A substitute teacher is a person who teaches a school class when the regular teacher is unavailable; e.g., because of illness, personal leave, or other reasons. "Substitute teacher" (usually abbreviated as "sub") is the most commonly used phrase in the United States, Canada, India and Ireland, while supply teacher is the most commonly used term in Great Britain and the Canadian province of Ontario. Common synonyms for substitute teacher include relief teacher or casual teacher (used in Australia and New Zealand) and "emergency teacher" (used in the United States). Other terms, such as "guest teacher", are also used by some schools or districts. Regional variants in terminology are common, such as the use of the term teacher on call (T.O.C.) in the Canadian province of British Columbia and occasional in Ontario.
Substitute teachers find jobs by first completing the application and interview process from their local school district. Once approved, they will either be enrolled in an automated calling system or more currently, via a system that uses the internet to post available substitute teaching assignments. Substitutes can also find work by contacting private schools in their district. Most substitute teachers in the U.S. can be assigned to work in all academic subject areas as needed (except for long-term substituting assignments). The substitute is generally responsible for closely following and continuing with the lesson plans left by the teacher, and to maintain student order and productivity. Substitute teachers can often work in multiple schools within one district, as well as for multiple school districts.
In some regions, the qualifications for substitute teaching may not be as strict as those for a regular teacher. Most areas require a college degree, and some the successful completion of competency tests; others require only that the applicant possess a high school diploma or its equivalent; full teaching qualifications are required for long-term assignments. Long-term substitutes, who may be assigned to a class for up to an entire semester, generally require full teaching qualifications in the subject area of the class to be taught. Some school administrators may not hire full-time teachers unless they have had substitute teaching experience.
Rates of pay for substitute teachers vary widely depending on geographic location, length of assignment and teacher qualifications. For instance, in California, certificated teachers are required to meet No Child Left Behind standards and if the district has a substitute teachers' union, that will impact the daily rate of pay. Some districts are considering going to hourly pay to further reduce expenses, leaving many substitute teachers earning wages below the national poverty line (as per Local SEIU 521). As well, after a set number of days in any one position, districts increase the rate of pay from say $100 a day to $130 a day retroactively (as per Local SEIU 521 and FUSD Employee Information). Unfortunately, schools in a district that cannot afford the difference in pay may suspend a valid instructor to avoid the financial burden before the date of change. Local Union SEIU 521 in California has noted this trend yet few frustrated substitute teachers come forward to contend the action.
In the United States, the position's national average is about US$80 per day (or $11.43 per hour), with rural districts paying as low as $40 per day and larger, urban districts paying over $200 per day. The average in Southern California is $110 per day. In many districts, the pay rate for substitute teachers has not been increased by the district for over a decade. For example, even if an individual has been employed in this capacity for several years for a district, their pay rate has remained the same indefinitely. The general assumption is that the district does not have room in the budget for a periodic increase in substitute pay, as there would be in most other U.S. jobs. In contrast, the substitutes work with the same students as the regular teacher, and are expected to adhere to the numerous particulars of the various school policies that are now being implemented. Substitute teacher pay in Oregon is established in state law. According to ORS 342.610, teachers employed as substitute teachers shall not be paid less per day than 85 percent of the daily salary of a beginning teacher who holds a bachelor’s degree. Based on data for 2012-13 from the Oregon Department of Education, the average salary of beginning teachers with a bachelor’s degree is $38,170; for 2013-14, therefore, the minimum pay rate for the first 10 consecutive days of substitute teaching is $170.76 per day ($38,170 divided by 190 times 85%), and for each day over 10 in the same assignment, the pay is 1/190th of the salary schedule or $200.90.
In Australia, the rate can vary between states and between sectors. In the state of Victoria, teachers in a Catholic school can earn $41 per hour or $246 per day, whereas in the New South Wales public school system, teachers can earn between $239 and $327 per day depending on experience.
In the Republic of Ireland, substitute teachers are paid a rate of €20 to €45 per hour.
In Canada, substitute teachers are fully certified teachers, and are paid regular salary when employed as long-term occasionals (LTO), or paid a daily rate of about $200 per day.
In the United Kingdom, supply teachers employed by a local education authority or school directly must be paid a daily rate of 1/195 of the annual salary to which they would be entitled were they employed in the position on a full-time basis. Teachers employed through agencies are not subject to this rule, unless they have been working for the same hiring institution for more than 12 weeks, but nevertheless daily rates are generally around UK£100–125.
Substitute Educator's Day
The United States observes a Substitute Educator's Day, which was instituted by the National Education Association (NEA). The purpose of this day is to highlight the role and importance of the substitute teacher by providing information about, advocating for, and helping to increase appreciation and respect for this unique professional. This day also focuses on the needs of substitutes, which include better wages and health benefits and continual professional development. Substitute Educator's Day is observed on the 3rd Friday of November during American Education Week. Other countries and jurisdictions have similar observances.
National Substitute Teacher Appreciation Week, or SubWeek, is also observed by many districts in the US and is held the first full week in May.
Substitute teachers in fiction
- A series of movies feature a mercenary posing as a substitute teacher in order to take on criminal elements within the school. The first, The Substitute, starred Tom Berenger. The remaining three starred Treat Williams, and were The Substitute 2: School's Out, The Substitute 3: Winner Takes All, and The Substitute: Failure Is Not an Option.
- Drillbit Taylor features Owen Wilson as an army deserter working as a bodyguard for bullied students while posing as a substitute teacher.
- Substitute teacher Dorothy Zbornak is a main character in the sitcom The Golden Girls. She was played by Emmy-winning actress Bea Arthur.
- A sequel to Class of 1999, which featured teachers in gang-run schools being replaced by deadly robots, was titled Class of 1999 II: The Substitute.
- A scene in Catch Me If You Can portrays famed con man Frank Abagnale convincing a class that, rather than being a new student, he is in fact their substitute teacher.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger portrayed an undercover police officer who disguised himself as a long-term substitute teacher in the movie Kindergarten Cop.
- In a second season episode of The Simpsons, Lisa Simpson develops feelings for an unconventional substitute teacher named Mr. Bergstrom (voiced by Dustin Hoffman) in the episode Lisa's Substitute.
- Jack Black plays unconventional substitute teacher Mr. S (Duey Finn) in School of Rock.
- In BS Johnson's novel "Albert Angelo" the main character, Albert Albert is a supply teacher.
- Harry Allard's "Miss Nelson is Missing!" series of children's books feature Miss Viola Swamp, a supply teacher, as the main character. She also appears in the book's sequels "Miss Nelson is Back" and "Miss Nelson Has a Field Day".
- Peggy Hill, wife of Hank Hill on the popular Fox animated sitcom King of the Hill, is a substitute Spanish teacher at Tom Landry Middle School.
- Allan Ahlberg's poem 'The Supply Teacher' tells of a female supply teacher being lead astray by pupils, who are assumed to be of primary school age.
- Justin Timberlake plays Scott Delacorte, a wealthy substitute teacher in the film Bad Teacher and the object of desire for teacher Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) and her rival colleague Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch).
- Requirements for Substitute Teachers by State
- Not Just a Warm Body: Changing Images of the Substitute Teacher. ERIC Digest
- National Substitute Teachers Alliance - NSTA
- Los Angeles Unified School District: 2010-2011 RATES FOR DAY-TO-DAY SUBSTITUTES
- "Supply teachers Pay, conditions & working time Sept 2006 - Aug 2007" (PDF). National Union of Teachers. 2006-05-24. Retrieved 2006-12-28.
- The Supply Teacher - Allen Ahlberg.
- Substitute Teacher Magazine: - A publication for substitute teachers: tips, stories, handouts, and forums.
- "Tricks of the Trade": website that discusses the experiences of a substitute teacher, offers advice for people who want to be a substitute and why someone would want to go into the field
- ETFO OT Resources: Occasional teacher resources compiled by the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario
- Education World: Substitute Teaching: a complete description of the good, bad, and the ugly of Substitute Teaching
- Not Just a Warm Body: Changing Images of the Substitute Teacher - From the ERIC Clearinghouse on Teaching and Teacher Education