It’s not the kids who disrespect me, it’s other teachers


DEAR MISS MANNERS: I work as a substitute teacher for an excellent local school system. I enjoy the assignments, for the most part, and like knowing that I’m contributing to public education. Schools can’t function without substitutes.

It’s not my primary source of income by a long shot, so I can choose where and if I want to work.

I’m reliable, I read and implement lesson plans carefully, and I stay flexible to respond to the schools’ needs. Contrary to stereotype, the kids are mostly manageable and often delightful.

My problem is that some adults seem to believe that “subs” are interchangeable widgets who can be treated with disregard.

Most teachers and administrators are helpful and pleasant, but a few are dismissive or flat-out ignore me. When I go to another teacher’s classroom, perhaps to pull out a student for assigned tutoring, I always greet the teacher first and ask if this is a good time to take the student. Yet some staff will come into my room and interact with the kids without saying anything at all to me. Or they’ll speak to my students with a version of, “I know you don’t have a real teacher today …”

Administrators can be even worse. I’ve had principals waltz into my classroom and engage at length with the kids while ignoring me completely. One told a class that she had never worked as a substitute, “since they’re just warm bodies.”

Children are highly observant and pick up on status cues quickly. If other adults treat the substitute like a piece of furniture, they will, too. And then the substitute has a miserable day and stops working at that school.

There’s a shortage of substitutes in my district and nationwide. How about treating us as colleagues who are doing challenging jobs for low pay and helping to keep our schools running?



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