Monday, November 11, 2013

Letter on substitute teaching for retired ACS members

Concerning actions ACS members can take to further science education in general and chemistry education below the college level in particular (C&EN, Aug. 19, page 2): When I retired in 2004, one of my daughters-in-law told me that I must sign up as a substitute teacher. She teaches English in one of Maryland’s rural counties and is troubled by the rare times she has to take time off for illness or out-of-classroom assignments. It is apparently common for high school teachers to worry about the caliber of substitute teachers who cover for them. 
I took her advice to heart and contacted the Montgomery County, Md., school administration. They were almost desperate for substitute teachers, and anybody who could be cleared by the county police was given a four-hour training session and put on a list of available substitutes. The school system has a computer-run assignment program, such that a teacher who needs a substitute enters a website and generates a job number and a computer-based search. I signed up to substitute teach only for physics, chemistry, and higher mathematics in the three high schools I can get to in less than 20 minutes. I soon achieved a good reputation in those schools, and the science and math teachers there would telephone me directly if they planned to be away. The computer program also has a priority function, which put me as first to be called. 
Montgomery County pays me $16.63 per hour as a substitute teacher, so a few days a month teaching barely meets restaurant bills for me and my wife, but she appreciates having the days free of my being around the house. 
Retired ACS members who want to further elementary and secondary science education can do so easily and with great effect by substitute teaching in their local school systems.
Jacques Read
Washington, D.C.
I don't really think this is a viable employment strategy for out-of-work scientists (surely just 1 or 2 unemployed scientists could cover a district's science substituting needs.) That said, it is an option that isn't talked about much.  

15 comments:

  1. I remember how "subs " were treated in High School....

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  2. Science subs need safety training:

    http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2013/10/30/n-c-teacher-fired-for-blood-experiment/

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  3. It's not a viable opportunity, it's not even a stopgap. I remember coming from college and teaching for the last few weeks for the term in my home town, "because they were so desperate for substitutes", it was quick easy money too before other summer employment opportunities opened up. In 2009, I couldn't substitute, the market was so flooded that one required a teaching certificate to even be considered.

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  4. "16.63 per hour"

    Wow, that certainly shows how much the taxpayers of Montgomery county care about education.

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  5. $16.63/hour in full time terms is roughly $35K, which is probably the starting salary for a teacher right out of college. It's not that far out of line, really.

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    1. hmmm, i guess I did not understand how little teachers make.

      How does anyone expect to have educated students if no one pays teachers a decent salary?

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    2. How many retired teachers have you known versus retired scientists outside academia or government?

      I don't know about you, but I really don't think teaching is such a bad gig for the long haul.

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    3. Ha-Ha. Try teaching high school for 5 years like I did. That's why I got a PhD (in Chemistry)--to get me out of HS teaching. I'm a very poorly paid academic type, but its better than dealing with bratty, mouthy HS kids.

      The irony is, the way NIH funding is going and academia's addiction to cheap labor, I may very well have to return to it....

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    4. NMH, you've kind of missed the point. Teachers CAN retire. They're not getting downsized. The job you left is still there, and it'll still be there for decades to come. Your replacement now has a ticket to ride the middle class train all the way to the final stop. On the other hand, one dry spell for grants, and it's probably game over for you.

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    5. Nah, I think I got your point . However, is the possibility of retirement at 65 with some kind of pension worth the greatly increased possibility of death by 55 due to a stroke, and divorce because you are angry and bitter from dealing with bratty kids all day?

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  6. Subs in the school district my wife teaches in MI get $9.25/hour AND require a teaching degree.

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  7. @ Aqueous Layer, for Montgomery county, that is practically nothing. Freshly graduated teachers start at 46K.

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    1. And there's a whole lot more to compensation than salary. Employer provided health insurance can be easily worth $20,000 a year for a family plan (tax free!). Pension contributions, too. Subs obviously aren't getting either of those benefits.

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  8. In our school district substitute positions seem to be used as a probationary term - last couple of years most new teachers at my son's school were substitutes. But, importantly, they all were recent college grads, not lifers.

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  9. In Wisconsin, you have to have a teaching certificate to be a substitute.

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