Better Than The Real Thing

Even though the Strongsville teachers’ strike ended a few months ago, it has left a lingering bitterness in the community, like an artificial sweetener’s aftertaste.

The Strongsville substitutes were treated like we were the problem.  The real problem was full-timers’ greed.  If greed makes you work harder and smarter, so you can earn and achieve more in life, that’s great.  If greed turns you into a demanding bully, that’s monstrous.

Substitutes were never the bad guys, just the whipping boys.  That isn’t unusual.  In a nutshell, our job is to run a classroom with a business as usual attitude, to the best of our ability.  We work in the same tough situations that full-timers face: wild, disorderly kids, ineffective administrators, apathetic staff, prima dona parents, and undisclosed special needs students.  Subs work hard to implement their educational and administrative duties, teaching, coaching and encouraging students to do their best, and then go home at the end of the day.  People don’t think much about any of this unless they have a complaint.

Subs get bullied. Little bullies throw desks, chairs and punches. Big bullies throw things at substitute teachers’ windshields on the freeway, throw chunks of asphalt at glass doors where people are meeting to find ways to end a strike, secretly post substitutes’ pictures online in an effort to blackball them for future teaching assignments, and yell vulgar names and questions like, “How does it feel, wrecking kids’ lives?”

We performed our jobs with professionalism and integrity. We kept our students focused on their work, helping them to be on time, courteous and cooperative with us. These are my usual requirements of students, regardless of why I’m subbing. Most of our students lived up to this admirably, which was hard, because the strike took its toll on them, too.

I had some great experiences working in Strongsville, but I’m skeptical about going back to the classroom. I get the same problems with none of the benefits of full-time teaching. I’ve paid into the same retirement system, but I’ll never get to use any of my pension money. Full-timers can buy service credit, allowing them a more generous pension, which my contributions make possible. I don’t want to pay another penny to finance someone else’s retirement.

Personally, I’m more than a little soured on substitute teaching. We’re not second-rate educators, even though we’re treated like we are. We won’t bring a second-rate attitude to work; that’s as contagious and unwelcome as pink eye and strep throat. Bad attitudes lead to strikes. We’re better than that. With or without teaching, we’ve got class.

Brigitte Gerard

I am a tutor, writer and musician.

Volume 5, Issue 8, Posted 11:50 AM, 08.01.2013