Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Line

It comes down to the line today in my community regarding the upcoming start of school and the Teacher's strike.

I am a Substitute a horrific job in many cases.  In many states and cities you need nothing more than a B.A. and clearance which leads to many problems, low pay and of course the idea that subs are nothing more than "babysitters."

I live in a State that requires substitutes to have all the bells and whistles that a full time contracted Teacher has.  Then if you end up as a Sub your license falls into a status that becomes a challenge and costly one to maintain so you lapse it and convert it to a "sub" license which has less obligations to maintain according to state law.

Teachers must have massive credentials, education and lifetime ongoing training often called "clock hours" to maintain that license.  So this idea that they have summers off is absurd.  And none of that is paid for by anyone but the Teacher.   And all of this on well under 50K a year and in Seattle you can assume that 30% of that is housing and transportation costs off the top.

As a sub even when you work every day you earn just above the federal minimum of poverty wages. So many are retired people and they too are only allowed to work a specific number of days before their pension is then deducted or they are penalized with a fine.  So they are particular where they work, the grab the long term jobs when available and are utter assholes.  I have worked with them and they are arrogant, smug and care little about those who could use the opportunity to work, get reviews, feedback and more importantly steady income.

I have been called many names over the years for my honest truth about what it is like to be a Substitute Teacher, because  Seattle is the conflict adverse city that anytime a woman speaks the truth we are "exaggerating" "ranting" having a "diatribe"  so we must be full of shit. Liar is often implicated, but we are the town that invented microagression.  And then I read this exchange on a local blog and thought well at least I am not alone:

Anonymous Anonymous said...
The "lack of substitutes" is a HUGE issues. Truly HUGE. The way to address it is to have permanent subs, with benefits, that are sent to schools as necessary. Or, who are a permanent school employee. Other than that, you won't solve the chronic, overwhelming lack of subs. And the issue is inequitable. Whole regions of the city go without SUBS because subs don't want to do it. And special education - of course, goes without the most. Subs don't want to walk into an unknown. So - they pass.

9/7/15, 5:45 PM
Anonymous veteran sub said...
Note first that a substitute teacher has to be just that: a TEACHER. You have to be certificated, with all the training--and probably student debt--that comes with it. Then you regularly have to deal with students and parents who think you're "just a sub" (I'll leave out the profanity that I've gotten). Regular teachers and administrators would make us far more effective if they could impress upon the students that yes, we are "real" teachers. Some of us are a hell of a lot better than the people we substitute for, too. 
After working 90 days in the district, you get $187 per day. If you somehow manage to work every one of the 180 days of the year, that's $33,660 before taxes. No benefits. No TRI pay. Not unless you swing a long-term job, and those aren't exactly plentiful. And you do NOT count as a "district employee" when the job openings hit and in-district transfers get priority. Your credentials gets stuck in limbo until you land a regular teaching job, too--university programs won't accept you to get the next level of certification if you're "just a sub." 
It's important to remember that it's almost impossible to work all 180 days, too. The first & last few days of a semester or right after holidays are often tough to fill on your schedule.
Once you've done this for a while, you find yourself wondering if going back to certain schools is really worth $187 for another guaranteed miserable day. There are schools I will not work at unless I'm worried about paying rent. I've been a sub in Seattle for about ten years now, and for most of that time I've worked in multiple districts just so I can make sure I work every day--and so I have some amount of choice in where I'll work. 
Everywhere around Seattle pays less, but that choice makes a huge difference.
For everything I've just said, remember that the classified substitutes have it even worse. That's only $127 a day. And unless it gets changed in this contract (something SEA is fighting for), classified subs stay at that daily sub rate even if they're in a long-term position. Even if they have the job all year. 

9/7/15, 6:32 PM
Anonymous n said...
Everybody wants more. I'm sorry subs but I always leave easy plans to follow because you all don't teach my kids the way I do and you're not always up to date in the curricula. 
Every recently retired teacher at my school is now subbing here. They like the extra money and they know they are not doing the job they used to have to do. I would be surprised if our shortage of subs was actually because people don't want to sub. Is there evidence of that? Even my school has had rare shortages but isn't that because Seattle doesn't hire an adequate cadre? If you are long term, absolutely you should be paid commensurate with teachers but probably without bennies although I'm flexible there. One-day or two-day subs, sorry.

No evals, no parent issues, no overtime, what's so bad about subbing? My subs don't even correct papers anymore. And teachers hate to write plans! Most of us have many hours of sick leave to avoid having to write plans for subs. My best times were subbing many years ago because I learned so much - that as a young new teacher. Our retired teachers come in, earn some money, stay in touch, and go home smiling. 

9/7/15, 6:45 PM
Anonymous veteran sub said...
Dear n:
First off: that money that I cited? That's for real. That's not a make-believe thing. The numbers I presented are the best case scenario. Most subs have to live on that or less. God help you if you wind up with a medical problem or if you have family to support. 
What's so bad about being a sub? The routine disregard, disrespect, and disdain, which you have just demonstrated. What's sad is that I'm not REMOTELY shocked that someone would write a comment like this, and I damn well wish I could be. We get that from the teachers. We get that from the kids. 
We get that from their parents. We do NOT often get complete instructions from teachers. Sometimes I don't find any lesson plans at all. Teachers routinely fail to tell me which students need extra attention, what the kids expect in the way of classroom management, or any number of other important details. I've lost track of the number of times a teacher tells me they never allow headphones or hall passes when this is demonstrably untrue. All that does is set me up for a struggle to enforce rules that the regular teacher doesn't even care about. 
Subs aren't up to current curricula? Yeah, you're right, because most of the time we're not even serving in our credential areas. That happens routinely. That's how short-term subbing works. Did you somehow not know that? 
Regarding your personal experiences: maybe you're a great teacher and you get lousy subs. I fully concede that this is possible. We do, in fact, have some lame subs in this district. As for you doing everything right to prepare for subs and being generally awesome yourself, I'll have to take your word for that. But if you could for a moment take a step back and realize that your comment basically says, "Gosh, I got mine, it sucks to be you," then you MIGHT understand why I would be disinclined to sub for you if I knew who you actually are. 

--veteran sub
9/7/15, 7:09 PM
Anonymous veteran sub / Brian Kowalczyk said...
Actually, on that note: Why am I even using a pseudonym when everything I've said is demonstrably true? 
I'm Brian Kowalczyk. Students call me Mr. K. And I do a damn good job. 

@Brian - thanks for doing a job I would never want. You are not compensated enough.
Wanting Contract

I think that exchange says it all. The "veteran" teacher is arrogant, rude and condescending. Brian nailed it with "I got mine so you GFY" which is what that is.  I have no doubt that this message is passed onto to her students when she is out for the day getting her clock hours, or missing for required training or just being ill. That in turn turns a classroom into a chaos like situation as the kids are sure that the "sub" is just some idiot whom wandered in for the day.

I have joked that I am a day laborer in front of Lowes and that kids learn early from Teacher's like that we are just not worthy of respect.

It is also why I do exactly what Brian does.  You pick you choose and you work in multiple districts or have a second job.  I have no doubt his issues about him being male in a female dominated profession further confuses people as why would he be a "sub".  I get many male teachers particularly condescending towards me saying "this is a great part time job for extra income" or "have you been in many classrooms before like this."

I am still in love with the one who had me paged while I was actually standing in his classroom.   I had not walked into his room promptly at 7:20 am and checked in with him first as he had asked in the endless emails he sent prior to the day, instead  I stopped to go to the bathroom as anyone in Teaching knows that is the most important thing to do as you never know when that chance will happen again.  So he stomped to the office, did not even call from his room and asked if I had checked in with the office, which I had, then went got the keys and then went to his room all well before school but not exactly as 7:20 am.  So sue me!  Funny he was the same teacher put on leave after one of the many school scandals surrounding overnight field trips.. don't know what happened don't care, I never subbed for him again.

I have been spoken to as if I just arrived from a foreign country having adult professional aka colleagues speaking to me in a slow deliberate manner as if English was my second language;  Secretary's ignore me, attendance people yell at me, and let's not go into the Administration staff and their manners.  Many whom are long gone within a year or two yet can have a sub banned from a building, an evaluation submitted to a file without your prior knowledge or consent.

We have children who are so abusive and unkind and the often wait until the next day or week to complain about a sub.  You have no opportunity to respond, recall or know who it is.  It is accepted as truth and fact and those allegations can be quite severe with little to no opportunity to investigate or even speak to the parties involved.  You are systemically denied due process and there is no union assistance to ensure that your job and reputation are secured.  So you hire your own lawyer and then letters are placed in files for years as if that somehow resolves it.  It is bizarre and utterly nonsensical.

So when you read Brian's lament (not a diatribe or rant as he is a man who signed his name and given what I have witnessed on this blog I would never put my name it is the goody proctor of blogs) it tells you that the story of a sub are as diverse as the pool in which we swim.

The recent case of the Sub in Marysville who claimed to know that the student was planning a shooting was of course vilified and mocked and yet I have to ask why would she lie.  And Police are always bastions of honesty.   And of course the Teacher whom she was subbing for has never been interviewed to confirm or deny any of the notes she supposedly left.  But really is about that as the entire shooting was not about knowing in advance, there were texts even sent within an hour of the shooting informing people of his plans, but hey let's make sure we don't talk about guns let's just blame some sad sack substitute teacher.   We are the schools door mats and I just read that post by "n" to remind myself of such. 

All I can say is that I used to leave a note on if I collected papers and anything of urgency that I thought was important.  This year I am making a copy of all the notes and lesson plans that the teacher left, my notes and I am keeping a log that includes a copy of seating charts, names of students and any other data that will protect my rights.  How sad. How grim. How pathetic.

This is what work has become. When do you draw the line?  Has Teaching become so vilified that this is what we do to each other to survive and what does that say to the children as they learn this lesson and then what do they do with that lesson.

I know some great Teachers and some great Substitutes and now I know of Brian, but as he said there are many of both that aren't.  The reality is that is every job but we all want to do our damn best. So thanks Brian for reminding me of that.  But I always remember there is a line in the sand and mine has finally been crossed and this is my last year doing this job here.  Can't say it will be better but at least it will be different.

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