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Support your local substitute teacher

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GRAND FORKS — The Department of Education has reported that 5.3 percent of U.S. teachers are absent on any given day. U.S. teachers take off an average of 9.4 days each year during a typical 180-day school year.

Most absences are attributed to teachers being subjected to all kinds of classroom germs, as well as professional development meetings and conferences.

The thought of a substitute teacher conjures up images of a classroom in disarray with some hapless sole at the front of the room. In reality, a substitute teacher faces one of the most challenging jobs in education. They are expected to step into an unknown class, sometimes, at a moment’s notice, and are expected to make a positive difference in the lives of the students in that classroom.

This fall, I returned to the classroom as a substitute teacher. After spending 40 years as a full-time teacher and administrator, I have found it pleasurable to now step into the schools and view its instructional structures, not as a staff member but as an interested observer.

When I began substituting, it was my goal to visit every K-8 school in the Grand Forks School District. Not only have I substituted in every K-8 school in Grand Forks, but also I have had the chance to teach at every grade level.

Substitutes have a very important role to fill in the school district. Grand Forks uses an automated-management system (Aesop) to procure its substitutes.

In addition to special requests, I use this system to peruse the needs of the various schools. At times, there are a dozen or more needs for substitutes, whose assignments are registered in this system. I can accept or reject an assignment at any time that it is posted.

Moving from school to school and from classroom to classroom has provided me with not only exciting teaching challenges but also the chance to visit with other substitutes. I have found that the substitutes in this district take their roles very seriously.

Many of the substitutes are retired teachers like me, and it’s fun to share our experiences. During lunch breaks, I have heard many stories shared by the substitutes as well as concerns that they have observed or experienced.

Perhaps the greatest concern that has been repeated is the large number of students in the lower grades and the lack of help with special needs in some of the schools.

Substitutes truly appreciate the reception they receive when they visit a school. Time and again, the key element that is shared is the building principal, who goes out of his or her way to show appreciation for those who will be in their building and will be in charge of the instruction and safety of the students.

There are some buildings that I visit more often than others, and there are several principals whom I could name, but most exemplary are Beth Randklev at Ben Franklin, Cindy Cochran at Century and Scott Johnson at Lewis and Clark. They are there to welcome me and help me organize my day, and they take time to visit with me during the day.

Other schools that I have visited outside of the Grand Forks Public Schools who demonstrate the same hospitality are the Manvel (N.D.) Public School and Riverside Christian School in East Grand Forks.

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