Sub Shortage: Crisis or Opportunity?

Tammy Jackson's picture

The availability of quality substitute teachers has diminished over recent years. This year, in many areas of the state, the lack of substitute teachers is near crisis level. Too often building administrators find themselves either spending a significant amount of time searching for substitute coverage or covering classes themselves. In either case, it is not a productive way for an administrator to spend their time.

In an effort to attract substitute teachers, some districts have increased the daily rate a substitute is paid. Other districts have hired full time substitutes that are committed to the district each day and placed based on need. EDUStaff, one of the states largest educational staffing companies, has engaged in aggressive marketing strategies in an effort to attract substitute teachers.

Local districts have launched their own campaign to entice substitute teaches to their district by offering “perks.” I’ve heard of districts providing free breakfast and lunch, priority parking, advanced notification and choice of positions. One district raffles a gas card off by giving substitute teachers a ticket each time they sub. All of these ideas might make a substitute teacher desire one district over another.

I always found that what really attracted substitute teachers to a building had more to do with how they were treated. When substitute teachers have good lesson plans, administrative support, building familiarity, positive building culture and respectful students they are more likely to accept a position. Earning $10-15 more isn’t worth working in a district that lacks a solid substitute teacher protocol.

If you are finding your school in a substitute teacher shortage you might want to consider some of the following “practices” that just may make your school a “school of choice” by available substitute teachers.

  • A welcome greeting upon arrival
  • A “sub folder” that includes pertinent information about building protocol and practices, building maps, emergency plans, daily schedule and student management expectations
  • Staff mentor who is assigned to provide assistance when needed
  • Standardized lesson plans within building so no matter where the placement is the plans are familiar
  • Clearly defined discipline procedures that students are aware of and are expected to adhere too
  • A “check out” process (paper or digital) that gives the substitute teacher an opportunity to leave feedback for the teacher that filters through the principal

When a building administrator takes the time to check in with a substitute teacher, at some point in the day, it sends a strong message that they are valued and appreciated. It can’t be emphasized enough…people will remember how they were treated far longer than how much they were paid.