why i sub

[legacy post from innovideo creative blog]

Thankfully, doing video work is not my only source of income. It is the one stream of income I have year-round through my role with the church. During the school year, I also have the opportunity to be a guest teacher in elementary, junior high, and high school classrooms in the Olathe School District. Yes, calling myself a “guest teacher” is probably semantics, but I feel that removes some of the connotation of temping. Yes, I earn money in at least some part by the illness and misfortune of teachers and their families. But my being there also allows them to attend professional development, take select groups on field trips, chaperone sports teams, and even take mental health days (those should start to pick up as we hurtle toward Christmas). Yes, the kids can be kind of crazy at times. Yes, the pay is not as good as a full-time contracted teacher. Note I did NOT say “real teacher” like students often do…


The answer to that question from students, and others, is simple on its face. The educational market is extremely tight right now due to budget cuts, not all of which are directly attributable to the economic downturn. The major districts, which in the booming years hired all over the place, are in an effectual hiring freeze. Vacancies from retirements and others leaving the district are largely being filled by redistributing existing staff.

But there are reasons that kept me coming back year after year even while I was actively seeking a teaching contract. (If you aren’t familiar with my journey around this topic, read my previous blog.) One that I identified clearly during my all-year long term position a couple years ago is variety. Honestly, I have no idea how I maintained my sanity being in the exact same room teaching the same kids every day. Now, don’t get me wrong – with a great group of kids it is bearable, enjoyable, even fun. But with even one unfortunate assembly of students in a particular class, or a whole schedule of them, one begins to dread coming to school. As a sub, I may teach 4th grade one day, high school sculpture and ceramics the next, and watch an episode of Mythbusters 5 times in a row the day after that.

That brings up another reason why subbing has suited me pretty well. It allows me to be in control (assuming I get calls, which have been less frequent this year). If there is a class or even a school that is just not a good experience for me, I don’t have to go back. Being picky has its opportunity cost, but I never feel trapped. It fits well into my quest for time freedom. I’ve had a lot of dental appointments since this summer, and these are easy to work around. If I want to have lunch with Rene, or some of the boys from youth group at their schools, I can.

The number one reason, though, is that over these years I have formed relationships with so many terrific people. Many of the principals, teachers, and secretaries (the most valuable resource in the world) know me by name. I can tell when someone has transferred to a new building. I know who to say hi to in many buildings. I am just as eager as any full time district employee to learn the identity of the new superintendent or middle school principal.

Topping it all is being able to learn the names, personalities, interests, and uniqueness of tons of students throughout the district. This year’s seniors were 5th graders when I started subbing. I love it when students I remember from years before call me by name. This may be in their school (not always in their classroom – it’s often in the halls), but it is just as likely to be at Kohl’s or AMC. Of course, this year’s 8th graders at California Trail, and the 6th graders at Pleasant Ridge Elementary, hold a very special place for me since I spent so much time with them a couple years back. But it even makes me smile when kids I don’t especially recall can tell me the names of their teachers from years before that I have subbed for.

As Dave Ramsey says, your only security is your ability to leave the cave, kill something, and drag it home. Subbing is challenging, and it will not be part of my income portfolio forever. It will be a sad day for me, though, when I finally have to walk away.

Some shameless plugging… The new little video we put together for our “Tube Yourself” contest is now up at www.youtube.com/cccroot1. Sorry, the contest is only open to 6th-8th graders at CCC. The “rules” video as well as the raving fans” video are both on the podcast (be sure to subscribe). Also, if you know of a sports team or engaged couple that would be interested in a feature video at a reduced rate in exchange for releasing it as a demo, please pass my info along. My phone and email are on the main page of the innovideo creative website.

One other thing. Please visit my personal website at www.andrewburden.com. It’s mostly a launchpad to the various ways you may already connect with me. There is also a page devoted to my nascent (but decades-old) singing career. (The other day at California Trail, 8th graders I had never met before were asking me to sing. They had found out from the Pleasant Ridge kids, who have heard me sing several times.) American Idol here I come! Or maybe America’s Got Talent.

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About andrew burden

andrew blogs about being a volunteer youth leader, teacher, video editor, husband, friend, child of God
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