DAILY INSIGHT: Super subs: forgotten heroes in the educational trenches

Tech directors make substitute teachers' jobs easier.
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Tech directors make substitute teachers' jobs easier.

By Steven M. Baule, CIO Advisor

Since 9/11, as a nation, we have been actively looking for heroes. We have given hero status to fire fighters, paramedics, law enforcement officers and health care workers in the aftermath of those attacks along with the traditional soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. News programs often illuminate “hometown heroes” or “people making a difference.”

We have National Library Week and Teacher Appreciation Week, during which we celebrate those educators and how they help our children and communities grow. We have become extremely holistic in how to recognize heroes and those making differences in our communities. So, potentially, I was predisposed to finding a hero as I was walking through schools recently. Regardless of how I got there, I realized that good substitute teachers are a special brand of hero.

It happened I was walking by a primary classroom where a great substitute was teaching. She was covering a long-term assignment in the district for the third time this year. She had been in the classroom only a couple of days, but already had the kids excited about her arrival and engaged in learning. One of her other long-term assignments had also been with a difficult classroom of students, but she excelled and made the transitions from and back to the regular teacher seamless. She was always upbeat and positive even with some truly demanding and needy children in her classes. Without people like her, our students would be at a great loss when teachers are out for long-term leaves. Substitutes are sometimes much more important than we give them credit. Some of them truly are heroes.

So, what does that have to do with technology? Well, I realized while watching that teacher operate that as an IT director, I didn’t ever really reach out to any substitutes and ask them what they needed from the IT department. What could we do to make the substitute’s job easier and facilitate their ability to communicate with the regular teachers that they are covering? Ask one or two of your principals to identify a couple of the high-quality substitutes that they use and solicit their concerns and thoughts about the district’s technology and how you might be able to leverage that technology to make the job of a substitute teacher a little easier. You just might learn something from a new perspective. At most, take a minute to tell them thank you for the role they play in the district.

Steven M. Baule is superintendent of North Boone CUSD 200 in Poplar Grove, IL. He has written several books on aspects of library and technology management and planning.