Freelance Teaching

I became a freelance teacher, aka substitute, 12 years ago. Fresh out of college, I was planning to be a teacher, but thought I’d sub until I got my credential (another year of college…blah). So I applied online, took the test, never got arrested, and BAM! Hired.


In the beginning it was a stepping stone, a way to make money until I got a teaching job, but I quickly learned two things:

  1. Subbing is really fun.
  2. Teaching is really hard.

Like, really hard. You’re basically parenting 30 children at the same time, but instead of them playing outside, watching cartoons, or slaughtering zombies on the xbox, you have to get them to silently stare at you while you teach them how to read. All of them. At the same time. It’s impossible, but these people do it. EVERY DAY. IN A ROW. My husband and mother-in-law teach high school and my sister-in-law was EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR!!


So I’ve seen first hand how much time and energy goes into being a QUALITY full-time teacher. Todd grades papers on Sundays and worries about struggling students at night. The “parenting” doesn’t stop at the ring of the bell.

Subbing on the other hand has its perks…

Number one, obviously, is that I only work when I want to. I can take a month off or work everyday of the week. I schedule jobs online and cancel them at will. I’ve literally never met my boss. The only tiny catch is that you don’t get paid if you don’t work. I’m still trying to find a way around this.

Number two, I get to experience the fun parts of teaching without all the work. They pretty much give me a script and all the worksheets. I don’t take home papers to grade or deal with discipline the next day. I just stroll in and let the good times roll.

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Thirdly, I’m basically a celebrity at our school. When I first started, I subbed at every school in our district and tried every grade, but for the last several years I’ve been pretty much exclusive to my boys’ school.  So all the kids know me. When I walk across the blacktop to get to the junior high portables, the little kids smile, wave, and run to get a hug. “Hi, Mrs. Baker!!” “Hi, Mrs. Cupcake!”

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Also, I get to spy on my children. Every once in a while, 7th grade SSR coincides with 1st grade recess or 3rd grade lunch and I peek through the blinds while the class is reading quietly. I watch Miles race to the playground and hang from the monkey bars for 15 consecutive minutes, and I see Jonah playing soccer on the grass. Priceless…kinda.


Finally, the best part of subbing is the hot lunches. For $4.50 I get to relive my childhood and experience the delectable dishes I was denied as a cold lunch kid.


I’ve taught 8th grade laguage arts enough to know that any good argument addresses the opposition…

So, it doesn’t pay extremely well, monetarily. Warm fuzzies, yes. Cold hard cash, meh.

im poor

Todd has taught summer school every single year since he started teaching to compensate for my summers off. He’s also worked most Christmas and Easter breaks. He makes that sacrifice so I can be a sub celebrity and spy on our kids. Obviously worth it, moving on.

Sometimes subbing can be a challenge. “Spirited” students often choose to derail a lesson and create general havoc, especially when their teacher is absent. Sometimes the dissent spreads and you have mutiny afoot. When this occurs, it’s important to remain calm. At this point you grab the nearest Expo marker and with poise and perfect penmanship, you write “Minutes Off Recess” on the board. Before you get to the last “S” you can hear a pin drop. You have won the battle, but not the war. It’s 9:05 am. By lunch recess you’re gonna need some glue therapy.

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Another downside to freelance teaching is the constant exposure to germs. I’m around 30 new snotty, sneezy kids everyday and I’m often touching the same things that their sick teacher just handled. A first grade classroom is the germatic equivalent to an incubated petri dish of bacteria. I have to confiscate questionable items everyday, like this slime…


One time I had to take away a 7th graders lucky rabbit’s foot because it was distracting him and his buddies. AFTER he placed it in my hand I realized what the big deal was. It was a FRESH rabbit’s foot. He literally cut the foot off a dead rabbit the day before. It still had bloody flesh at the end.

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When you’re not handling specimen containers or amputated animal appendages, you’re a friendship counselor:

“They said they don’t want to be my friend anymore!” the little girl cries.

(Well that’s because you’re a tattle-telling little bitch) “Oh, I’m sorry! I’m sure they didn’t mean it. I’ll talk to them. And don’t be sad, I’m your friend”

Or you’re the conspiracy confidant:


Or after consulting the answer key multiple times, you have to maintain a straight face while explaining to 8th graders how “dic,”  pronounced “DICK,” is the root word of contradict:


There’s never a dull moment in freelance teaching. It’s the blessing and the curse. One of these days I’ll probably accept a full-time position. I’ll make 4x as much money and do 10x the work. Next time, I’ll tell you all about my worst sub day ever. If you’re interested. It’s kinda hard to tell…


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