So You Think You Can Sub?

LaQuinn Adams, right, subs every day at Godwin Heights Public Schools

So you think you want to be a sub?

Billboards and other advertisements have been seemingly everywhere for months seeking substitute teachers in an attempt to fill a serious shortage. It’s a situation being seen not only in Kent County, but around the state and nation.

If those ads have made you curious about applying, here’s a primer on what to expect in Kent County.

See Related Story: ‘Substitute Teachers Share Experience, Tips’ – Despite not being five feet tall, Mary Lun’s unassuming ways and knowledge about teaching make her difficult to mess with when she works as a substitute teacher. At a recent assignment at Rockford Freshman Center, she doesn’t raise her voice or get rattled, and is extremely patient. She rarely stops roaming around the room, sitting on desks, asking questions. Every now and then she throws her head back, laughing…

Upcoming Job Fair
An EDUStaff Job Fair will be held from 3 to 7 p.m. Feb. 24 in the Grand Room at Kent ISD, 2930 Knapp St. NE, Grand Rapids. Pre-register at www.EDUStaff.org. Walk-ins are welcome. For more information about EDUStaff, call 1-877-974-6338 or email contact@EDUStaff.org


Papers you need to submit to be a substitute teacher

  • License and Social Security card (many other forms of identification can be used, but these are the primary ones people submit)
  • Proof of Livescan Fingerprint
  • Proof of a negative TB test
  • Official college transcripts: Michigan requires substitute teachers to have at least 90 credit hours from an accredited four-year college or university with a minimum of a 2.0 GPA.


Costs

  • LiveScan fingerprint: $60-$80. Sheriff and police departments plus private companies offer them.
  • State teaching certificate: $45. (This needs to be renewed every school year)
  • TB test (free at health departments)
  • Jobulator: $5.95 a month

Grand Rapids-based EDUStaff handles the process of hiring substitute teachers for schools. It’s fairly simple and straight-forward: Fill out an application, take a training class online and attend a two-hour training session. You also are required to get fingerprinted and take a TB test.

I’m one of those people who always have wondered what it would be like to be a substitute teacher, so I took the plunge and went through the process. Here’s a look at what’s required.

Step one
Fill out an application online. It takes about 45 minutes and asks the usual questions. You also can apply at EduStaff job fairs, which are held once or twice a month. The next one in Kent County is Feb. 24 (see box).

The application asks which districts you want to teach in, and includes a questionnaire that asks you to fill in one of five circles for each statement, with answers from “strongly disagree” to “very much agree.” Very simple, and a couple of the questions made me smile: “Some kids are OK, but a lot of them are pretty annoying,” and “I don’t like it when people bring children to restaurants” were two of them. If someone marks “strongly agree” on both of these, I wonder what happens.

Step two
Complete federally mandated training sessions. These can be done online via the EDUstaff site. Issues such as allergy management, hazard communications, sexual harassment, child abuse, bullying, firearms and more are covered. It can take up to two hours, but you don’t have to do it all in one sitting.

This tidbit made me chuckle. An example for how to fill out the personal information section listed a “Tom Cruise” applying to be a substitute. On the example form, the beneficiary he listed was his wife, Katie Holmes. Since the real-life version of this couple divorced in 2012, I doubt if Katie’s still his beneficiary, but you never know.

Step Three
After applying, you’ll need to get LiveScan fingerprinted and have a tuberculosis test. The Kent County Sheriff’s Department and other private businesses charge $60 to $80 for fingerprinting. The Kent County Health Department administers TB tests for free.

Step Four
Attend a training session, which takes place every other Monday at Kent ISD. If you miss your scheduled session, you can easily reschedule. About 35 people attend each two-hour training, where you turn in documents you need to apply (see box) and learn about appropriate attire, confidentiality, discipline, do’s and don’ts, beginning and end of day procedures and more.

Step Five
Once you get notice you are certified, it’s time to register with Aesop (Automated Educational Substitute Operator). When the system gets a notice a substitute position you qualify for needs to be filled, the opening is posted to an online calendar and you can sign up for the position.

 

The Jobulator app sends job notifications to your phone so you don’t have to constantly check for new assignments. These postings and calls can be for an assignment that same day, the next day or many days in advance.

You can select what times you want the calls to come. Notices of openings can start coming to your phone as early as 5 a.m. until 9 p.m. All it takes to accept a job is to listen to the recording prompts and press a few buttons on your phone. Up to 20 calls have come in on one day for me. Once you accept an assignment, you can let Aesop know you don’t want any more calls.

Accepting jobs can get a little competitive, said longtime sub Mary Lun. She has the Jobulator widget on her phone, which costs $5.95 a month. Jobulator sends an alarm to her phone when an opening comes in, and makes it possible to sign up immediately. “If you see something you like, you can’t wait,” Lun said.

You can choose how often you work, whether every day (if jobs are available) or a couple of days a week. But don’t come in thinking you’ll get rich off substitute teaching. The pay rate is $75 to $90 a day.

In The Classroom

After all the paperwork and training comes the job itself. A wide range of people from many backgrounds apply to be substitutes, said Isaiah Thaler, EDUStaff executive director of field services. For first-timers with no teaching experience, it can be a little nerve-wracking, but Thaler said teachers work to make it easier for subs by leaving lesson plans.

How do you know which grades you’ll work with best? Some subs wouldn’t think of taking a class of kindergartners, Thaler said, while for others it’s a perfect fit. “Just try it. You may find that you really enjoy working with a different age group than you had originally thought.”

CONNECT

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Linda Odette
Linda Odette is a freelance writer and editor with more than 30 years of experience in journalism. She’s worked primarily as an editor in feature departments at newspapers in West Michigan, including the Grand Rapids Press, the Muskegon Chronicle and the Holland Sentinel. She lives in East Grand Rapids near the Eastown edge, has a teenage son and a daughter in college. Read Linda's full bio

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