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A Shortage of Substitute Teachers Causes Big Problems for Schools

Topics: Current Events

Sometimes, making progress in one area leads to new problems in another. The improved unemployment rate may be causing some difficult adjustments for schools, for example, as subs move toward full-time employment in greater numbers.


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A lack of subs is a big problem for schools. Teachers need to take the occasional day off for one reason or another, just like everyone else — but the consequences of doing so weigh heavily on them. No one knows their students the way they do, and a day off has such a big impact on the little people who count on them for guidance, learning, and assistance. The pressure to maximize every day makes taking any time off very difficult for teachers, but sometimes it’s impossible to prevent. The situation is exacerbated when a quality sub isn’t available to fill in.

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Yahoo New Digest explored the situation in a recent post layering in a few other factors that may be contributing to the problem. Let’s look at some of the most probable causes.

1. Unemployment is down.

Former substitutes are getting full time teaching jobs, or landing positions in other fields, and are therefore unavailable to sub. Similarly, an improved economy could mean that fewer retirees are returning to teach as substitutes as they become less concerned about their finances.

2. Subbing is really difficult.

Substitute teaching is extremely hard. Going into a classroom without the benefit of well honed relationships, (with students, parents, or co-workers), can make for a pretty tough day. And, the pay isn’t great. The median pay for a substitute teacher is $11 an hour, which means that subs make less than $100 a day for work that is really quite taxing physically, intellectually, and emotionally. It’s understandable that a lot of folks would decide it just isn’t worth it.

3. Fewer young people are pursuing careers in education.

Recent college grads used to cover a lot of schools’ substitute needs, as young teachers worked to gain experience in the classroom before landing their first big job. But, with fewer young adults pursuing teaching as a career, the pool of candidates for the work is shrinking. The reasons for the decrease are varied, and debatable, but no matter the cause — the problem has had a tremendous impact on schools, and kids.

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What can be done to combat the substitute teacher shortage? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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