Garrett is as Garrett does

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'Garrett is as Garrett does'

Walking into the ‘Sub’ Life

January 16th, 2015
by garrett

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So, 3 days of unpaid STAR training is done – I’m a substitute teacher for Volusia County School Board. It will take a few days to process and activate my record in “the system” but now it’s all over – except for the crying.

The training was pretty standard fare, but there were some useful informational tidbits. Like actually grasping what a Learning Disability is – because it’s defined as what it isn’t. However the most eye-opening was the ‘day-watch’ session where substitute teacher trainees sit in the back of classrooms and watch the teachers doing their jobs. I got to sit in on 6 different full-period classes during my session. It was surprising:

  • How far high school as evolved since I graduated high school in late ’80’s.
  • How far removed a real school is run as opposed to how the county School Board thinks how their schools should be run.
  • How the Florida Public Educational system mirrors a patchwork feudal system — School Board / Principle / Teacher or District / School / Classroom.

Despite how many times substitute teachers are told “Thank you for Substitute Teaching!” with a smile, substitute teachers are ultimately a commodity: as-needed, at-will, on-call, casual workers that are not considered “real teachers” despite the fact we have the exact same legal obligations and workplace responsibilities as a full-time, certified teacher. The evidence? One of the speakers at the STAR training referred to themselves as a “real teacher” when explaining to the audience of trainees that we need to follow an oft-missing but yet still mythically binding ‘Lesson Plan’.

  • Don’t talk out loud about the underwhelming pay – Fair enough.
  • Disguise undependable schedules as flexibility that magnifies the underwhelming pay – Yeah sure.
  • Relabel baby-sitting as ‘Classroom Management’ – I get it, you don’t want to scare us off.
  • Spend a full day hammering in the real legal consequences being a teacher – Well, it’s for our own good.

We gratefully accept all the smoke being blown, because it’s easier to think we’re here to help the kids rather than being a band-aid for covering up a poorly-funded, barely functioning system that demands 100% baby-sitting coverage. But when you explicitly call out the white elephant in the room ( that we’re not ‘real teachers’ ) is not conducive for maintaining the illusion and that point is exactly when you will –metaphorically– lose the audience. It’s just Public Relations 101.


One of the most euphemistically interesting bits of a being a commodity is the at-will, as-needed, on-call nature of the job. A substitute teacher might get an assignment call late the previous evening ( up to 10:00 pm ) or early in the morning from 5:00 am to 9:15 am for a full-day job that starts at 9:00 am. That’s right, substitute teachers are expected to be able to go from waiting on a phone call to arrive on-site in negative 15 minutes. Yes, there are specific procedures for going back in time – but it varies with whatever school needs you (see also: Patchwork Feudal System).

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