Teachers in Minnesota are required to go to work when sick, while principals take command of classroom duty when teachers aren’t around. In other cases, students are forced to split up and join other classes when their teachers aren’t present. All these are problems that arise as a result of shortage of substitute teachers. Across the state of Minnesota, a myriad of school districts are struggling with an increasingly shortage of substitute teachers which has made it incredibly hard for teachers to slip away in case of emergencies, squeeze in necessary training or even call in sick. The looming nasty flu season which has added the strain of depleting teacher ranks isn’t helping matters. It’s simply an additional layer of stress for everyone involved.
Minnesota isn’t the only state struggling with this problem. The country as a whole also is. With low employment rates coupled with a surging economy, it’s increasingly difficult for substitutes to find permanent work in any professional field including teaching. The fact that more and more are quitting their jobs midcareer serves to shrink the pool of retired teachers who are often the ones who work as substitute teachers.
And while some administrators have tried to increase the salaries for substitute teachers, the results aren’t what they hoped. As compared to one year ago, the number of substitute teachers in Minnesota reduced from 579 to 516 this year. At Bethune Elementary School, the teachers often assume that there won’t be a substitute in their absence and so when talking to their students, they tell them that there may be a substitute teacher or that they will have to join another teacher’s class.
Nevertheless, the life of substitutes can be quite challenging. For starters, they live with a constant uncertainty of whether or where they will work the following day. They are also notified last minute which school to report to when and they have to work with unfamiliar lesson plans not to mention that students bring a whole lot of challenges including special learning needs. They have to put up with all the above for lower pay than the regular teachers. It’s therefore hard for them to make a real living when working under such conditions and as the economy improves, they opt to go for better work opportunities that arise. The increased demand has made reliable substitute teachers prized commodities that can pick the schools they work at or don’t.
- Anita, staff writer