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Substitute teachers in the United States are often paid poorly and treated like trash

If you want to discover what America’s leaders at the state and federal level really think about our public schools and the education of our children, look no further than substitute teachers.

“Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé”, my memoir, was reviewed on Sincerely Stacie.com as a part of a book blog tour, and Stacie’s review caused me to think about substitute teachers. In fact, I had trouble sleeping the night that review appeared, because of memories that surfaced when I was a full-time, substitute teacher from 1976 – 1978.

What I found especially interesting was that Stacie was a substitute teacher and a mother of three, because dedicated substitute teachers are  valuable to full-time teachers—so rare, that full-time teachers often book the best, dedicated, experienced substitute teachers as far in advance as possible hoping that another teacher won’t steal them away first.

But, most of the time, for me, there was no way to know who the substitute teacher would be, and a few times, even when I had succeeded in booking a substitute teacher that I knew was good at her job, the district might redirect them at the last minute—without my knowledge—to another classroom or school and send my students to the library without a substitute, and my students would miss another day of instruction.

In this era of high-stakes testing with rank and yank results for teachers, every day lost in the classroom might cost a full-time-teacher her job.

What you learn from this post might shock you—and even make you angry—but the qualifications to become a K to 12 substitute teacher in California have not changed for decades. They are the same now as they were during my thirty years in the classroom (1975-2005).

I copied the following information from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing Website:

I DON’T HAVE MY BACHELOR’S DEGREE YET. CAN I SUBSTITUTE TEACH?

Yes. The Emergency Substitute Teaching Permit for Prospective Teachers may be issued based on the completion of 90 semester units of course work from a regionally-accredited California college or university, verification of current enrollment in a regionally-accredited California college or university, and having satisfied the basic skills requirement [PDF].

For anyone who isn’t aware of the minimum number of units necessary for a bachelor’s degree, it’s usually 4-to 5-years of college and graduation requires a minimum of 120 units. Many majors and degrees have requirements that extend beyond the minimum number of units.

What this reveals is that many substitutes may not even be a senior in college or a college graduate.  And if you look at substitute pay on a state-by-state basis, you might be even more shocked.

For instance, in Alabama, the state reimburses local school districts $35 a day for a substitute teacher and that teacher only needs a high school diploma and a negative TB skin test.

If you click on this nea.org link, you may see how much each state—for those that list the daily pay—is willing to pay a substitute. I think what substitute teachers are paid is a crime. They should be paid much more—at least $100 a day with benefits.

In Iowa, where Stacie works as a substitute teacher, substitutes have the same licensing requirements as full time teachers—high standards compared to Alabama or California, but the average salary for a substitute teacher in Iowa is $23,905, while starting pay for a full time teacher is $39,200—and the average age of a substitute teacher in Iowa is 50. TeacherSalary.net

When I was still teaching, there was a shortage of substitute teachers in California and often, full time teachers were called on to be substitutes during their planning periods.


I think it’s safe to say that this substitute teacher was a high school graduate from Alabama.

For instance, I was called a few times during the 27-years I worked as a full-time teacher, and once the district was so desperate that after they fired one, new and young, first-year teacher for teaching his students how to cheat on tests, the district staffed his five periods with five, full-time teachers by asking us to give up our planning period. I was one of those five teachers for the rest of the second semester.  The district paid me an extra $45 a day for giving up my planning period and teaching that one-extra class. For the rest of that year, instead of teaching five classes, I taught six. The district could have saved money if they had hired a substitute to finish that year, because the average hourly top pay for a substitute in California runs between $11 to $17. In Iowa, the top hourly pay is $10 to $15, but starts at $7.

If you have already read the “Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession” by Dana Goldstein, you might remember that she doesn’t mention substitute teachers in her book, which is sad, because substitute teachers are important to full time teachers, who don’t want their students to miss one day of instruction. Most teachers, who are out of their classroom for a day or more, don’t want baby sitters. They want skilled teachers—who teach just like they would. I know, because I did and the teachers I worked with did.

I now know there is one job in the United States that is more Embattled than a full-time teacher and that is the job of a dedicated, full-time, professional substitute teacher, who gets up early every day waiting for that phone call that will send them to a different classroom, subject and different challenge.

How do I know this?  Well, my first year in education was as a full-time, paid intern in a residency program with a master teacher in her fifth grade classroom. My second and third years, I worked as a full-time substitute teacher waiting for that 5-to-6 a.m. phone call, and I taught in seven different school districts in Southern California. I never knew what district would call first and what grade, subject, or school I would be sent to.

In conclusion, think of the differences between—for instance, me or a dedicated, full-time, experienced substitute teacher like Stacie versus a young K-12 substitute teacher with only a high school degree or even 90 or more college units but no BA degree and little or no experience or training as a classroom teacher.

The only teachers who might have a little bit more experience over that high school graduate or 90-unit, wet-behind-the-ears substitute teacher, who might not even be 21, would be a Teach For American (TFA) recruit with a BA/BS degree and 5 weeks of training in a summer workshop without any experience teaching children in the classroom before they started their first, full-time teaching assignment. This might explain why only a third of TFA recruits stay in education as teachers and 85% of those TFA recruits who stay in teaching, after two years, transfer into more affluent schools and away from schools with high rates of poverty leaving less than 3-percent of the original TFA recruits where they were needed most—with the at-risk children.

In fact, I think TFA recruits might be a better source for substitute teachers in some states—but not Iowa where the substitutes must meet the same qualifications as a full time teacher—than that high school graduate in Alabama or the 90+ unit non-college graduate in California.

When I was a substitute teacher, I already had a BA degree in journalism and a teaching credential earned through a full-time residency program in my master teacher’s fifth grade classroom. When I walked in a classroom as a substitute—no matter where or what—I knew what had to be done. At the time, my California teaching credential was a life, multi-subject credential.

I think the time has come to bring this issue into the open. Dedicated, full-time substitute teachers deserve more support, respect, benefits and pay, because they are a vital link in a child’s education when the regular teacher is out sick or attending a district workshop or meeting.

If our elected representatives and the corporate-driven, fake, education reformers really cared about our children’s education more than profiting off tax dollars that were meant for the public schools, substitute teachers in every state would at least match the requirements found in Iowa, and be paid the same as a professional college graduate instead of poverty wages with no benefits.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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Substitute Teaching is not a “Tea Party”

During the 1976-77 school year, I subbed daily in a half-dozen school districts during the first semester.

Substitute teaching is not easy.

Whoever called first at five in the morning — that would be the school district where I taught.

I taught in Arcadia, Monrovia, San Dimas, Rowland and a few other Southern California school districts I’ve forgotten. Most of the time, I worked in Rowland Unified in La Puente, where I interned the previous year.

When some of the teachers in Rowland knew they were going to be out, they requested me in advance and my calendar quickly filled up.

After the Winter Break, I was called to sub at Romier Elementary for a fifth-grade class.


Watch the video and discover what it is like from another substitute teacher more than thirty years later.

The teacher had a heart attack and was in the hospital. Two weeks later, the principal offered me a long-term position for the rest of the year when the regular teacher died.

I consider that fifth-grade class as the one from Dante’s Inferno, and I worried that this would end in me losing my teaching credential while landing in jail for murder and mayhem.

I asked, “Why me?”

After all, there were many substitute teachers with more experience. This was my first year. However, I needed the job.

That’s when I learned that I had been the thirteenth substitute teacher for that class — not a good omen. The other twelve left after the first day and refused to return.

However, I survived two weeks and discovered why the regular teacher probably had his heart attack and died — a rather drastic way to escape those kids.  He should have quit or retired.

In addition, I knew why I had survived — a combat tour in Vietnam as a United States Marine had prepared me for this teaching job.


This video shows a substitute teacher that lost control. With students like these, I cannot blame her. Do you know that half of new teachers quit within three years and never return to education? This is one example that explains why.

That fifth-grade class had thirty students in it. Half the boys were hyperactive, which probably isn’t the politically correct term to call them but too bad since over the years, political correctness has become a language bully.

One boy, James, would attack anyone that stared at him for more than a few seconds. It didn’t matter if the student staring at him was a girl or a boy. He jumped the other students and his fists started flying.

James should have been America’s secret weapon in Vietnam.

Another example why it is so challenging to teach in America’s public schools may be found at Narcissism at its Best.

As a substitute teacher, it would have been nice to have a black belt in judo or karate. I knew one sub that did, and he started every a class with a demonstration of his skills to tame the wild beasts.

Once the class from Dante’s Inferno was mine, I moved the desks around to create a better arrangement for controlling the hyperactive gang.

I moved the teacher’s desk and placed two bookshelves behind it to form a space in a corner large enough to hold one desk so no one could make eye contact with James.


Another recent substitute experience.

The problem was, James wouldn’t sit still, and I had to keep my sonar turned on. When I sensed he was moving, I’d throw my arm up as if it were one of those arms at a railroad crossing to keep James from getting out and causing a train wreck with the other students he attacked.

At times, when it was too quiet in that cubbyhole hemmed in with bookshelves, I’d discover James on top of his desk spinning on his head like a top with his feet in the air.

If I saw any child from that wild bunch lifting a fanny off a chair, I’d fling myself across the room twisting my face into a Marine Corps drill sergeant‘s evil, killer mask.

“Don’t move another inch,” I’d say in a menacing tone that threatened bodily harm. There was never a dull moment. It was in that class that I perfected the killer sociopathic stare that would serve me well until 2005 when I was paroled from the classroom after thirty years.

______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

To subscribe to “Crazy Normal”, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.

  Note: This revised and edited post first appeared as a three part series on January 31, 2010 in Substitute Teaching is not a “Tea Party” – Part 1

 

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Substitute Teaching is not a “Tea Party” – Part 3/3

As a substitute teacher, it would have been nice to have had a black belt in judo or karate. I knew one sub that did, and he started every a class with a demonstration of his skills.

Once the class from Dante’s Inferno was mine, I moved the desks around to create a better arrangement for controlling the hyperactive squad of boys.

I moved the teacher’s desk and placed two bookshelves behind it to form a space large enough to hold one desk so no one could make eye contact with James.


Another recent substitute experience.

The problem was, James wouldn’t sit still. I had to keep my sonar turned on. When I sensed he was moving, I’d throw my arm up as if it were one of those arms at a railroad crossing to keep James from getting out and cause a train wreck.

At times, when it was too quiet in that cubbyhole hemmed in with bookshelves, I’d turn to see James on top of his desk spinning on his head like a top with his feet in the air.

If I saw anyone from the wild bunch lifting a fanny off a chair, I’d fling myself across the room twisting my face into a Marine Corps drill sergeant, evil, killer mask.

“Don’t move another inch,” I’d say in a menacing tone that threatened bodily harm. There was never a dull moment. It was in that class that I perfected the killer stare that would serve me well for the next thirty years.

Start with Substitute Teaching is not a “Tea Party” – Part 1

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition].

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

 

 

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Substitute Teaching is not a “Tea Party” – Part 2/3

I asked, “Why me?”

After all, there were many substitute teachers with more experience. This was my first year.

That’s when I learned that I had been the thirteenth substitute teacher—not a good omen. The other twelve left after the first day and refused to return.

However, I had survived two weeks and knew why the regular teacher died from a heart attack.

And I knew why I had survived—the combat tour in Vietnam as a United States Marine had toughened me for the job.


This video shows a substitute teacher that lost control of herself.  With students like these, I cannot blame her. Do you know that half of new teachers quit within three years and never return to education. This is one example that explains why.

That fifth grade class had thirty students in it. Half the boys were hyperactive, which probably isn’t the politically correct term to call them but “fuck” that.

Over the years, political correctness has become the language bully.

One boy, James, would attack anyone that stared at him for more than a few seconds. It didn’t matter if the student staring at him was a girl or a boy. His fists started flying.

James could have been America’s secret weapon in Vietnam.

Another example why it is so challenging to teach in America’s public schools may be found at Narcissism at its Best.

Continued in Substitute Teaching is not a “Tea Party” – Part 3 or return to Part 1

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition].

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

 

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A Ten-Year Old Named Oscar (viewed as single page)

After my nine-month internship in a fifth grade classroom, I was not offered a contract to teach full time and had to substitute teach for the next two years.

A ten-year old called Oscar (not his real name) was the reason. It was May 1976, and Ms. Stepp was gone. Instead, a sub was in the room. I was the student teacher. Oscar had an anger issue. He could blow with the force of a five-hundred pound, roadside bomb.

On that particular day, for no reason, Oscar started to use a thick-black marker to draw Xs across the pages in the history textbook used for Yorbita’s fifth grade. As he finished marking a page, he tore it out and tossed it on the floor.


Another teacher’s experience.

The substitute teacher said to stop. Oscar ignored her. Oscar kept marking the large, thick X and tearing the pages out. The students sitting near him knew he was capable of flying into a rage and attacking them so they started to slide their desks away until he was an isolated island.

As I finished this post, I thought of Where are the Parents, a post I wrote at iLook China.

Since I had been in the class as a student teacher since September, I thought Oscar might listen to me. I knelt on one knee at eye level and calmly asked him to stop. He did not make eye contact as he marked another page.

I asked him to hand me the book he was systematically destroying page by page.

Oscar was on a behavior modification contract. When he lost control, he was supposed to leave the classroom and walk home.

The teacher was to call the mother and let her know Oscar was on his way. When Oscar reached home, he was to be isolated in his room until he calmed down. Once calm, he could return to school.

I reached for the thirty-five dollar textbook. He yanked it out of my reach, and his face bloated with anger. “That’s my book,” he said. “Don’t touch it.”

I asked him to come to the office with me. He refused. I went to the phone and called, but the principal was not available.

What I did next was the reason why the principal did not recommend me for a full-time position in the district the next school year.

My next move was to pick Oscar up and carry him to the office.

He fought all the way.

It was like trying to hold onto a live fifty-thousand volt wire. Like a giant anaconda, Oscar twisted, turned, and slugged me in the torso. He knocked my glasses off.

When we reached the office, I called his mother.

On the way back to class, I was fortunate enough to find my glasses undamaged. Later, the principal told me that I shouldn’t have touched Oscar, and that I wasn’t ready to teach full time.

As I was finishing this post, I remembered reading the trauma of joblessness in a Blog about Education and Class. The author wrote, “I’ve read and heard little about how school are helping children to understand what is happening to their parents, how they’re trying to articulate for children the reasons for becoming educated in uncertain times, how they are teaching children to be deeply proud of struggling parents.”

When are most Americans going to wake up and realize that the schools have been so burdened with “powerless parenting” that teachers can’t do the job of teaching reading, writing and arithmetic?

Instead, teachers spend far too much time dealing with the Oscars of the world.

______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

If you want to subscribe to “Crazy Normal”, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.

 

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