The Life of a Sub


As I’ve mentioned previously, most of the work I do is as a supply, or substitute, teacher. I’m now one of those adults that as high school students, we usually couldn’t care less about. I’m typically in for a teacher for one day, and won’t teach that class again for at least a few weeks. Luckily, I get most of my work in the same school, so I’ve gotten to know a lot of students, which helps quite a bit. They respect me more, they show up, and they actually do something (usually).  

They’ve recently changed the regulations for teaching in Ontario. Now when you get out of teachers college you have to supply with a board for one year, and work a specific number of days before being able to apply for a long-term occasional list (maternity leave, extended medical leave, etc), and after doing that for a certain length of time you can apply for contract jobs. Needless to say, I will not have a classroom of my own for quite some time. So, for now, subbing it is!

Being a supply teacher is pretty interesting. We see all sorts of things. (And hear a lot too-just like any teacher-the kids think we don’t pay attention.) Walking into a classroom before the day begins is always a bit scary. You never know what the day will hold, or if the plan will work, or if the students will respond to you. It means getting up every day, whether you have a job planned or not, because you might get a call. But it also means leaving 10 minutes after the kids because you have no other responsibilities. Like any job, there are pros and cons. Some days I really feel all the pros, and other days all I can see are the cons.

I love that I’m now accepted as a part of the school community. Every school I’ve been to has been warm, the staff is kind and inviting, and the students are, mostly, respectful. I’m able to go to school 15 or 20 minutes before the day begins and leave once my classroom is tidy and my notes have been written. I can book off time without any trouble. I make a decent amount of money, and I’m only in the school for a maximum of 6½ hours. I don’t have to do any planning or marking, which believe me is the biggest plus! Those both take hours upon hours of work outside of the regular school day.

While all of this is wonderful, there are a few downsides as well. I don’t know the routines or rules in any given classroom, which is a disadvantage right away. I also don’t know all of the students, so I don’t have a rapport with them nor can I call on them. I may not get a plan for the day from the teacher, or it may not take up a whole period, meaning I have to come up with something on the fly. Also, I’m not a staff member, so it’s always a little awkward invading someone else’s space or even entering the staffroom.

It may seem like one of those jobs that are incredibly weird (it is sometimes), and not enjoyable, but I have a ton of fun most days. I’ve learned an incredible amount about classroom management and building relationships, and I’ve even learned a lot of material in teaching random classes. While I would love to have a classroom to call my own, for now I will enjoy my time as a supply teacher and take the opportunity to learn everything that I can.

What are some pros and cons of your job? Are you happy where you are, or looking to make a move?


4 thoughts on “The Life of a Sub

  1. Lorrie Hopf

    I am the banker’s girlfriend’s mom and I am lucky to also work in a school as the secretary. I have the best job in the world!!! Every day I see so many smiling faces of children, I see them skip down the hall and that makes me happy. I don’t think there are any cons to my job!

  2. Carly

    Such a good overview of what it’s like to be a supply list teacher! I never really thought of the logistics of awkwardness that comes with staff room small talk and not knowing the rules of a classroom. *I also have to admit that I was one of those devil children who challenged a sub teacher at any chance, my bad*

    • Luckily staff is normally friendly, but you feel like you might be stealing a seat and jumping into a conversation can be awkward.
      Oh don’t worry, I was definitely the kid who talked the whole time a sub was in, and didn’t always listen-now I understand why they would be so fed up!

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