Substitute educators, a crucial resource

Substitute educators face one of the most challenging jobs in education today. As a substitute, you are expected to step into an unknown class, often in an unknown building, at a moment's notice, and pick up ongoing lessons without the benefit of knowing exactly where a teacher left off or what material students already have covered.

Districts expect you to arrive prepared and professional. Students hope that lessons will be interesting and fun. And as an outsider to this particular class, you'll need savvy classroom management skills to successfully motivate students who may have a history of behavioral issues of which you are unaware.

It's a tall order, and often you're expected to deliver without the professional support given to full-time teachers through district programs and courses. As a result, substitute educators face key issues that include:

  • Professional wages, including increases to offset inflation
  • Due process for substitute educators involving workplace discipline and personnel decisions.
  • Improved training and professional development.
  • Adequate health insurance for substitute educators who work a long-term or high-frequency schedule.
  • Better communication between substitute educators and a school's permanent staff.

Note: Substitute teachers employed in public education in Washington state are eligible for full, Active membership in the WEA. Details


Rick Harlan, a longtime substitute teacher in the Seattle Education Association, has worked to improve the professional status and job satisfaction of substitutes on several fronts, including promoting the launch of a national Substitute Educators Week. more

Related links:

  • Make your next sick day a success. Tips for ensuring you're ready for an unexpected sick day. more
  • Substitute teaching resource list. more
  • "The toughest job I ever had! more
  • Taking a stand: WEA supports substitutes' gains more
  • National Substitute Teachers Alliance. more
  • Substitute Teaching Institute at Utah State University. Offers occasional seminars, online and CD-ROM tutorials, and resource books such as The Substitute Teacher Handbook. more
  • Teacher.Net encourages you to exchange ideas, stories, and questions about the wonderful world of subbing, including rainy day lessons and one-day wonders. more