How the Strategic Use of Substitute Teachers Helps Schools Make Meaningful Change

Have you ever wanted to make meaningful, lasting change in your school but didn’t know how or where to begin?

Teachers are a school’s best asset. It’s not the technology or the specialists or even the curriculum that make a school great. It’s the teachers. Day in and out they are the experts in their classroom. They work with students to create learning and growth.

If you want to effect change in your school, begin with the teachers. But here’s where things get tricky. There are only so many days in a school year, only so many hours in a day, and you’ve only got so many teachers. Responsibilities outside of contract hours are already at an all-time high, so you can’t ask teachers to come in early and stay late when they’re already stretched so thin. How can you create a plan and implement change amid such restrictions? Enter the substitute teacher. Strategically used, substitute teachers can allow your teachers to be absent from the classroom in pursuit of school betterment initiatives that would otherwise be unattainable. When you’ve got classrooms covered, you can do more with your school.

It sounds a bit counterintuitive, right, to improve a school by temporarily removing the school’s biggest asset from the classroom? In schools, we must carve out time for what we value. If we want teachers to participate in professional development, learning opportunities, or professional learning communities, we’ve got to give them the space to do so. Here’s where substitute teachers can help. We all need time to reflect and recharge and improve our practice and substitutes can make that happen. If you’re concerned that students don’t receive appropriate instruction from substitute teachers, remember that students can’t possibly learn eight hours a day, five days a week. They need breaks like we all do. Substitutes are perfectly capable of conducting review and warm-up activities. Qualified subs can administer assessments. While teachers are vital to our classrooms, they’re not indispensable. From time to time we can allow them to pursue learning outside the classroom, especially if it will improve the outcomes within.

Substitute teacher services make professional learning real possibilities for teachers. Gone are the days that you couldn’t allow your entire social studies department to attend a conference because you couldn’t scrounge up enough substitute teachers. Not being able to allow a grade level assessment norming session because of coverage issues are a thing of the past. We can finally implement the change we value because of convenient substitute teacher services.

Oftentimes a bit of distance from the classroom is what gives teachers larger perspective. It allows them to more clearly see the issues facing their students and gives them the mental space to tackle them. We know teachers are overworked and underpaid. If providing space and time can help them be a bit more effective, then it’s worth it.

Consider incorporating an additional sub a week to meet this demand or schedule enough subs for a full day of departmental meetings to effect the meaningful change you’d like to see in your school.

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