a teacher in front of a class of students, all wearing face masks
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Here's What Substitute Teachers Really Want You To Know, Especially This Year

Remember when you were a kid and a substitute teacher walked into your classroom? It felt like a party because, more often than not, it was a free period to play, talk with your friends — and let's be honest, not have to take that test you were dreading. But subs are an integral part of the educational process, and deserve so much respect, especially during the current pandemic. Here’s what substitute teachers want you to know about their feelings on school this year, because there are some big emotions involved.

There are over 600,000 substitute teachers employed in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics; the vast majority (527,780) are working in elementary and secondary education schools. But unlike full-time teachers, subs are often called into work in the early hours of the morning and not given sufficient time to prepare a lesson. When you consider how much COVID-19 has changed the way the classroom works, it becomes clear that subs are stuck on the frontlines of education on a daily basis.

"For districts that are doing in-person instruction at least some days of the week, substitutes will be in high demand," Education Week reported. "There’s already a substitute shortage in many places. And with precautions in place that ask teachers to quarantine after COVID-19 exposure and stay home with any mild symptoms, administrators are expecting to need a long roster of substitutes."

This year and every year, substitute teachers care about your child's education and want to be a positive part of the process. Below, real life subs explain, in their own words, just what teaching means to them. While COVID-19 might be changing the classroom, one thing remains the same: their love for teaching and learning.


Ann Marie, San Diego, CA

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“I speak for myself when I say that being a sub now is very scary. Often, we are the pinch hitters, coming into a classroom when a teacher goes on maternity leave, or has a family emergency. But now, when you get a call to sub, you wonder if it’s because the teacher became ill, not just with the common cold, but with COVID-19. It’s definitely a thought that goes through your mind.”


Yanira, Chicago, IL

“We care just as much about the education of children as much as their full-time teachers do. I think people think that because we’re subs that we show up, take attendance, and that’s it, and that’s not the case. Even for the short time we have the kids (whether it's a week or even a day or two), we give it our all so that the class learns. We often help struggling students, too, by giving them additional instruction during class."


Madeline, New York, NY

“I think that some people believe that we aren’t as dedicated because we are substitutes. But many subs are or were full-time teachers and, for one reason or another, opted out of full-time employment to sub instead. It doesn’t mean that the quality of the education is any different; it’s just that we’re there for shorter stints than regular teachers are.”


Leslie, Floral Park, NY

“We are real teachers. We aren’t just in it for the money. I hear this sentiment so often, that subs just show up for the paycheck, and that just isn't true. We care about the students, and especially if a beloved teacher is ill, we want to make sure that the students have a smooth transition until they come back. There's also a sense of duty to ensure that instruction does occur while their teacher is absent, so that their class isn't behind upon their instructor's return.”


Trish, Fairfield, CT

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“Many people don’t realize that substitute teachers are there because they really want to be there. We have the option to pick and choose grade levels and subjects that really matter to us. So, more often than not, if you see a sub in your child’s 9th grade chemistry class, it’s because they really love the material and that grade level of education.”


Mikaylah, Orlando, FL

“Although we might not know the students’ names (right away, at least), that doesn’t mean that we don’t care about them. It also doesn’t mean that we’re strictly there solely for a paycheck. Many of us are dedicated, loyal instructors who choose subbing for a variety of personal reasons. I’m retired, and subbing has been a wonderful way for me to stay connected to a classroom, offer instruction, but without the demand of a full-time schedule.”


Amanda, Reno, NV

“We love the kids. You can’t sub if you don’t like what you’re doing. And no matter how long we’re there — if it’s a week, a day, or even a few months — we form connections with the kids, and we tend to learn just as much from them as they do from us.”


Carmen, Lancaster, PA

“Being a substitute teacher right now, in the middle of the pandemic, definitely has changed my perspective on my profession. It’s scary to walk into a classroom and not know all of these procedures. But we know that we are needed now more than ever, and I think that many subs are prepared for what’s going to be asked of them.”


Tammy, Gary, IN

“Even for the most seasoned sub, walking into a classroom can be intimidating. It feels like the first day of school, every day! But all it takes is establishing a connection with one child, and then you feel like you have a friend in the classroom, and then the learning truly begins.”


Markeesha, Columbus, OH

“I stopped subbing for this year. I’ve been a sub for eight years, but it’s too scary right now to walk into a classroom with COVID-19 everywhere. I love teaching, but the health risks are too scary.”


Allie, Dallas, TX

“I switched from subbing to online tutoring. When schools closed in the spring, I thought we could wait it out, but after months of not working, I realized that I had to change my strategy if I wanted to continue teaching. Since I have an underlying health condition, going into a classroom isn’t an option for me, so I’ve become an online tutor, and it’s been wonderful. Still, I miss that interaction that can only be experienced in a classroom.”