What can you do as an elementary teacher or middle school math teacher besides, you know...?
August 24, 2009 8:25 PM   Subscribe

Asking for Mrs. adamwolf: What's it like being a substitute teacher for someone who just finished a teaching program and has a full-time teaching license? What other full-time job options (outside of a school district) would be available for someone with teaching licenses in both elementary education and middle school mathematics?

I just finished a teaching program that led up to my licensure. The program was structured so that I received a 4-year bachelor's degree in elementary education with a middle school specialty (math for me), and then added on an extra year in grad school. The grad school portion had me working on both my master's degree and initial licensure at the same time. I just finished the initial licensure portion which included all of my methods courses and student teaching. I'm about 2 courses and a full year of classroom teaching away from receiving my master's degree. I received my full-time teaching license this summer in elementary (K-6) and mathematics (5-8).

I've been applying to teaching positions in multiple school districts for the past several months and have yet to get any sort of job. With the upcoming school year quickly approaching, I'm finding myself needing to reevaluate my options. I'm wondering what it's like being a substitute teacher for someone who is fresh out of college. Do most districts have their preferred list of substitutes that get notified first, such as retired teachers or people who have been with the district for many years? How often could I expect to be called? (I've primarily been applying to large suburban districts outside of a metro area). Also, I'm wondering what other job options would be available to me outside of the school districts for full-time employment this school year. I've already looked into the public library system.
posted by adamwolf to Work & Money (11 answers total)
Someone with much more relevant experience than I will come along shortly I'm sure, but I wanted to ask: is there a reason you're not applying to work at private schools? Or charters?

Of all the library friends I know (and btw, heartily do NOT recommend you looking at the public libraries right now, as they're in much the same boat as public schools while requiring a different master's degree besides), those who are employed have been working at private schools. Private schools to some extent make up their own rules, and that can be really useful when it comes to inexperienced teachers (and librarians!). This isn't universally true and I'm guessing some private schools and charters especially are quite picky, but it's definitely worth a look if you haven't already.

Good luck in your search!
posted by librarylis at 8:35 PM on August 24, 2009

Substituting can be very frustrating but is also a good way to get your foot in the door. It helps principals see your classroom management and instructional skills. You can get ideas from seeing other teacher's classrooms. Different districts have different methods of assigning substitutes; most larger districts use an automated system, sometimes web-based, that calls substitutes according to the preferences you select. The pay is not that great (about $60 or $70 dollars a day) in my area. You might also consider offering your services as a long-term substitute, usually for maternity leaves. See if it is okay to contact principals directly by letter or in person offering yourself for long-term assignments. Policies are often more lenient in smaller districts as far as contacting principals directly.

In my area, substitutes usually get as much work as they want. There are real substitute shortages.

You might also consider non-district tutorial providers. Math teachers are usually in high demand and Supplemental Education Service providers are in big demand.
posted by tamitang at 8:41 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I substituted for a year just out of grad school (Elem and Special education). I had work everyday. Substituting is a bitch. I called it "The Daily Panic." But the good thing is that you really get to know a lot of schools within a district, and often the same teacher or group of teachers will ask for you specifically to sub again and again and you can get a good reputation that way. (and also get to know the kids well enough to not have it be such a "panic." Also, you can be flexible if need be. When I subbed I got jobs through an automated phone system, so if I needed to take a day off, I just didn't accept any jobs that day. Or if I was feeling semi-sick, I could pass a harder job up and possibly take an easier job that day.

A year of it was quite enough for me, but it was a good way to get a foot in in a harder district to find work in.
posted by Bueller at 9:50 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nthing Bueller. Back in the day, many districts had a full-time substitute teaching position and they would work at any given school, filling in.

Since financial situations have changed, now they usually work with agencies (here in Boston, Kelly Services does most districts). There's almost always work.

When you start, you can get a feel for a school and decide if it's a place you want to return to (or not).

As a teacher, we're used to most subs being pretty awful, so if you're reasonably on the ball, you've got an excellent "in" at a particular school. And from there, you're in for a long-term sub job, then usually a job offer.

And a last note about no bites during the interview process: most schools do a last minute flurry of hiring right up until the first week of school.

I know plenty of teachers who got hired the day before school started (myself included). So don't stress that too much.
posted by dzaz at 4:01 AM on August 25, 2009

My husband subbed for a year. He was considering going back to school for his masters, and wanted to make sure teaching was really right for him before he committed to the time and $ of going back to school. Our district at the time was so desperate for subs, anyone with a degree could sub. He was never without work, and after a while, certain schools would request him.

Also, a friend of mine, fresh out of school last year, got a job teaching kindergarten 10 days after the school year started. There are maximum class-size requirements in my state, and her school had way more incoming kids than they had teachers for. So don't give up hope and keep applying!
posted by dogmom at 6:16 AM on August 25, 2009

I've done a lot of subbing too and it is a good way to find out which schools you could imagine working in.

The other thing you might try is tutoring for SAT/ACT, especially in math.
posted by mareli at 6:43 AM on August 25, 2009

I subbed for a couple of years in a small district before I got hired there. I was the second income in a family with a preschool-age child, so I wasn't aggressive about working every day. I doubt I could have.

The pay is lousy and the kids now and then unload on you — they hate their teacher or just school in general, and you're anonymous to them. Sometimes, though, you can pep up a classroom that isn't working. I'd suggest you be the substitute that brings music on a boombox and teaches them a three-minute dance, or plays the ukulele, or has that one fun activity they remember. During math, get them up and moving, making shapes for geometry or whispering problems or walking around with stickers on their foreheads. Anything to lively it up some.

And if you're subbing in lower grades, there is one (and sometimes only one) way to bring a room to silence: say "once upon a time." You'll have the whole room staring at you in an instant.

It's not something I could have done for year after year, but I learned a few things I used later.

Also, you never know when you might luck into a long-term subbing position, which is a terrific audition for a full-time job.
posted by argybarg at 8:45 AM on August 25, 2009

This thread has some good substitute teacher information.
posted by NoraCharles at 9:18 AM on August 25, 2009

Which area is your wife interested in working in? From your questions 2 years ago... a suburban area outside the Twin Cities? Though I suppose you could have moved since then. Where she's interested in working would probably greatly change her different job prospects. As an example, (my information is probably useless to you since it's specific to Ontario & maybe Canada, but perhaps helpful to others)... teaching prospects in Ontario are pretty bleak (only 2 school boards are growing the rest are shrinking), Alberta's prospects are much better (hence my move here) and places like super far north Saskatchewan (1st Nations Reserve) are desperate for teachers. Considering where all my classmates are moving, the United Kingdom seems to be a bit in need of teachers as well. I have no information whatsoever in regards to teaching in the United States (which, perhaps incorrectly, I assume your wife is based).
posted by calgary at 3:07 PM on August 25, 2009

i'm a sub. in my district it's $95 a day (minus taxes) i can work every day if i want to, and generally don't have to choose schools, classrooms or subjects i'm not interested in. (and my district really isn't that large.)

i have a teaching degree, but prefer subbing for various personal reasons. your main issue could be (depending on the situation in your locality) that they only hire subs at certain times a year, and your window for this coming semester may be over. in my district, you have to attend orientation sessions that are only offered a few times a year. also, you are required to have a substitute teaching license, though many districts will hire you based on a pending license if you can prove your qualifications.

honestly, it's not bad, if you've got a good sense of humor and have an understanding that your function is classroom management *primarily* and as teacher-of-subject secondarily. i've been told i'm a good sub, because i have learned when to ignore overly strictured instructions from the missing teacher and how to read a strange classroom for maximum efficiency. i get the kids to do the work they're supposed to, in other words, but i don't try to be their usual teacher. if i think a rule is going to cause me to have trouble with a class, i might bend that rule in the interest of peace. learning to spot your allies in a classroom (most teachers i have found will attempt to tell you who that will be) and use them accordingly.

for a new teacher, the experience is stressful (it's like having your first day every day for a while), but it can really give you an insight into how things work in various schools. kids love to tell you the dirt, and so do the teachers.

i do recommend putting yourself forward at close-by private and charter schools. my best gig is at a charter, where i'm seen as the first-to-call. the public district uses an automated calling system. this makes it really easy to say no when you don't like a position. also, if your window for hiring is over at the public district, smaller alt.schools are often happy to have someone who will be "theirs". they also might be more flexible in their hiring times.
posted by RedEmma at 3:10 PM on August 25, 2009

the best part of subbing, btw, is that there's usually plenty of down time during the day to do other projects. you, after all, do not usually have prepping to do. this gives me plenty of time to work on my novel and other money-making schemes. :-)
posted by RedEmma at 3:12 PM on August 25, 2009

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