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There's No Substitution for Substitutes

In addition to non-profit consulting, I’ve been doing some substitute teaching because the school systems in many areas of the country have an urgent need for help. Some observations from my experiences:

  • I agree with an assessment from one of my favorite writers Will Leitch, who like most parents during the pandemic, had the task of providing added education support with his wife for their kids when they went to school virtually. Leitch’s observation was that “teachers should be paid a billion bucks” for their dedication to their students. I totally agree, and will add school administrators and support staff to that list.

  • Subbing is one of the ultimate “working without a net” jobs, and that’s something I really like. You might accept an assignment to sub for a eighth grade Spanish teacher, arrive at the school and because of other staff being out, end up filling in for a kindergarten teacher. Because of the often last-minute nature of substitute assignments, lesson plans may or may not be available. Fortunately, school staff and students have been above-and-beyond helpful. The sub experience is a great test of the presentation/training and conflict resolution skills I’ve built up over the years.

  • Take-aways that apply to substitute teaching, and all aspects of work in non-profit:

  • It’s OK to admit - even to students - that you don’t know it all. Yes, there are students that will try to take advantage of a sub. But they, like a business or non-profit presentation audience, will catch on pretty quickly if you try to fake it.

  • If half of life is showing up, the other half of life is showing up with enthusiasm. Very true for substitute teaching and for that matter anytime we are putting forth our first impressions in business or life.

  • Be patient and be cool.

  • Embrace the unexpected and have fun!



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