Customer Service and How to Serve Substitute Teachers
“Customer service” and “substitute teachers” are two phrases that do not often go hand-in-hand. But they absolutely should! Creating a positive work culture for your substitute teachers, using technology to enhance their job experience, and recognizing substitute teachers for exceptional performance are three ways to deliver the customer service your substitute teachers deserve. We’re going to examine how providing outstanding customer service for your substitute teachers will not only attract the right teachers for your substitute pool but also engage your substitute teachers in positive ways. When your substitute teachers’ overall job satisfaction is soaring, it’s evident where it matters most - in the classroom with our kids!
School and District Culture Affects Substitute Teachers
In order to understand how the culture of a school or district affects substitute teachers, it’s necessary for us to first recognize the importance of company culture for any organization. In an article on Forbes, there are three main reasons why an organization's culture is important. Adapting these reasons to substitute teaching creates a clear picture of how a strong culture can benefit substitute teachers. Let’s take a look at the three pillars of your school’s culture.
- Identity - Values focused on in your schools and districts
- Retention - Having a strong identity that attracts the substitutes you want to hire and engages them in a sense of belonging
- Image - When your employees are treated well, it is carried forward through your students
When your school or district is excelling at creating a vibrant, attractive and engaging culture, you’ll attract and retain the substitute teachers who value being a part of an organization with clear and defined culture and vision. Let’s dive into a few ways you can improve your company culture.
“The best schools are leading with mission, purpose, and mentorship.” - Erin Werra
First, let’s take a look at your digital footprint. This includes your website and social media for your school. What information is included in these pages? Do you have a clear and defined mission for your students and employees? Here’s a big one - are you staying up to date and using consistent updates in your pages? If your information is outdated, what message do you think you’re sending to potential substitutes for your schools? Creating a digital-first impression that excites and invites your substitutes is definitely a way to serve substitute teachers.
Another way to create a desirable company culture is by ensuring that substitute teachers are well prepared for any classroom they may enter. While training our substitutes is the first step to being well-prepared, training our full-time teachers on preparing for a substitute is right there, too!
One of the most reported frustrations of substitute teachers is disorganized and vague lesson plans. This problem can be easily solved by creating a school or district-wide training and standardized process on how to prepare a classroom for a substitute teacher. By ensuring our full-time teachers are trained on how to effectively prepare for a substitute teacher, we are taking much of the apprehension away from our subs. When a substitute teacher knows that YOUR school or district has a subbing process in place, they are more likely to take jobs at your schools.
This standardized substitute process could include a standard lesson plan form that is required to be filled out completely by the full-time teacher. It could require a folder in the same place in every classroom of school maps, schedules, seating charts, and emergency plans. Teachers can be required to leave an outline of the behavior system in place for each classroom. Information of school employees who can assist the sub if needed is also a great list to give to subs. Think of what your substitutes have needed in the past, and ensure they are walking into a classroom with all of those needs met.
Using Technology to Serve Substitute Teachers
Almost gone are the days of paper trails and phone calls down a list. Substitutes are tired of receiving calls at 11 pm or 4 am to fill a job. They’re frustrated with missing work opportunities because of a missed phone call. They’re confused by all of the different processes for each school and district they work for. They’re unsure of how to check in to work, who to talk to and where to go in the school. This is the old way, and we’re not serving our substitute teachers by continuing down this path. Technology is a requirement to stay up-to-date and current in providing outstanding customer service to our substitute teachers.
Using absence management software, such as our Ready2Teach software, will serve your substitute teachers in a big and noticeable way. Having a standard process for being notified of, viewing and accepting an available job is what substitutes now desire. Using an app to check-in and out the exact same way, no matter what school a substitute goes to in your district, gives our subs more confidence walking into their assignments. Substitute teachers having the ability on their phones to keep track of their hours, view reports for their pay, create their schedule and message teachers directly with any questions they may have is serving our substitutes in a big way. Ensuring your full-time teachers have software that allows them to take time off, view their absences, request permissions and post a substitute job need immediately streamlines entire processes and saves time and money for administrators.
Using software like Ready2Teach also provides great filters for substitutes who are looking for specific jobs. Maybe a retired English teacher is one of your subs, but she only substitutes to English classes. When she can filter jobs to match what she’s looking for, she’s more likely to find and accept jobs that fill her criteria. When you need jobs filled, using technology to your advantage is going to propel your fill-rates. Filters can also be used to send job openings to your favorite substitute teachers. Subs who are familiar with your school, students and processes have an immediate advantage for success when they walk into your school.
Creating and Implementing Substitute Teacher Recognition Programs
Going above and beyond is a personal choice, and people who do this are usually doing it for their own personal satisfaction. But who doesn’t appreciate recognition for performing well at work?! Just because our substitute teachers are not full-time employees does NOT mean that they do not deserve recognition for the difficult job they do! Creating and implementing substitute teacher recognition programs will absolutely serve our substitute teachers.
The easiest way we can celebrate our substitutes is by recognizing Substitute Teacher Appreciation Week. This is always celebrated the first full week of school in May. Going out of our way to acknowledge our substitute teachers during this time is the priority. Our subs deserve a week to celebrate their unique job - a job that is required for our schools to function successfully. Involving students, parents, teachers and school administrators and employees in celebrating this week can help substitute teachers feel appreciated and valued. The ways we show appreciation to our full-time teachers are the ways we can show appreciation to our substitute teachers, too.
Creating incentive programs is another way to serve substitute teachers. Start with a “Substitute of the Month” spotlight program. Pick a platform to recognize your substitute teacher or teachers who went above and beyond that month. Instagram, Facebook or school websites are great places for this recognition. Give them a little gift to go with their achievement. When you post this acknowledgment on a public platform, substitute teachers can share their achievements, too!
Frederick County Public Schools initiated a “Substitute Teacher of the Year” program. This program is successful in many ways. First, the substitutes have to be nominated by the school staff. This helps to foster environments of inclusivity between substitute teachers and full-time employees. Second, substitute teachers have something to work towards for the year. Third, recognition is always a way to keep people engaged with their work and eager to continue performing well.
Having the goal of creating a phenomenal customer-service experience for our substitute teachers will prove to serve your schools and districts, too. Creating pleasant experiences from start to finish for your substitute teachers will ensure they feel valued, appreciated and understood. When we listen to the problems they face, attack them head-on and create manageable solutions, we’re ensuring that we’re providing solutions for the substitute teacher shortage, too. Reach out and let us know if your school is ready to serve your substitute teachers with state-of-the-art technology systems that will assist in making your school and district more successful in filling your substitute needs!