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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Is Subbing a Popularity Contest?

I recognize other subs, if not by name, by sight fairly often after a year or two on the job. So when he entered the staff lounge at lunch time and I hadn’t seen him before, I assumed that he must be relatively new.

I invited him to share the table as we exchanged the customary first time meeting introductions. It turns out that we have very similar histories in how we both arrived in the role of a substitute teacher.

We are about the same age; both came from computer programming backgrounds and ended our careers in much the same manner. The only difference was, his was a layoff five years ago while mine was seven.

I was a bit surprised to find out, since I hadn’t seen him before, that he’s been on the subbing list for this school district for most of those five years and yet we hadn’t run across each other until now.

I originally enrolled in three districts when I first started and quickly reduced that to only a single one after a couple years. I assumed incorrectly that he must have been working other districts and just recently signed for this one.

In comparing “assignment frequency”, he was surprised to hear that I’m averaging 2-3 days a week in this single district we both share while he is having problems getting 2 days a week despite working for four separate districts. Next year, his plan is to enroll in one additional elementary district that has a reputation (not a good one) but has a higher pay rate to increase his assignment chances.

With several newer-hired subs and last year’s change in assignment procedure priorities to favor unemployed teachers, I’m surprised that I’m still working about the same frequency as normal but at fewer schools.

His parting comment: “Doesn’t seem to make any sense…must be a popularity contest.”


Sarah Lindahl said...

That is weird. I get the same thing in my two districts. One of them has only called me three or four times this whole year. I know they need subs just as bad as everyone else, but they only call me when they are absolutely desperate. The other district I could work every day if I wasn't picky about where I'll go. Strange.

ms-teacher said...

I would say that subbing is somewhat of a popularity contest in that teachers want someone in the room that can fill their shoes so to speak. The other sub probably needs to reflect on the reasons why he is not getting calls & at the very least, might want to follow up with some phone calls and/or site visits to talk to teachers he has subbed with to increase his chances of getting calls.

Cheeseboy said...

I know that when I find a sub that I like, I go with them almost exclusively. I can see how it could become a popularity contest.

Anonymous said...

Let me tell you my experience with subs. There are a few that I request every single time I need to be out of the class. They follow the plans that I have worked so hard creating for them. If they let the class play, go outside for recess at unscheduled times or don't follow my plans, I don't allow them back in my classroom. It takes a lot of work to plan for a sub. I don't like to waste a day of education time, so I make sure they are following what I already had planned. If they don't? It is a wasted educational opportunity. I hate that. Even a person with no experience can follow the carefully worded plans I leave.
When I was a sub, I worked almost every single day. I followed plans and created expectations in the class as if I were the teacher. I was so requested, I couldn't work every job.

Anonymous said...

I sub for multiple districts. One does have schools with a list and subs needed in advance get called from that list. Many others put in a request for a specific person in the system, but it doesn't say that when it calls you... but if they don't want to/don't have time to call you, they can request a specific person (instead of the "I've already talked to and confirmed with this person" you also know about). So you could be getting calls for some schools for that reason... when you take the job, the system rewards you for that too, and you get called again even if someone isn't requesting you every single time.

I took several jobs from one district that doesn't call me often on some Thursdays and Fridays earlier in the year, on days when two were calling me (and no, I haven't gotten called as often this year, and it was less than last year, and by a percentage that does make me think of layoffs. I myself got laid off 3 years ago, I'm subbing and have two other part time jobs to get enough work.) The other district, whose calls I ignored that morning or put in the system that I was unavailable, usually calls me much more often to sub. But the system hasn't called me once in 2 1/2 months now. So yes, I think the system rewards you for being available, and if you're not on those days they are desperate, you end up in the bottom of the pile.

Alex T. Valencic said...

Subbing is absolutely a popularity contest! But it is a popularity based on willingness to follow a teacher's plans, demonstrating excellent classroom management, and makes the best of the time. Quality subs are also able to connect with the students, so that the class will ask the teacher to have him or her return.

I have been fortunate enough to sub nearly every single working day this entire school year, primarily in two districts. The reason? I am popular with teachers, students, and the administration. Quality subs rise to the top.

Ms. R said...

I definitely think subbing is a popularity contest. Its about who you know, not what you know. When you know a lot of people in a district and get them to give you a call, meet more people, get more calls, etc. And districts go back to people over and over and over again that they like. Even though their pool of people that want to sub in a particular district might be in the thousands, there are a few hundred that get calls consistantly.

GT Goddess said...

It's not a popularity contest, it's a competency contest! Being a good teacher is the first step in getting lots of calls. The second step is to treat subbing like a career in free-lancing. That means publishing business cards, shaking hands, introducing yourself to teachers, secretaries and administrators, and being available to your customers. Check your e-mail regularly, have your phone number on your cards and notes, and clear your schedule. I also start each school year with an e-mail to all the teaches I subbed for in the past year (keep track!) telling them I'm back on the sub list (many assume that if you are that good you have a classroom job now) and that I would love to sub for them. I usually get at least 10 immediate requests for days from just that one effort.