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Value Your Substitutes: How District Support Makes a Difference

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As school districts continue to struggle with the national teacher shortage, many are noticing a significant drop in substitute teacher availability. This has forced school districts to search for new ways to utilize their existing pools of substitute teachers. With limited substitute personnel to cover absences, it is essential to maximize substitute retention and encourage consecutive working days.

One of the most effective ways to improve substitute retention is to make substitutes feel valued by offering many forms of district support. According to Peter W. Cardon’s Recruiting and Retaining Substitute Teachers, a school district that meets the long-term needs of substitute teachers has an easier time attracting and retaining a substitute teacher pool. Cardon points out that one of substitute teachers’ primary expectations is to be treated as a valued, professional member of the school community. In fact, one of the most common complaints of substitute teachers is that they feel they receive little respect from students, teachers, and administrators alike. The more strongly supported and respected substitute staff feel, the more likely they are to return to work and the more confident they are in performing their work. 

Even the simplest of gestures can make a substitute feel like a valued member of your district and help them to work effectively as a true part of your team. Firstly, districts should host an introductory orientation session for substitutes. Hosting an orientation for your substitutes lays the groundwork for a sense of community and welcoming in the district. Substitutes should have the opportunity to meet district representatives that they may work with regularly and become comfortable with their future peers. The orientation should also include basic training in district policies and classroom management – training is a major draw for substitutes, especially those beginning their work in schools for the very first time. 

Contact Person(s)
It’s also a good idea to provide substitutes with a contact person or a team that they can turn to for all future questions or concerns. This team should try to be in regular communication with the substitutes through emails, newsletters, and personal greetings when substitutes arrive for work. Provide substitutes with the lesson plans they’ll need for the day, keep them up-to-date on district news, and be available for any assistance the substitutes may need. Additionally, following up with each substitute after their first day of work is an excellent way to get constructive feedback and encourage the substitute to return to work again in the future.

One of the most important factors in employee retention in any field is recognition for a job well done. Districts should implement recognition programs for their substitute teachers just as they have for their regular full-time teachers. However small, any substitute recognition can go a long way in encouraging your best substitute teachers to continue working in your schools regularly.

Benefits and Pay
While admittedly more difficult to implement, offering substitute teachers benefits and competitive pay rates will make your school district more attractive to the local substitute workforce. Offering pay rates that are greater than or equal to surrounding districts will significantly increase your district’s ability to fill substitute assignments, and medical benefits are highly desired in the field of substitute teaching. Both are excellent ways to demonstrate to your substitutes how highly you value their work and will greatly increase substitute retention.

As school districts continue to struggle with shrinking budgets and limited resources, many have begun to seek outside partnerships to aid in managing their substitute programs. One such partner, ESS | Source4Teachers, is capable of managing substitute programs more effectively than districts can accomplish internally, while simultaneously relieving districts of costs, administrative duties, and freeing up valuable resources.

Over the last 17 years, ESS | Source4Teachers has developed the nation’s most comprehensive substitute management program. We recruit, credential, train, manage, and support substitutes. Our program includes an entire employee engagement team dedicated to communicating with substitutes daily, accessible by all substitutes via phone and email over extended working hours. We also offer thorough orientation and training, health benefits, working incentives, rewards programs, performance evaluations, and a local ESS | Source4Teachers district management team that interacts with substitutes daily.

For more information on how ESS | Source4Teachers can improve substitute support and retention in your district, please contact our team at (877) 983-2244.