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The Inside Scoop: Substitute teaching

For the last month, I have been substitute teaching in Macon County Schools. The Southern Scoop still has some growing to do for me to be able to do it full time as it is not quite financially sustainable, so I decided to substitute teach a few days a week to make it work. I also know that Macon County Schools is going above and beyond to keep students in the classroom as much as possible. For that to be possible, the school system needs subs, so it is a win-win.

I graduated from Western Carolina University with a BA in English — while I have always known I wanted to be a journalist — I wasn’t sure the route I was going to take to get there. So for most of my college career, I was on the route to become a teacher. I was doing my first round of student teaching and I couldn’t have been 19 or 20 years old. I was mistaken for a student almost every day of my student teaching. That is when I realized that even if I did want to teach, it would need to be later in life when hopefully I could walk through the halls of a middle school and not be asked for a hall pass. So getting to sub now has been really exciting for me.

Once I started subbing, I thought I would do it a couple of times a month, but I quickly realized that the need in the school system is much greater than that. I get calls every day, sometimes two or three calls a day. Teachers need help. Our schools need help. The Macon County Board of Education and school administration are doing everything they can to keep our children safe and in class. State requirements have strict guidelines and protocols administration has to follow when positive COVID19 cases are found in students and staff. With those guidelines in place, teachers are having to quarantine, often as a precautionary measure, when an exposure is detected. When they have to quarantine, without subs to work in the classrooms, schools will have to return to remote instruction.

Having spent the last month subbing, I want to encourage anyone who may be able, and willing, to consider signing up to help our schools. While I have been subbing in Macon County, Swain County, and Jackson County are in the same boat. They need subs.

While the need for subs is greater this year than ever, the number of available subs have decreased. Often times, subs are retired educators, meaning they are older individuals. With older individuals being part of the high-risk population for COVID19, individuals who have subbed in the past are unable to do so this year.

The process to sub is very easy. In Macon County, you sign up for an online class, fill out an application, and submit it to a principal at any school. After a background check, the school board will approve you and then you will be added to the substitute teaching list. You can pick which schools, grades, or even subjects you are comfortable working with. Then you can decide which days you are available too. It works with your schedule. You are not obligated to do it, but when you are able, you can.

Today I subbed for a P.E. coach at Macon Middle. I got to play volleyball with a bunch of great kids. And even though I am currently sitting on a heating pad and I am already too sore to walk, I had the best time. Just today three different teachers talked to me about how appreciative they were I was willing and able to sub. One told me about how when she was in a car accident earlier this month, while she was being carried away in an ambulance to a trauma center for her injuries, all she could think about was finding a sub. She knew there weren’t many she could call and she knew that school was about to start, so rather than focus on herself, she was worried about her kids.
I don’t want our teachers to feel that way. I don’t want them to worry. So even though I had only planned to do it a couple of days a month, I spent every day last week subbing — two days this week — signed up for a day next week already and have another two weeks booked in November and December. I might have started to make sure I am able to support my family while keeping the Southern Scoop running, but now, I want to make sure that I offer our teachers some relief. I don’t want them to worry about what they are going to do if they are exposed to COVID19. I don’t want them to worry about what happens if they have a car accident or a toothache. I want our kids safe and I want our kids in school. So rather than expect the school system to figure it out and make it happen, I want to be part of the solution in ensuring it happens.

Now, 10 years after I was doing my student teaching, I am embarrassed to say that despite a head prematurely full of grey hair, I am still mistaken for a student — but I’ll blame it on the mask. Even though I have some (very minimal) teaching experience, you don’t have to have teaching experience to be able to substitute teach.

I know not everyone has the ability to do it, with their own work schedules and families. But if you are able, I strongly encourage you to give it a try. If you have any questions, if you want to know more, please just ask. I am happy to tell you about my experiences!!

One Comment

  1. Dr. Betty Cloer Wallace Dr. Betty Cloer Wallace January 13, 2021

    Excellent summary, Brittney Lofthouse, regarding the continuous need for substitute teachers in Macon County Schools and elsewhere even in normal circumstances, not just during this era of COVID disruption.

    As for the continued and projected increase of COVID infections, however, a call for more substitute teachers will not fix the current situation in Macon County Schools. Not even close. The pandemic numbers do not compute in ratio to our needs, and neither do the discombobulated schedules that get more complicated every day at every school and at every household trying to accommodate to the ever-changing school schedules for students that we have seen for the past year.

    The COVID projections so far have been accurate, and it is time we paid attention to them and accommodated our schooling to those projections. Our Macon County Schools should close our doors for an indefinite period and do the best job possible with distance education until this pandemic is brought under control, even if it means mailing out “work” for students (e-mail and snail mail) to accomplish at least a minimal education for our children until times get better.

    And by the way, it’d be a rare substitute teacher today who could juggle both in-face and e-teaching along with a continuously changing student attendance schedule.

    So give it up, Macon School Board and Administrators and Teachers. Choose to do what many other school districts are doing: stick with a workable method of “distance learning” until this pandemic passes, so that parents and students and teachers know what to expect for the remainder of this school year.

    And please do not argue for “childcare” or “baby sitting” as a function of our school district educators. We are well past that stereotype, or ought to be.

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