Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Few Ideas on Substitute Teachers and Career Opportunities

Attention recently unemployed professional people! Please become APS teachers and substitute teachers!

A few days back I mentioned the growing list of firms/organizations laying off workers, such as Advent Solar and Sandia National Labs. Since then, an even faster growing list of news stories have been published about pedophile and suspected pedophile substitute teachers.

There is no joke to make here. If only 1/100th of these accusations are true we still have a very, very disturbing situation on our hands.

APS is also always desperate to find good Math and Science teachers (as is the rest of the country).

Putting these facts together, now would be an EXCELLENT time to revisit alternative licensure for teachers, particularly those looking to teach Math/Science. Things like:

  1. Numerous notices around town about the exciting world of K-12 teaching.
  2. Even more mentions about the fact that teacher pay isn't nearly as bad as it used to be.
  3. Streamlining "alternative licensure" so that career transition can be faster and easier.
  4. Setting up some sort of pay assistance for those seeking alternative licenses to help during the financially fallow period between job layoff and first official check as a teacher.
  5. Using teachers seeking alternative licensure as substitute teachers, after proper training and screening of alternative license applicants.
  6. Increase pay to substitute teachers and make it a livable wage.
  7. Working with the teacher's union and directly with teachers to reduce the exorbitant number of teacher sick days.
Sure, the above plan won't solve all problems, but at least it IS a plan. Right now, the entire APS substitute teacher process is anything but a process. Awful news stories like those of recent days will further illustrate this fact to the public. Now is the time for rigorous prosecution and new ideas when it comes to substitute teachers and those in APS classrooms in general.

I apologize if there are already plans in place to address getting better, less felonious, substitute teachers. Most APS teachers will tell you that it certainly appears no plan is in place, and that subs are overwhelmingly still the retired folks and 20-something Poly Sci types who are having trouble getting a "real job", and who knows who else (and I say that as someone with a Poly Sci degree....two of 'em even).

P.S.: I was hoping to make my 400th Burque Babble post a sort of celebration, but instead wrote about pedophile substitute teachers. Sigh. I guess I'll wait for number 500 for any real festivities.


Kelsey Atherton said...

"Hello, APS. I am not yet, but soon enough will be, an unemployed graduate of Tulane University with a degree in Political Science, a Minor in Urban Studies, and a lot of experience working in New Orleans Public Schools. Will you make it so I can afford bread and/or shelter?"

Also, as someone who will inevitably end up in education, and has a parent who substitute teaches, your suggestions are incredible, and as such, will be nothing like what APS does

michelle meaders said...

Is it true that Charter Schools aren't under APS, but under the state schools? Is their bureaucracy any better than APS? If these changes could be made for Charter Schools in Albuquerque, would APS have to change to compete? No, that makes too much sense.

history said...

I know, because my daughter is in one at University of Arizona, that there are federal programs throughout the US that allow science majors to obtain a masters in ed. in 2 summers + 2 teaching semesters. She even has her tuitiion paid for. Ultimately though, I believe not everyone should pursue teaching--If ever there was a true vocation, teaching is one.

frannyzoo said...

Michelle: I'm no expert, but at least when I taught at a charter (2000-2003) my schools wasn't part of the APS Sub Services system. We had to (were able to) recruit our own subs through our own procedures.

I remember it being difficult as it was just one more thing to do/worry about as what really amounts to a business start-up. I can't say our procedures were terribly thorough, or anything like a 'system".

Hopefully, that's changed in the time since, but overall you're right. Charters can have their own hiring systems for both teachers and subs.

As for whether charter bureaucracies are any better than APS, I'd say administrative performance is all over the map, with charter's being more uneven because the job really boils down to the quality of the one or two people who do all the work in getting a charter started and maintained. There are others involved, but the amount of admin jobs done by "admin" at charters is massively larger than the already massive job performed by admin in APS schools.

frannyzoo said...

History: We both see folks daily who are teaching and aren't a good fit for the classroom. Ugly, very ugly. I tend to look away because focusing on that would cause a fall-off in my own teaching due to abject depression.

We also know that the rules for getting misplaced teachers out of the classroom are overly strict. Firing a teachers sans proof of sexual misbehavior or drug addiction is almost impossible. The job of knowing when to quit is left largely to the teacher. Sometimes they quit, sometimes they don't.

Okay, time for another chipper day of happy K-12 employment, y'all.

Anonymous said...

As a recent ('05) graduate of APS, I would hazard that the job of a substitute teacher is thankless and tragic.

I watched a sincere elderly gentleman progressively lose his sanity over the course of three years of unnecessarily cruel treatment by a bunch of 14-18 year olds (forgive them, they knew not what they did), consummated with an in-class total emotional breakdown.

On the other end of the spectrum, you had the idiot who would blow a whistle in class and hand out office referrals for looking away from your desk for too long. Or the idiot who sprayed my girlfriend in the face with ammonia cleaner for no apparent reason. And then there were the self-aggrandizing shlubs who spent the whole hour expounding fictional autobiographies of working in Special Ops before becoming an APS sub.

Maybe it's because there are so many terrible subs that kids attribute them with much less authority than their usual teacher, and subsequently treat them terribly. However, I also see (retrospectively) an institutional problem. Teachers often expressed that the sub did not do a very good job. They were usually right, but this made us increasingly suspicious of the next sub.

As a result, even the best-qualified subs will be subverted. Students are always eager to have a day off, a break from the routine of obedience. Sorry for the pessimism, but from my experience there is no way I would ever take on that responsibility.

Anonymous said...

There is an idea whose time has come regarding subtitutes. It is time for the administration to step up and remind themselves of the joys of the classroom. I am not suggesting just the site administrators either. I'm talking about Beth and pals as well. I would especially like to see Debbie Hines in a Sped class. If these people are so gifted at what they do, lets have them test it out in the real world. It would kill two birds with one stone, win win situation. Shortage of good subs? Solved.

frannyzoo said...

Thanks for the excellent, and extremely pertinent, comments. To be honest, as a teacher subs are something I try not to think about, which is a sure sign of a big problem.

I think collecting stories about the substitute teaching experience (both from the side of the students and those who choose sub teaching for any length of time) could have a powerful impact on changing policies in this area.

I'm afraid that, at best, the district will merely focus on the recent news and apply some band-aids to the "background check" policy. What needs to happen is much bigger in scope, and stories like you tell Anon above need to be heard and considered as part of a sweeping change in the sub system.

And yes, having Debi Hines et. al. sub is not only appropriate, but might open a few, more powerful, eyes.

Anonymous said...

Subs are often treated poorly at the schools by both staff and teachers. I had a teacher define me, as "a person under a teacher. one with less authority than a real teacher." I was so angry. And no her class did not listen. I have been subbing since '06 when I graduated from UNM. I have gotten few interviews, and most teachers do seem to honor and value what us GOOD subs do for them and the schools. I have had teachers come to me and ask me to switch with the sub in their room because that sub only wanted to play games. I don't see subbing as babysitting. My responsibility is to insure students still learn that day. To bring better subs into the district. My ideas are to have inhouse subs at all schools, not just some of the at risk schools. Increase pay, provide us with sick leave and daily employment. They should still keep the day to day subs (and yes if it is not daily no benefits--for those who are retired and are good who need a little extra cash, because they'll still be needed). Provide subs with PD on district curriculum and other PDs to help them develop their abilities further.