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There’s No Substitute For Good Teachers

, , , , | Learning | June 16, 2021

My father was a life-long high school teacher. When he retired from full-time teaching, he became a substitute teacher. Being in rural Alberta, that meant driving long distances to many different schools in all directions. He was in such demand that he ended up working almost full-time and driving much more than he did before. He enjoyed being in demand, though, often having to tell schools that he couldn’t sub for them because another school had already booked him.

Being able to say no was a privilege that he enjoyed being able to have, but in practice, he almost never did if his time wasn’t already spoken for.

He told me about one school he ruled out permanently, though. He said it was due to a single incident, but from talking to him, I knew that there was also an underlying issue that bothered him.

The incident? He had an off period one day and was walking down the school hallway during class. A male teenage student came out of a classroom in front of him and then yelled back into the classroom, “I’m going to take a s***, okay?!”

Dad: “I’m not going to sub there again. Anyway, it is a very long drive there.”

Me: “Did you talk to anyone at the school there about it?”

Dad: “No. I didn’t see a point. He wasn’t my student, it wasn’t my class, and I’m just a sub. The boy’s teacher should deal with it, not me. I don’t have to sub for them.”

Me: “In all the decades that you’ve taught, you must have witnessed bad behavior similar to this before. You also drive just as far to other schools to sub. What makes this different?”

Dad: “Well, I don’t have to put up with stuff like that anymore. I’m semi-retired. Plus, they’re a Roman Catholic school and they made me sign a document stating that I was a Christian. I understand why they do that, but what I believe has nothing to do with being a good teacher.”

I agreed with him whole-hardheartedly. Unfortunately, he felt that he couldn’t just tell that school outright that he wouldn’t sub for them anymore. He was concerned that the word would spread that he was “picky” about schools. So, from then on, he broke his own rule of honesty and always told that school he was already booked or busy when they called.

He continued subbing for several more years at several schools after that before retiring fully. Even after he stopped registering as a substitute teacher with the school boards and schools, he would still get calls occasionally from schools asking him to PLEASE come in for a day. He told me that he liked being needed but that his ailing wife needed him more.

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