Subbing in two worlds…

Retirement is moving up on five months at the end of this month. On May 28 of this year I spent my last day in a classroom full of kids. Prior to that I skipped out on 28 years in TV news. Two totally different worlds – each with its own joys and disappointments.

And now I’m kinda considering becoming a substitute teacher – as much for the mental gymnastics as a chance to return to high school dynamics (and of course, the cash).

And here the two worlds become even more divergent.

Way back in the 1970s and early 80s I was a vacation relief/sick leave photographer in the Bay area and Sacramento market. Wages were of course way different than they are now. Let me repeat that – way different.

As a daily call-in photog I made about $125 daily shooting news, $225 for public affairs/documentary and everywhere in between, depending on the station and position. I was expected to walk into a newsroom, grab the keys to a car and immediately head out on stories with reporters I may or may not have met before. Furthermore, I was expected to know how to get to locations, shoot a story, and get it back. Very simple. I was being paid to do a job and as a freelancer I made on average more than the daily wage of many staff. Why? Because there was an acknowledgement that I was not working every day and the higher daily wage was meant to compensate for that. It was management’s and the union’s way of keeping it fair. (And also a union ploy to ensure that management did not hire a staff of part timers who got no benefits.)

Fast forward to now.

As an eight year teacher I made approximately $37 an hour roughly. That was for a day that ran (officially) from 7am to 2:45pm. About seven and 3/4 hours of work.

Occasionally I subbed during my prep period for another teacher (this is the squirrelly part – I got paid to work while I was being paid to work).

But as a sub I will make only about $100-$110 a day. Yikes. Less than $15 an hour. Why the difference? Well, first off, substitute teachers are only required to have passed a state test and have a BA. But still…

Oh – and here’s another MAJOR difference. Remember above I said I was expected to walk on the job and do everything the staff photo I was replacing did? From my observation of teaching subs that is far far from what happens.

A common practice of sick or on leave teachers is the “VCR teaching plan.” Leave a movie and tell the sub to play it. Maybe make that a bit more palatable by having in loosely connected to the class content with a list of questions to be answered and handed in.

Then there’s the “read and respond” lesson plan. Read the class assignment and answer (once again) the list of questions.

Uh – so what does the sub actually do? With few exceptions (and trust me, I had to work to find good subs) they are babysitters. They meet the legal requirement to sit in a classroom full of students.

So….thirty years ago I made MORE working part time in news than I would today as a substitute teacher. And today less is expected of me. Sigh.

Addendum: this isn’t the full story of course. It is, as it must always be in real life, much more complex. But the above are the facts, generally. Substitute teachers are thrown into classrooms ranging from kindergarten to 12th grade, in every subject imaginable. Some of them can actually teach (and again, trust me, I found them). But all too many are taking money for showing up and sitting.
My plan? Gonna make a short list of classes I can teach in and limit myself to them. My sanity and self respect aren’t worth what they’re paying otherwise.

11.17.10 correction: sub rates have changed since I last checked. Daily subs in my district get $120 and long term subs $150. Less than $20 an hour for daily sub, but not bad for babysitting.

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Another year gone…

Whew! Only those in education can understand the buildup of tension that comes with the end of another year teaching. Not only is there the daily task of lesson planning and teaching, there’s also a multitude of additional work. Classroom inventories. Double and triple checking grades of seniors and lots of communication with counselors and the registrar (who’s going to pull of a last minute passing grade – or not. The “walk” list is changed daily). Finals – of course. Students pleading for extra credit (sorry – I don’t do day before the final assignments like that). Counseling students who are “this close to grabbing an A” and those who gave up on school months ago. (Never let go of the latter – even if they drop out, we need to give them good memories of staff who cared and wanted them to keep trying.)

You’ll notice this is marked as “shameless self promotion.” My broadcasting class has morphed from a room of kids who didn’t want to be there (my first teaching the class at McNair, spring 07) to kids who worked until and after the last bell this year. Students who want to have fun and do the assignments. I had a few (yeah – this is you Anthony) who bugged me every day if I didn’t have their clips ready or script ready for them to work on. An amazing TA (sweet, quiet Jonathan) who completely took the load of checking gear in and out off my hands.

First term I had kids flunking a class they could have aced with a bit of effort. This year two failed – one because I saw him only one day all term and the other because he was hauled off for more than a month on a family vacation (yeah, in the middle of school). One D, a few Cs and the majority As and Bs.

What makes this interesting to me is that each term I rachet it up a bit – I shorten the time they have to complete the work and also increase the workload.

This year ended with a celebration – recognition of students who went beyond what they were asked to do. Jonathan, thank you. Trust is everything with me and you I trusted. Vanessa and Anthony, you are passionate about video. Peter and Bryan – you know and I know that you did the work but played around too much. I’m proudest of you for completing a voluntary assignment that no one else was interested in – that is what I recognize you two for most (more than winning first place in the contest).

See you next year…

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