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Substitute Teacher by Day, Grandparent Always

Sam Ella  Debbie April 2009By Debra Karplus

You’re embarrassed to admit that when you were in school, you were one of the students who frequently played mean-spirited pranks on any substitute teacher who dare set foot into a classroom where you were present.  ‘Subs” appeared to be lower on the social status than the nerdiest of kids at school.  Even the fetal pig in sophomore biology class was treated better than the coolest of subs!

But, if you’re looking for something meaningful to do with your time in between visits with your grandchildren, where you can really make a difference in the life of a young person, and would welcome a bit of extra spending money in your wallet to buy your grandchildren “tchotchkes” (Yiddish, for little toys or knick-knacks), then you might consider becoming a substitute teacher.  Walk into the classroom with an air of confidence that speaks “I belong here”, and you will become a well-respected and effective “guest teacher” in any school building be it pre-kindergarten, elementary, middle, or high school.


Always, there’s a need for good substitute teachers.

Whether you want to be a substitute teacher or receive less pay but have less responsibility as a teacher’s aide; substitute as a clerical worker in the school office; sub in the school cafeteria or for the crossing guard; or, if holding the proper professional license, become a substitute school nurse; your talents and skills can be utilized at any public or private school.

Becoming a substitute teacher is generally easy to do.

Each of the fifty states has its own unique requirements of its aspiring substitute teachers. In Illinois, for example, having any kind of teacher training or college credits in education is not required.  What’s needed is a bachelor’s degree in virtually anything, college transcripts, a background check to assure that you are safe to work with children, and completion of a simple blood-borne pathogens training that makes you knowledgeable in case you’re in contact with blood, such as a student with a bloody nose, or other bodily fluids when at school.

Many states require more than that and others require less.  Search online to see what your specific state expects of people wanting to become substitute teachers.  Often, you apply directly through the school district where you want to be employed, rather than with the state licensing board.

Choice of when and where you work makes “subbing” congruent with grandparenting. 

If, for example, teaching students who are bigger than you sounds terrifying, then let your school district know that you’re not interested in working with high school students.  If Tuesday morning is your yoga day, you can make yourself unavailable to sub.  Or, if you’re headed out to Phoenix for a week in February to see your little ones, you simply tell you school district you’re unavailable during those days.  That type of flexibility is a reason many retirees love substitute teaching.

One of the hidden bonuses of subbing is that it gives you an additional connection with your school-aged grandchildren.  You’ll be able to talk about the Smart Board, the bullies at school, or compare gross stories about hot lunch at school.  Next time your nine year old granddaughter Emma asks you “Grandma, what do people do in the teacher’s lounge?” you’ll be able to engage in quite an interesting and detailed account of your break time as a substitute teacher.

It’s worth giving substitute teaching a try.  You may be pleasantly surprised how much you enjoy interacting with the students.  You’re guaranteed to come home each day with funny anecdotes, and truly you’ll have positive impact on the children in your classroom in a variety of ways.

Debra L Karplus 3x5 Author biography:  Debra Karplus is a licensed occupational therapist, teacher, and freelance writer for national magazines, baby boomer, and grandmother of three. She lives in a Midwestern college town.  She has been published in Grand Magazine in the past and is a featured columnist.  Learn more about her at https://debrakarplus.blogspot.com


Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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