Not every administrator can fire a substitute teacher. It is
generally a decision of a superintendent in consultation with
a principal. And if the teacher is a tenured substitute on
rotation, then the local board of education usually becomes
involved. In some school districts, the head of human
resources is also consulted.
In order to legally fire a teacher, a protocol must be
followed under the guidelines of the school district and be in
compliance with Federal and State laws.
But, unfortunately, firing teachers, whether substitutes or
regulars, doesn't provide the tools and resources which
pedagogically address the educational needs of the students.
The ongoing "sub swapping" in this nonnative foreign language
class is a good example of poor administrative skills by the
There is no reason to place so many substitute teachers in
succession to cover this class when the "'doesn't want to'
teach" situation is the equivalent of a vacancy that was
available from the beginning.
Obviously, the "experienced teacher" who heads the department
is going to blame the subs regarding discipline issues and
But, in actuality, her poor administrative skills created the
chaotic environment in this classroom. Instead of focusing on
the students, she preferred to point her finger, and make
every single teacher accountable for the behavioral problems
that she created in this classroom.
You didn't indicate whether this three-hour daily class occurs
in a high school, junior high, or middle school. What happens
during the breaks or changes of period? If a three-hour class
is scheduled in a college, there will usually be two
bathroom/snack breaks of at least ten minutes each.
Also, the freedom of choice of these substitute teachers was
violated by demanding the use of a particular textbook, and
indicating that nothing else would do. What would be the
problem about using a variety of worksheets at different
levels? The department head was in the classroom and saw that
it didn't work with the students. Perhaps, this was the main
reason to hire substitutes, rather than face the situation as
the head of the department.
Language acquisition is built through the time. Teachers
should have the freedom to select instructional materials
which will support differentiated instructional methods, and,
by so doing, accommodate the educational needs of every single
student in the classroom.
The students don't have to be fluent in Spanish at this level,
but at least express a rudimentary knowledge of the basic
vocabulary and grammar. Talking in Arabic is not wrong. It
will diminish as the teacher develops a good rapport with
these students including having them well-motivated in the
With respect to disorderly, insubordinate students, the
actions which should be taken depend upon the school and
district discipline codes. At the very least, parents or
guardians should be notified and requested to visit the school
for a conference among the student, the substitute who was in
the room when the disciplinary infraction occurred, and either
the student's guidance counselor or a dean.
The real problem is not the revolving door of substitute
teachers. The problem is the head of the department and the
principal. The principal either seems not to know what is
happening in this classroom, or is turning a blind eye to it.
In either case, he is not maintaining the highest possible
standards of discipline and instruction in the school.
In response to your questions, "At what point do I
intervene?*" and, "So...how do I approach this delicately and
yet forcefully?", if you are aware of dangerous activities
occurring, such as dancing on desks or throwing heavy objects,
try to arrange for one or two deans to pass by and immediately
remove several disruptive students at once. Other than that,
a fully descriptive email to the principal, copied to the
superintendent and board of education, usually works wonders.
It will be your call whether to identify yourself or be
anonymous or pseudonymous.
Finally, in a different school where a regular teacher was
having ongoing discipline problems with a particular class,
one of the colleagues entered the principal's office, and told
him, "I just passed by Mrs. X's classroom and she had the door
open. Bedlam!" The principal practically flew out of his
office and made a beeline for Mrs. X's classroom to find out
what was going on.
On 2/18/15, concerned teacher.. wrote:
> We have a former Spanish teacher who is 73 and still
> working..she moved to ELD (English for non native
> speakers). I teach Spanish.
> This teacher is sick and it's stress related, but if she
> and the principal agreed she'd forego retirement that's
> not my business. BUT..
> 1) This teacher was hired to teach one 3 hour class (the
> students no nothing so they are in one marathon class
> daily) and 2 standard classes..plus she is the department
> head. But the teacher "doesn't want to" teach the 3 hour
> class, so THEY CALL IN SUBS DAILY!
> 2) 7 subs have been willing to take on this class as a
> long term job..6 quit. I have befriended #7 :).
> 3) Why did #2 happen?
> First, the class is TOTALLY out of control. The students
> swear literally every single minute, they run around
> screaming and throwing heavy objects, they leave the
> portable where the class is located without permission,
> dance on desks, etc.
> This teacher has flat out "fired" several subs (for poor
> classroom management) and asked them to leave.
> She blames subs for everything and yells at them.
> She demands that they always use the textbook--in a three
> hour multi lingual class of total beginners--and throws
> tantrums that teachers are "making it too hard" by
> "speaking in full sentences"!
> So.. I befriended sub #7; she speaks Spanish and wanted
> to see my classes. Hence I know all of the gossip above..
> But for some insane reason, sub #7 wants to stay.
> She asked if I could observe the class during my planning
> to help her.. sure.
> Here is what I saw:
> Teacher: Saif, please go sit in your assigned seat..you 3
> are talking in Arabic and not working.
> Saif: YOU..Spanish Spanish ALL DAY SPANISH..NEVER
> ENGLISH! Me no Arabic?? F--k you!
> Note: The teacher spoke NO Spanish when I observed.. she
> understood questions from Hispanic students and answered
> the students in English.
> Teacher: Work (she reads the book), speak Arabic..fine.
> No work.. no talking in Arabic. Move.
> Saif: continues along these lines..
> Anima: No learn; no English..Arabic Arabic ARABIC and you
> SPANISH SPANISH NO ENGLISH.. I go to another class!
> Teacher: If you could I would help you, but there is no
> other class for beginners here..
> Anima: My parents are coming.. you only Spanish, all
> Arabic, bad teacher!
> Then they all scream like this..
> Jorge: (when told to stop eating) I eat.. c-nt!
> A female student climbed onto the desk, gyrated, and
> rubbed herself all over provocatively.
> After school the teacher said "I WILL be "fired" when the
> "real teacher" hears that I have talked to Hispanics in
> Spanish.. and I am surprised she hasn't heard yet. When
> she hears she will tell me to leave.
> Good.. I said.
> But if I get removed from a long term sub job I don't
> think I can continue subbing--even in other schools--
> NO..a teacher can't "fire" a sub. Only an administrator
> can fire you.
> If she is the teacher of record and I am her helper, she
> legally can request my removal.
> Overall, I now feel that I need to confront the principal
> about all of this.
> I don't get to decide who teaches what..I get it!
> It's none of business if a teacher of record wants a
> teacher below her removed, nor do I get to learn the
> legal details of what happens next.. I get that, too!
> But this is just NOT ACCEPTABLE.
> So..how do I approach this delicately and yet forcefully?
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