Substitute teachers in the RCSD are a rich and untapped resource

Substitute teachers in the RCSD are a rich and untapped resource

She has since joined the Talker staff as our music critic

Substitute teachers collectively know the pulse of the RCSD. Traveling from school to school — and swapping stories and tips with the other nomads — they know which schools are “wild” and to be avoided if possible. They also see right away where positive improvements (as is often the case) have been made.

When I did some substituting — we prefer the term Guest Teacher — and was the D & C Make City Schools Better blogger — on occasions I shared with then Superintendent Bolgen Vargas what I was seeing and hearing.  The next Superintendent could also gain valuable insight from the collective wisdom of the substitute staff.

Today’s front page D & C story, Schools Scramble as Sub Pool Shrinks is a fitting moment to briefly talk about the RCSD substitutes: a rich and untapped resource. Throughout my travels, I met educators with years of background in the field who each brought unique talents and perspectives to the classrooms.

Last summer we endorsed Elizabeth Hallmark for the School Board based on her commitment to better using the talent pool of Guest Teachers, writing in the endorsement:

Having done my fair share of substitute teaching in the District, I was immediately impressed that Liz — unsolicited — talked in depth about a rich resource waiting to be fully tapped: the District’s hundreds of highly qualified substitute teachers many of whom have decades of experience and are experts in their fields.

Now on the Board, Liz has continued to advocate on behalf of substitutes.

As that Make City Schools Better blogger, I tried to go to every school in the District. Doing so was one of the most valuable experiences in my career. I came to believe more — not less — in the potential of the RCSD. (see City letter)

To readers and contributors, much thanks is only a very partial list of the great teachers — substitute and full time — I met along the way.

My favorite memory was showing in various classrooms the now-iconic Kay and Peele video on substitute teaching (that became School segregation and some satire). For a while, the sports show, Mike and Mike in The Morning, would use the A-A-Ron clip whenever they mentioned the Packer’s QB Aaron Rodgers. The video opened some illuminating conversations on racial perceptions.

Then there was floor hockey.

Once at Charlotte as P.E. teacher (everyone’s favorite assignment), I played basketball with the 9th graders. Wearing street shoes — not that it would have mattered — they totally demolished me, and I hurt my knee.

Later at East, P.E. teacher Mike Militello let me play floor hockey with the kids. In floor hockey, the East boys did not have an “urban advantage.” Actually, floor hockey was a staple in gym classes at Brighton High School. The JCC even has a Youth Floor Hockey League.

Well trained by BHS Coach Mepham, in both the morning and after lunch games, I totally schooled the boys. Wearing sneakers this time and scoring goal after goal — exultantly texting my friend Dean who had starred on the field hockey floor back in the day at BHS — it was as if Roland Williams with a stick was back on campus.


A young Wayne Gretsky in the making. (Inaugural Floor Hockey Lessons at CincyAfterSchool)

Rochester School Board candidate Liz Hallmark rightly and singularly sees substitute teachers as a rich and untapped resource

School segregation and some satire

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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