Op-Ed: Teacher shortages leave students a mixed bag of substitute teachers


Comedy Central

Key and Peele’s skit “Substitute Teacher” hits home with students who have seen more subs this year, due to the pandemic.

In the midst of the Omicron surge, teachers are constantly in and out of school from the exposure to hundreds of sniffling kids with their noses so kindly out for everyone to admirably look at, or from being sick themselves. This teacher shortage has put a huge strain on HISD’s certified substituting staff.

Even though Superintendent Millard House has promised to have certified teachers teaching students, the shortage has caused the district to take shortcuts on this. This fallen promise has sent HISD to states as far as Nevada to fill in these spots. HISD is even using bonus incentives to beg current teachers to stay.

But let’s face it, the push to stay in-person is obviously the right decision even if there aren’t enough substitutes to swoop in to take sick teachers’ place. That’s because kids can’t make friends over the computer. They need to be able to see their peer’s eyes in person and imagine the bottom portion of their face to foster a real connection. When they do get to take off their masks at lunch, COVID is so generous to take a break and let everyone eat in enclosed spaces.

But COVID doesn’t stop for gym class! The most important part of the PE curriculum in 2022 is being able to run a mile with your mask sucked halfway down your throat as you gasp for air a quarter of a mile in.

In efforts to curve the need for substitutes, HISD’s distribution of antibacterial wipes can get the job done. Strategically placed at desks in classrooms, the wipes are 99.999% effective at fighting off germs—when used. Not to mention, the spaced-out hallways during the passing period leaves students with a generous two centimeters of space between them and the kid who is on a three-day waiting list for a PCR. 

But when the desk cleaning and hallway spacing don’t work, we are left to turn to our dwindling substitute staff. The criteria for becoming a substitute? Let’s look at Carnegie’s latest memorable sub. He was able to master the ever so challenging task of ruining instant ramen noodles and eating them with the finest utensils known to man—purple and pink Papermate Flair Felt Tip Pens: stolen from the desk of the absent teacher of course.

Another thing on this sub’s reliability checklist was probably the most important criteria for becoming a substitute teacher: the ability to perfectly recite the skit that inspired so many people into this profession in the first place—Key and Peele’s “Substitute Teacher.” One might consider this substitute to be possibly even overqualified for his line of work. 

I think it is safe to question the reliability of the substitute staff replacing teachers on their off days when a substitute assigned 20 students to retrieve two boxes of pizza for a class of 30. Or when a substitute handed out the clearly laid out worksheet for a class before digging through a teacher’s desk to hand out a quiz that was scheduled for later that week. Maybe don’t explain the Monte Hall riddle, for 20 minutes of the 45 minute class period as well? 

Substitute teachers at Carnegie become family. Well at least close enough to family to the point where it’s acceptable to look through the teacher-they-are-subbing-for’s family photos. 

Besides the far more critical qualifications mentioned above to become a substitute teacher; HISD also requires prospective subs to have a Bachelors’s degree and attend a 2.5 -3 hour training program called Associate Teacher Orientation.  Lil Wayne’s Bachelor’s degree paired with the Associate Teacher Orientation program could mean we could potentially get a lesson on How to Love.