work.

Unfortunately, the majority of jobs will not come to you having been scheduled two weeks (or longer in advance).  The majority of calls come either the night before or the morning of the job they need you for.  I am always thankful when they call the night before because it gives me a chance to make my plans and ensure that I have all that I need.  Early mornings happen though and you can only pray the call comes at six and not 6:45, giving you ten minutes to get dressed and out the door.  So let me suggest a few things to help with the early mornings.

1.  If you, like me, are a creature of habit, try to go to bed and get up at around the same time, whether you're working or not.  Those 5:30am phone calls will feel like death if you're staying up until two in the morning.

2.  If you, like me, cannot think particularly well in the morning, pick out your clothes the night before.  I always have a work appropriate outfit hanging on the hook on the back of my bedroom door so that I don't have to think about it when I get up.

3.  Either start showering in the evening or invest in dry shampoo.  You may be thinking "it only takes me five minutes to shower in the morning.  I don't need to do that."  Trust me.  There will be a day that you get called fifteen minutes before you have to leave.  Can you shower, get dressed, put on make up, eat breakfast, and pack a lunch if you get called with that little time?  I can't.  If you can, you are super woman and I applaud you.

4.  Consider your lunch options.  I always pack because the lines in the cafeteria are often long.  On days I get called the morning I need to go in, I usually pack leftovers.  It is also worth it to have some prepacked snacks around the house so you can throw lunch together in record time.

5.  If you already have a lot of stuff planned for the day, don't be afraid to say no.  Seriously.  If you are incredibly busy that day, just say no.

Thanks for Reading :) Tune in tomorrow for Part Two:  The Pros and Cons of being a Substitute teacher.

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