Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all. ~Aristotle
Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all. ~Aristotle

Digital Pedagogy Lab

Separate but Equal: Substitute Teaching Done Right

Written by S. Leonard

Reviewed By Elizabeth Lenaghan and Sean Hackney


Every day, students across the country open the doors to their classrooms and see a stranger standing where their regular teacher should be. “Are you our sub?” they demand in a less than polite or thrilled tone. In that first instant, the substitute teacher has already received one strike and the hopes of having a good day diminish. The truth is, schools could not function without substitutes. What would students in elementary and middle school do if a substitute could not come in for the day? Where would high school students go if there was no substitute to cover their third period class? My experiences have been varied, but I have had enough to know that the way substitutes are treated impacts both them and the students. Though most see the substitute’s role as insignificant, some schools have realized the position that substitutes have been put in and made changes that have improved substitutes’ experience.

I have been substitute teaching in Oregon for the past three years. I have substituted in K-8 grade schools with fewer than 100 students and traditional high schools with 1500 students or more. Though schools vary in their attitudes, I have seen many who marginalized substitute teachers and how detrimental this is for the students


Education’s driving force is doing what is best for the students, yet when it comes to the issues surrounding substitute teachers, some schools and districts have been dropping the ball. The more successful the substitute is, the less of an impact the teacher’s absence has on the students’ learning. The days when students have a substitute should not be seen as wasted days. Instead, these days should uphold the educational rigor the regular teacher sets forth. On my best days of subbing I leave with a sense of meaningfulness because I helped students on their path to learning, which is the ultimate goal of all educators — substitutes included.

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