The Alaska Education Connection

Make every day count with substitute teacher training

By melissag - 5th March 2020

Jeff Smith, Education Specialist

My first teaching job was in Tuntutuliak, about a 25-minute flight south from Bethel. It’s where I learned the practical skills and found my stride, only to find it interrupted with every absence — not only mine, but also the absences of my colleagues. 

When I would miss a day, I’d often return to a class who had a day without direction or purpose, rather than something meaningful that would not result in a wasted day for my students.

When colleagues were absent, I would see the effect in my classroom. Students would come to my class from an environment that lacked the structure it normally had, leading to a chaotic first 10 to 15 minutes.

I am not blaming my substitute teachers — they were not adequately prepared to lead a classroom or to provide me with a report of what had happened and what needed addressing. They didn’t have any training and therefore lacked the tools to succeed. 

That’s one school and one experience, but this isn’t an anomaly, it’s happening everywhere. 

On average, teachers miss 11 days of school each year,” according to the National Council on Teacher Quality (2014). “This means that over the course of their K-12 experience, students spend almost a full year learning from someone other than their regular classroom teacher.” 

Thinking about all those wasted days was the inspiration for developing training for substitute teachers — or paraeducators or early career teachers, like I once was. What if these educators could start off with knowledge and tools that would prepare them to carry out a lesson plan effectively and maintain a stable classroom environment? What if we could regain those days that might otherwise be lost? 

We can. 

We’ve developed a substitute teacher training curriculum — one that can be customized to districts’ specific needs — that we can deliver on-site and in-person across the state. We’ll begin offering one-day  workshops starting in August of this year. 

At its core, the training will cover essential skills and strategies, including classroom management, professionalism, communication, policies, procedures and more. The sessions can also be customized, with policies, procedures and strategies specific to schools and districts. 

What does that customization look like? For example, in Tuntutuliak, we used CHAMPS for classroom management; if a substitute were to ask students to use Voice Level Two for an activity, students would understand that expectations remain the same, even with a new face at the front of the classroom. Within the first 30 seconds in that classroom, a substitute could demonstrate to students that they will hold them to the same standards for behavior as their regular teacher, and that substitute will have an advantage. 

We’ve heard from superintendents, principals and teachers from around the state that this service is needed. It’s on everyone’s to-do list, but the list is long and always getting longer, with Alaska’s school leaders wearing many hats and tackling an ever increasing list of challenges. 

We’ve designed our training to be comprehensive but compact, with engaging, interactive elements that allow substitutes, paraeducators and teachers to act out scenarios, role play and practice skills and strategies. 

We’ve kept Alaska’s unique communities, diverse population and specific challenges in mind. We’ve also kept tight budgets in mind. We want to offer a cost-effective service that will make every day with our students count. 

What will your students learn with those extra days of productivity? 

Contact Education Specialist Jeff Smith at [email protected] or at 907-586-6806. 

Trainings starting at $1280.

Substitute Teacher Training Flyer (download PDF)
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