After placing a briefcase beside an unfamiliar desk and writing their name on the whiteboard, substitute teachers repeatedly greet classrooms of new faces. Their job is vital to the everyday workings of the school, but even with such an important role in the school, their hard work can be overlooked.
Opinions vary on the experience of having a substitute. Sophomore Charles Yang expressed, “I’ve always tried my best to keep a positive relationship with the substitutes. Sometimes I just avoid interaction with them because I don’t like the way they teach [at times].” But, of course, there are always two sides to a story. According to a few WHS substitute teachers, their job is a bit more complicated than some would imagine.
Substitute teacher Chris Rupe, a regular sub at WHS, stated, “[Some people might think that subs] are these mean people that don’t want to talk with students. It’s really the exact opposite. Whenever a substitute comes into a classroom, I think the goal of a good substitute is to break down those walls and to build relationships.” He continued by saying, “You really have to do it on the fly because you don’t have the luxury of being with these students every day.”
Mr. Getting, a long time sub at WHS, made a different statement about “stereotypical” substitute teachers. “[A myth I often hear is that subs can] step into any classroom and be effective. For me, there are certain content areas that I feel uncomfortable subbing in because I cannot help students.”
While the job of being a substitute is strenuous, the WHS principal Mr. Justman provides his full support and encouragement. “I think substitute teachers are critical to any school! We know when you have a staff of over 140 people, there are going to be absences. People get sick, family members get sick […] so there has to be someone who can come in and fill in for you when you simply can’t be here.”
It is true that substitute teachers can have a pretty rough job and play a very important role in a school. But, like always, positive aspects abound that make their days teaching more memorable and enjoyable. Unless substitute teachers are in a long term subbing job, they often switch classes, students and subjects very fast. While some negatives parts of the job arise, those challenges intrigue and even appeal to some substitute teachers. Rupe commented again on the variety of switching between classrooms nearly every day, “Every day is a little bit different. You never know what lesson you’re going to be teaching… or what you’re going to be doing every day. It kind of keeps you on your toes.”
Rupe started subbing for Mrs. Sender the second day of Waukee High School and taught for 12 weeks while Sender stayed home on pregnancy leave. Even after doing such a long job, he still subs as much as possible. Rupe reflected, “The nicest thing is that I get to meet a lot of different students. You might meet with over 150 students.”
Sophomore Ashlee Miller expressed her similar opinion about subs, “The thing I like about subs is that you never know what’s gonna happen. It’s always like, ‘What’s gonna happen next?’ ‘How are they gonna approach this?’ It’s usually a mystery with them and that can be interesting.”
As Mr. Justman summarized, “The best subs are the ones willing to do anything and everything . The ones that stand out are the ones that come in with a smile on their face and are ready to work in the best school in the world!”