Complaining about something*,  Teaching*

A Rant About Subsitute Teachers*

My lovelies, I am annoyed.

Actually, I was more annoyed on Thursday and meant to write all about it then, but this weekend has been such a busy blur that I haven’t even turned on my computer until right now.

This pregnancy has been a little harder on me than my first. Aside from a little heartburn, carrying Ruby was a breeze. This tiny peanut has been a different experience. I have awful back pain, and I am not sleeping well most nights.

Last Wednesday I woke up after a particularly rough night and knew I needed to take a day. I had a headache and was really not feeling very well, so even though I hate to do it–I called in sick.

I had already prepped my classes for the week, so I knew my lesson plans would be easy for my supply (substitute) teacher. Since I spent so long supply teaching myself, I try hard to be as organized and straightforward as I can in my plans.

There is nothing worse than showing up at a school and finding unclear, disorganized instructions.

(Actually, I lied. Showing up at a school and finding no instructions is worse.)

(Been there, done that.)

Shortly after I woke up, I got Ruby organized for the day then I spent a long time writing out my supply instructions. I organized them by class, and numbered the sequence of the very simple lesson steps, so that even if someone who didn’t teach the subjects I currently have showed up–it would be a pretty easy day.

I wrote a little note to the supply teacher about my kids, and then I finished my instructions with this:

Thank you so much for covering my classes today—please leave me a detailed note outlining how your day went.

Pretty, straightforward, no? It doesn’t have to be a novel, but I would like to know if there was something my students struggled with that I should reinforce the next day. Or if there were any behaviour issues that I need to address.

When I supply taught, I was always careful to leave detailed notes about each class I taught. I often glossed over the behaviour issues unless they were serious, but I always made sure to tell the classroom teacher how much of the lesson was completed, and I always, always followed the instructions that were given to me.

As I saw it, that was my job.

The teacher I replaced for the day took the time to leave me instructions and work, so it was my job to follow through. It wasn’t always terribly exciting, but I have always tried to live my life by something my grandfather told me:

“If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.”

So. Why am I ranting?

On Wednesday I had a supply teacher come in for me. I’ve been away in the past, and while I haven’t always loved the subs that have come in, most have been fairly competent. I get that it’s not an easy job, and students don’t always treat supply teachers with the same respect they do their regular teachers.

Remember: I supply taught for nearly three years.

I returned to work on Thursday, expecting to find the work I had left with the note I had requested in my mailbox, as per my instructions.


I then checked my desk in my workroom.


I asked my colleagues if they had seen or spoken to my sub.


I was a little annoyed as I had hoped to build the starting point of my lessons that day based off where they had left off, and would now need to wait to speak to my classes to see where that was.

When my first class arrived, I apologized to them for my unexpected absence, and asked them how things had gone the day before.

One student replied, “Well, we didn’t really do anything.”

Thinking this was a standard response from a 14 year old, I asked one of my go-to students for a recap on the class. She told me that the supply teacher hadn’t really explained what they were doing, and she just sat at the desk and read a book for the entire period.

So, now I was a little more annoyed, but I rolled with it. Maybe she had somehow misinterpreted the work period I had left for the kids, or had not correctly understood which assignments they were supposed to be working on.

Maybe that was my fault.

Then I went to my next class. I arrived and found a messy, disorganized pile of leftover handouts from both classes strewn across a table. The instructions I had left were haphazardly thrown on top, without a note.

My annoyance deepened.

When I asked this group about the day before, I was livid. She ignored my simple instructions (handout a book, help read one chapter, give out questions), and did not recollect the work I had specifically asked for.

Then I found out that there had been a bit of an incident in the class that left one student rather upset–to the point she was in tears and left the room.

Information that would have been handy to have in the note I requested, since it forced me to play he-said / she-said and try and piece together what happened the next day before making a couple of phone calls home to talk to parents.

By the end of the day I was beyond unimpressed. Not only did I have to reteach / redo what I had left, but I walked in completely blind. Even a few jot notes would have helped–if there was some reason that they couldn’t follow my plans, just tell me about it. But this teacher obviously dumped everything on the desk and flew out the door at the bell.

So, why do I care so much?

I care because I fought so hard to earn my position as a substitute teacher. I volunteered in a classroom without pay for eight months while I waited for an opportunity to interview.

When I finally did get on the supply list, I worked so hard to change the bad rap substitute teachers always get. I went out of my way to do my best every single day. It wasn’t easy, and there were days when I left a school in tears–but I left knowing that even though the day had been brutal, I had done my best.

I followed instructions left for me to the letter, so that teachers would feel that they could trust me with their classes. I spent time interacting with the kids, so they would feel like I took my job seriously.

I did my job well.

So, yes. My expectations for substitute teachers are high, and I feel that that’s fair. Why should I expect less from someone with the same qualifications as me? I know that not everyone loves this profession as I do, but I don’t think it’s unfair to expect a professional to come in and do their job well.

Especially since there are so many passionate teachers who are still waiting for their opportunity to start teaching. There are so many teachers who are still volunteering and waiting; who would have given anything to have been able to get that call and sub for a day.

Teachers who would have come in and done their best.

Or, at the very least, who would have done their job.

So, I’m annoyed.

I love what I do, I always have. I take my job seriously, and have from day one. I know this particular supply teacher doesn’t represent the group at large–there are many others out there who are incredible supply teachers. There are people who love what they do and make it a point to do their job well.

I guess I’m just sad that this teacher is out there–taking a spot from someone who is desperately waiting to start.

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  • F

    Aren’t you one bitter woman. It can be frustrating when something like that happens, but what more can you do? Nothing. Stop ranting and move on. Not everyone is going to meet your expectations and you’ve to live with that.

  • Shop Girl*

    Bitter? No. Disappointed? Yes. And absolutely, I was / am frustrated that it happened as I think it’s completely unacceptable and wholly unnecessary. It’s hard enough to get a teaching job here in Ontario, and quite frankly it disgusts me when I find teachers who are so lacking in their professionalism. It gives all supply teachers a bad name, and they have an incredibly difficult job as it is. But it IS a job with specific requirements and expectations that need to be met. I don’t often rant, but I felt this needed to be said.