Like jurors, substitute teachers should be drawn from the public as part of one’s civic duty, at least according to a colleague. Among other things, pulling subs from the public could create more awareness of life in our public schools, get the public more involved in education, and save money. The idea might fall into the category of things that are more fun to think about than actually do, so here I go.
There would have to be parameters about who would be eligible for “sub duty” and the conditions under which the subs would work. As a starting point, anyone over 21 with a clean criminal record could be put in a “sub pool.” Some of the same exceptions to jury duty, like English fluency, may apply. Classroom teachers would be exempt because then they’d need a sub. But other school district employees would not. Each member of the pool could be called on once a year to cover a teacher’s absence for no more than two consecutive days. I would limit the duty to sixth through twelfth grade.
The subs, or more accurately, the “guest teachers,” could have three options about what instruction to deliver: a lesson created by the teacher, a generic grade and subject lesson created by the districts, or a presentation created by the guests about their jobs.
Working in a school for a day or two would be eye-opening for many people whose connection with education may have stopped the day they got their diplomas, may be limited to visiting their children’s schools, or may be only informed by what they hear in the media. Who doubts that war stories about one’s adventures as a guest teacher would fill up dinner time and water cooler conversations? No doubt guest teachers would spend a lot of drive time thinking about their experiences.
As people from all walks of life spend time up close and personal in schools, many may choose to get more involved in public education. For example, after a day in a rundown school, an executive might suggest that his or her company’s philanthropic endeavors go toward improving the school’s physical condition. Another might encourage its employees to volunteer as aides or tutors. With a little imagination it’s easy to come up with scenarios in which community and school partnerships might bloom as a result of citizen guest teaching.
On an individual level, someone who’s looking for a change might decide to become a teacher after spending time in a school. That’s not too different from what happened to me.
Like juror’s, citizen guest teachers wouldn’t get paid more than a nominal amount. That would would save a lot of money. Currently, subs earn about $100/day. For every 1000 teachers who miss ten days of school in a year, a district using “guest teachers” would save $1,000,000. If the savings were targeted at a specific problem, like teacher retention, it could make a huge difference.
No doubt many objections will be made to this idea. Those who meet every innovation with, “That will never work” have already dismissed it, like they do everything else. But it’s just as easy to find other benefits not listed here, like a reduction of the front office mania when they can’t get subs and are scrambling to find teachers to cover classes on their planning periods. And for those who always say “Never” there are leaders who say, “This might work if…”
Ultimately, the questions to ask are, “Are we satisfied with the system we have in place?” and “Does this idea represent a feasible solution?” My answers would be N0 and Maybe.
Note: The conversation started when I told my colleague about the Take Your Legislator to School Program.