Substitute teachers live a nomadic job-life.
Substitute teachers race to their classes, which may be hard to find. Instructions on what to teach the students may be vague. Students may toy with their temporary teacher. Substitutes get no benefits and the hourly pay is only a few dollars above minimum wage. So why do they do it?
. Among the reasons are schedule flexibility, a temporary source of income and the prevailing reason it could lead to a full-time teaching job. But the negatives send many out of the business and sometimes leave regulars wondering why they come back for more.
"People can ski three days and work two days," Tim McConnell, of human resources in the Park City School District, said of substitute teaching. "You can dictate your own schedule if you have the background and ability."
.’"It floats my boat," Jim Brooks, a sometimes substitute teacher said of the teaching profession. A practicing lawyer, and college instructor, he has been substitute teaching just over a year. But while he likes the teaching aspect of the job, inherent stresses of substitute teaching and the fact he is not yet certified and receives lesser pay take their toll.
"I hate to denigrate anybody," Brooks said, "but we get less than anyone else in the system, and in a certain sense, you’re looked at as nothing more than a baby sitter," he said.
The main complaint of substitutes seems to be the pay. Nancy Hilton, the human resources secretary with the Park City School District said certified substitute teachers with the district earn $75 per day, while non-certified teachers earn $65 per day. But that is slightly higher than the going rate.
South Summit substitute teachers earn $65 per day for a certified teacher and $55 for a non-certified teacher, according to Diane Atkinson, the district business secretary.
In the North Summit School District, certified substitute teachers make $60 per day and uncertified make $55, said secretary Julie Black, with the district.
McConnell said that what Park City School district pays is around the going rate, but he admits it’s not keeping up with the economy. "It’s a matter of, can we afford to increase level of what we pay substitute teachers and make the job more attractive to them, with our budgetary concerns?" McConnell said. It’s at the very top of the district’s discussion.
"It’s so much work for that measly pay," said Gerry Brooks, a 15-year, certified substitute teacher with the Park City School District, and Jim Brooks’ wife. She works three days per week. She said if the pay doesn’t increase the quality of the substitute teachers will go down.
Paul Herwit is a certified teacher with the Park City School district, who substitutes almost every day. He said the Park City School District has great principals and teachers, and while he admits the pay is low, he realizes schools have a limited budget. Herwit said the pool of substitute teachers drains as ski season begins. "They can make more money as a lift operator at a resort than as a substitute teacher," he said.
Gerry Brooks suggests a merit-pay bonus similar to what president Bush will soon be testing among full-time teachers. Herwit suggests full-time substitutes, but admits it would be hard to staff enough to cover the diverse classes .
Substitute teachers may be college students working on their master’s degree, Hilton said, they may be retired teachers. All must submit to background checks done and get fingerprinted before they can teach, Hilton said. At that point they are on call. A recorder calls substitute teachers on the list every morning with the open positions, which teachers may take or refuse. Bad substitute teachers consistently show up late, or even talk on their cell phones during class Hilton said.
"Today we have 23 teachers out in the district," Hilton said. "I’m completely going through my sub list. A substitute teacher could easily substitute every single day," she said.
Jim Brooks outlines a typical day. He said he gets called by the school recording. He listens for the type of class, the school and how soon he has to appear. Often there is little time to get to a school, find the classroom and find the lesson plan given by the absent teacher.
"Sometimes you are to show a film, but there is no working projector," he said. "The students know they’ve got you, because you don’t know what’s going on. They may even switch seats so if they cause trouble you will think they are someone else."
"You have three or four classes of students, maybe 35 students per class. For your prep period where you get a break, they may use you to fill in for another absent teacher who they could find no substitute for. With too few substitutes to go around, full-time teachers often have to use their prep-period break to take a class for a missing teacher. If several teachers fill in for the missing teacher, that teacher’s class is covered for the day. But that is taking away time for teachers to get their own work done," he said.
Gerry Brooks seems to have a handle on substitute teaching. She said what can make or break a sub day is the lesson plan left or called in by the absent teacher. If the plan is thorough and helpful, she leaves a note of praise. If there is little information on what is being studied or what is expected, Brooks lets the teacher know through notes. Jim Brooks said he gets to know which teachers are good to work for, and he makes a mental note of the ones who are not.
Herwit teaches only classes he feels fully qualified to teach, so he will do not only a better job for the students, but also, he hopes, set himself up for a teaching position in that field.
Brooks hopes to eventually become a full-time teacher, and that is why he continues substituting. "I like working with kids," Herwit said. "It makes you feel like you’re doing something good."
For more information about becoming a substitute teacher, contact Nancy Hilton, Park City High School human resource secretary at email@example.com
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Thanks to COVID-19 cutting into visitation numbers, Park City’s seasonal workforce is sufficient. In any other winter, “the hiring situation would be dire.”