All Hands on Deck: Redefining the 'Substitute' Teacher

All Hands on Deck: Redefining the 'Substitute' Teacher

Urgent problems in schools demand urgent solutions--not substitutes

By Matt Candler     Dec 6, 2013

All Hands on Deck: Redefining the 'Substitute' Teacher

Take 30 seconds and stare at the photo above of a KIPP classroom in New Orleans.

Q: What's the most innovative thing you see?

A: It's the person sitting at the front of the class.

You see, she's not the regular teacher. She's what Andre Feigler, the founder of Enriched, calls a guest educator. You might call her a sub, but don't let Feigler catch you saying that. When Enriched's guest educators show up in schools that subscribe to her service, kids don't watch movies or do busywork, they keep learning.

Enriched has made something notoriously painful--finding a reliable substitute that "gets" your school and can teach--doable, even enjoyable. Feigler has a magnificent vision of radically more diverse groups of adults contributing to the school day: artists, creatives, professionals. In the meantime, she's got the discipline to start by solving a critical, well-defined problem: Getting a reliable sub that can help, not hurt. (If you're curious, substitute teaching happens to be a $4B problem in the US.)

This might not look so radical, but I think it is downright groundbreaking. The teacher who usually spends her days in that classroom is at home resting. Or maybe she's giving one of her peers real-time feedback in their classroom. Or maybe she's across town watching a teacher try something new with tablets. Whatever she's doing, her school is able to treat her more like a professional because of Enriched.

Seriously, if you're not a teacher, think about this for a minute. Do you have to pee right now? If you did need to go, what would you have to do to make that happen? If you're in an office, just get up and take care of business down the hall. At a Starbucks? A little more stressful--ask that guy with the Beats headphones to keep an eye out for your stuff. But what if you were one of the tens of thousands of teachers teaching dozens of kids by yourself?

You see, over the years, teachers have had to evolve as a species. We are the camels of the professional world. We can hold it longer than anybody else because we've had to adapt to this crazy world we live in.

But people like Feigler are changing the world teachers and kids live in by addressing each outdated design feature at a time. And as we redirect teacher energy from holding it in to learning from each other and growing, the profession gets a little more rewarding, a little more human, a little more inviting. Imagine what a thousand Feiglers could do for kids? For teaching?

They could build the future of school, one piece at a time.

I'd keep going, but I gotta pee.

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