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Lesson Plans

Not a moment too soon - Substitute Teachers Unite at last

From: L. P. Skeen (
Date: Fri Jul 14 2000 - 11:01:22 PDT

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    a friend snagged this off the AP wire for me today.............

    JULY 14, 11:19 EDT
    Sub Teachers Looking For Respect
    AP Education Writer
    WASHINGTON (AP) - They get no respect. Teachers snub them. They get paid
    less. And students welcome the arrival of a substitute teacher by doubling
    their usual mischief.
    For the first time, substitutes are banding together in hopes of improving
    their lot: Dozens of the part-time instructors are gathering in Washington
    on Friday and Saturday for a first-ever national meeting.
    ``We want to be taken off the baby sitters' list,'' said Eleanor Hinton, a
    retired school guidance counselor who started subbing because she missed
    kids. ``We are professionals.''
    Hinton once left a middle school class at midday when a fight among unruly
    students spilled out into the hallway.
    ``I buzzed security three times,'' she said in an interview on the eve of
    the conference. ``I'll tell you, I just gave them (the students) the key to
    the classroom and I left. They were in control.''
    Subs from Florida to Michigan on Thursday recalled horror stories of student
    stink bombs, teachers who didn't leave lesson plans and principals
    indifferent to classroom riots.
    Hinton said the national conference is aimed at changing the way hundreds of
    thousands of substitute teachers are treated. They will decide Friday
    whether they want to organize as a union, much like the two major
    organizations that represent 3.5 million full-time teachers. Besides more
    pay, health coverage and respect, the subs want fair hearings when officials
    complain about their work and more access to computer training and other
    professional development.
    Substitutes routinely fill in for teachers while seeking full-time teaching
    jobs or as part-time or retirement work that allows reduced and flexible
    hours. In cities like Seattle, Philadelphia, Fresno, Calif., and Eugene,
    Ore., they have organized through the local chapters of the National
    Education Association and Service Employees International Union. But there
    has not been a single substitute teacher organization until now.
    The group wants to look into creating associations that could bargain with
    school boards on substitutes' behalf, Hinton said.
    ``Ultimately it would improve education for kids,'' said James Dorward, a
    researcher at Utah State University's Substitute Teacher Institute in Logan,
    On any given school day, 9 percent of U.S. classrooms need a substitute to
    replace an absent teacher, he said. A well-heeled, focused organization
    could have a key role in raising the pay and training for the ever-growing
    demand, Dorward said.
    Substitutes are a much hotter commodity today. Teacher shortages, student
    growth and mandates for smaller class sizes have left schools scrambling to
    fill classrooms. And the booming economy and competition from better-paying
    jobs is making school administrators' task even more difficult.
    Some districts are using the pool of subs to recruit full-timers, even
    supplementing the cost of degrees and professional licenses.
    At first glance, their problems and concerns mirror those of regular
    teachers: Pay is low, expectations are high. Shortages are looming,
    especially in inner city classrooms and for specialties such as teaching
    disabled children or math and science courses. But without the protection of
    full-time status, bargaining contracts or credentials, the going can be
    tougher for substitutes.
    ``They are abysmally paid, '' said Kathleen Lyons, spokeswoman for the NEA
    teachers union, which pledged this year to increase efforts to help
    substitute teachers organize and otherwise improve their situations.
    ``They're paid less than folks flipping hamburgers at McDonald's. The idea
    is to replace a teacher who's not there. Education is still supposed to go
    Pay varies from district to district, but averages about $65 a day. Some
    urban districts like Los Angeles pay more than $150 a day, but most smaller
    districts pay just $30 a day.
    California is one of a handful states that require substitutes to have a
    bachelor's degree and pass a basic skills test. Most states hire substitutes
    who have no diploma beyond high school.
    ``In many cases you are putting people in the classrooms who you don't know
    very well,'' said Dorward, also an associate professor in Utah State's
    College of Education. ``Consequently not a lot of learning takes place.''
    Subs say that such jobs offer little protection from student complaints.
    ``If somebody says Ms. McBee grabbed my arm, that's it, I'm out with no
    question,'' said Millie McBee, who's been subbing more than a decade in
    Orlando, Fla.
    Hinton said the organization would help professional substitutes identify
    and attend special training workshops. And that is important as more schools
    are calling their substitutes for days at a time to fill slots left vacant
    by full-timers.
    ``I was just going to teach two days a week and found myself in the
    classroom every day,'' she said.
    On the Net: The National Association of Professional Substitute Teachers

    L. P. Skeen
    Living Tree Pottery & Handmade Soaps
    Summerfield, NC


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