Make no mistake…substitute teachers earn considerably less than regular certified classroom teachers. In my school district, subs earn $60 a day and certified ‘highly qualified’ new classroom teachers earn close to $40,000 a year. However, you have to compare and contrast the pros and cons if you decide to sub.
Substitute Teachers Autonomy and Benefits
Substitute teachers choose daily when and where they work. In my school district, we use SubFinder, a computerized employee placement system that allows subs to call on the phone or access sub jobs through the Internet. You choose which schools, which grade levels, and what days you will work based on available jobs. However, regular classroom teachers are contracted to work in one classroom, with the same students all semester, for at least one year, unless they get fired, sick, or take an extended leave of absence.
Unlike student teachers in a teacher education program in college, substitute teachers manage their own classes for that entire day. Student teachers must work under the direct supervision of cooperating teaching mentors. Substitute teachers often have to create emergency lesson plans in case none are left by the regular teachers. This is why I advise subs to come to work at least 30 minutes early in case you have to create lesson plans to keep students busy bell-to-bell.
Many parents choose to work as subs in school districts close to where they live, work in schools where their children attend school, and often work with school officials that taught them. I often walked to work as a sub, and knew most of the parents and school staff at the schools I worked at. Familiarity with school climates, culture, personnel and community is good for you when you’re a sub or regular teacher.
Pros and Cons of Subbing.
Besides employment autonomy, subs can choose to go online and pursue teacher certification while you work on-call or full-time as subs. I completed a master’s degree in Secondary Education online from the University of Phoenix while I subbed daily.
The Pros to completing a teacher certification program online is that you can go to class online during hours of the day or night when you feel most comfortable, and relaxed. Trying to commute to college in person often conflicts with your work schedule. You don’t have to worry about parking, student traffic issues, professors with conflicting attitudes, and possible school violence issues when you attend classes online in the safety of your homes. Hopefully, you don’t have any deranged or violent family members.
Another benefit of subbing is that subs can join the National Education Association (NEA) for significantly reduced union member dues, and receive outstanding employee benefits. I paid $50 a year to join NEA. Recently, the Birmingham American Federation of Teachers (BAFT) approved its membership category to allow subs to pay only $10 a month, and receive full employee benefits.
I am also a member of AEA (myaea.org), BAFT (aft.org), National Substitute Teachers Alliance (nstasubs.org), Substitute Teacher Institute (stedi.org), and President of the Birmingham Professional Substitute Teachers Alliance (BPSTA). Contact these organizations for more specific information about benefits and issues for subs.
The Cons to going to school online is that you have to rely mostly on huge student loans to complete your education. Secondly, you have to submit your work timely or face stiff academic penalties; you have to sign in to class at least four times a week, and participate substantially in class discussions, and work on teams online with students you can’t see. You also have to try and resolve any academic grade issues completely online compared to being able to settle your academic disputes in person with college deans and department heads.
School Accreditation and Certification Issues.
Always ensure that you check first with your State Department of Education to make sure your online teaching certification and degree will be accepted for teaching certification processing in your state, and school district. Usually, the State Department of Education lists which online teacher education programs will be considered/accepted as part of a teacher certificate transfer or reciprocity programs.
An Institutional Recommendation (IR) is not the same as an actual teacher’s certificate. However, some school districts may grant you an Emergency teaching certificate or Provisional/Alternative teaching certificate with an IR while you pursue, and complete requirements for a full teacher’s certificate. You are usually only able to teach for one year with an Emergency teacher’s certificate, and up to three years with a Provisional/Alternative teaching certificate.
I graduated from the University of Phoenix earning two master’s degrees in education. There are six regional accreditation agencies in the United States that are responsible for making sure colleges and universities in their geographic regions meet minimum standards before they are granted accreditation. There is also a Birmingham campus of the University of Phoenix in my state in case you want to go to school in-person or online.
Jill Brown wrote in ‘go4learning.org’ that, ‘The University of Phoenix is accredited by the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges, and does have some department accreditation, depending on which program you pursue. The school’s master’s degree program is accredited by the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC).’
Do you research before you enroll in any online programs. Consider the costs and student loan debts. Consider departmental accreditation issues. Consider your technology skills and family obligations. Consider whether you want to take on full teaching responsibilities after you sub for a while. Most of all, consider whether you have what it takes to change the world, one child at a time.