If you have ever considered being a substitute teacher, but you are unsure of what it entails exactly, let me share my experience with you. I have been substitute teaching for about 6 months now and it is a job that I really enjoy. As with all jobs, there are definite pros and cons and you will want to look at them closely before you decide if this is actually something that you want to pursue yourself.
Pros Of Substitute Teaching
As a substitute, you are in a unique position where you can design your own schedule. In one of my school systems, we use an app for scheduling. I can go in and “gray out” any days when I don’t want to work and not worry about putting in a request for the days off or anything like that. In other school systems, I can just not answer the phone if I don’t want to be called in. Many teachers now ask me in advance if I want to cover a day or more for them and if I do, they just go into the app and assign myself that day or days or gray it out of it’s not for that school system. I also get notified by the app of other days that are open and I can then decide if I want to cover them or not. Easy.
Substitutes Are In High Demand
I have worked every single day that I have wanted to since I became a substitute except for one. That’s it. I never worry if I will find work or not. There are always teachers taking off for vacation, conferences or needing to be out due to illness, etc. If you sub and you are reliable, you will work. Trust.
As a substitute teacher, even if it seems only in a small way, you are still helping to educate our children. It’s great just “being in the educational/learning environment that I have always loved,” says Amanda from Guide For Moms.
I know that every day that I have served as a substitute teacher, I have also learned new things. Children take in information in dramatically different ways in the present than we did in the past. It’s nice to be exposed to these new educational tools and styles on a daily basis.
Try It Before You Buy It
I already have a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. I have thought about pursuing a career in Teaching but the thought of going back to school is a lot right now. So, before I take on the added expense and time in earning another degree, I want to make sure that it is something that I will actually enjoy. So, I decided to substitute teach in order to “try it before I buy it,” so to speak.
Pam from Simply Southern Mom agrees: “If you’re thinking of pursuing a degree in teaching, subbing is a great way to decide if it’s something you want to do.”
Also, many people think they will like teaching for one grade only to find out they are wrong. I have learned that I love subbing at high schools and middle schools. The elementary schools – not so much. I am just not a huggy person and little kids are cute but they hug A LOT. I am not about that life. GERMS! Lol!
It’s A Great Way To Get Your Foot In The Door
If you are hoping to eventually land a job as a full time teacher, para or aide at the school you are subbing at, it’s a “good way to get your foot in the door at area schools,” says Pam. If you are reliable and seem like you will make a great addition to the school you are subbing at, chances are you will get a job there if one opens up that you are eligible for.
Each Day Is A New Adventure
If you are someone who likes variety, this is the job for you. Everyday is different and you are not likely to get bored. Each class has it’s own vibe and not knowing what to expect each day can actually be a lot of fun.
Cons Of Substitute Teaching
Being Left Out Of Teacher Privileges
Even though I work just as many days in the classroom as full-time teachers, I am not considered a teacher, so some schools leave me out of the small, extra things that they do for teachers. For instance, one school I worked at had a hot cocoa bar for the teachers. I could get hot cocoa, but I had to make sure not to get a mug, I had to use a Styrofoam cup instead since I wasn’t a teacher.
However, another school has had a baked potato bar and a small Christmas party that several teachers have made sure to invite me to even though I was not aware of either in advance so naturally I brought nothing to contribute. The point is, never take for granted that you will be included in anything with the word “teacher” in it. Always ask. I love being included but I don’t get upset if I am not. If this would make you feel awkward or hurt your feelings in any way, you need to take this into consideration before taking a job substitute teaching.
Subs Get Far Lower Pay Than Teachers
I have a Bachelor’s Degree [the same amount of education as many of the teachers that I substitute for] but I am paid far less. If I didn’t also blog, the rate I am paid would be nowhere near a livable wage for me. And I am also paid the premium rate, because of my Bachelor’s Degree – so there are subs who make even less. So, in my opinion, substitute teaching needs to be a job you do for the love or as additional income in the form of a second job.
Subs Do Not Get Insurance, 401K And Other Benefits
The pay that I make is all that I get for being a sub. There are no other benefits like health insurance, dental and 401K. So, it’s a great job for those who are married to someone else with benefits or as a second job. But if you are single and this is your only means of income, you might want to take all this into consideration.
Sometimes Teachers Cancel Last Minute
If a teacher decides they don’t need you, even at the last minute, they have the option to just cancel with very little notice. Some schools use apps to give you this notification, meaning you might never even know why this cancellation happened. Though this rarely happens in my experience, it does happen. One day a teacher canceled on me at 6:26am through the app. I was removed from a 3 day position I was filling in for starting that morning, that had been scheduled for about a month in advance. So, I was left scrambling for a place to substitute that day which, fortunately, I was able to find. This can be quite aggravating.
Also, there can be mistakes. I showed up to a school one day and there had been some error on either the teacher’s or the school’s part. It turns out the teacher was there, and they did not need me after all, yet no one had removed me from the position in the app or notified me. So, by the time I reached the school and found out I was not actually needed, it was too late for me to get a sub position anywhere else that day. However, I do believe they paid me for that day as I was “clocked” in, so I can’t complain too much about that.
You Don’t Always Get Welcomed With Open Arms
Almost every teacher who I have encountered has been nice. But I have had the occasional teacher who wasn’t that talkative or helpful to me. Maybe it’s because they don’t know me and assume they won’t see me again? Substitutes often hop around from class to class and school to school, so we are often the “new person.” If you can’t overcome this quickly, or if you need for everyone to like you, then this job is probably not for you.
Also, some students think that a day with a sub is a day to act out. “You have to be on the ball because students will test you,” says Pam from Simply Southern Mom. I agree. I have definitely had some students act in a way that I feel they might not act had their teacher been there.
Not Being Able To Build A Rapport With Your Students
Says Amanda from Guide For Moms, “One of the cons for me was not having the same kids over and over. I think as a teacher it’s important to get to know the students and their learning styles. But getting a new set of kids daily makes it difficult to teach due to not “knowing” them.”
I agree. In classes where I have subbed on multiple occasions, I find it easier to build a rapport with those students. Thus, it’s not as difficult to get them to follow directions and/or listen when I need them to.
There Is No Set Schedule
If you are one of those people who likes to have a set schedule and know what to expect each day, substitute teaching is not the job for you. “You never have a set schedule,” says Pam from Simply Southern Mom. I concur. I have been everything from a Pre-K Aide to a high school Agriculture Sub. Each class is different as is every set of students. I have been here long enough now that I have several teachers who request me repeatedly, but it takes a while to get there. Patience.
Subs Can Only Work A Set Number Of Hours
For example, for one school district that I work in, a sub can only work 132 days a year. In another, subs can only work 3 days a week. This is to keep subs below the number of hours that earns them benefits. So, I recommend working in several school districts if you want to work “full time.” Get yourself a planner to keep your schedule straight and you are good to go.
What I Have Learned As A Substitute Teacher
After subbing this school year in one district, I am expanding to 5. I realized that I really like substitute teaching and want to do it every day, and wowking in more than one school district makes that a possibility. I also realized pretty quickly in that I am not a big fan of subbing in the elementary schools. The kids are huggy and cry and I am just not maternal enough to enjoy all that. Also, it’s super hard, in my experience, to get a restroom break as an elementary school sub. This girl needs to go to the bathroom. So, I turn down most requests to sub in elementary schools now unless it’s from a small school or for a teacher that I already have worked with and really like. I am definitely someone who enjoys the banter and sarcasm that teens offer. I definitely find subbing in high school and middle school really fun most days.
Are you a substitute teacher or considering becoming one? Were you one in the past? Do you have any other pros and cons to add to the list? Feel free to add them below or let us know on social media.