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Substitute teaching as a model for ministry

Let’s face it, most churches in California simply can’t afford multiple full-time staff. So unless you are a senior, lead, or solo pastor, there is a good chance you are looking at a bivocational ministry. While that might seem like “second best,” it could actually be a great advantage to a ministry, particularly to student ministry. One of the best options for a secular job for a student minister is substitute teaching. It provides decent income, has tremendous flexibility, and most importantly, it puts you in contact with students in a way most full-time ministers can’t begin to match. And it’s really not that difficult to qualify.

Tanya Norton is a pastor’s wife and substitute teacher. She has provided some research into how to qualify as a substitute teacher as well as some of the positives and negatives of the experience.

After my first year of full-time teaching, I found myself without a contract for the next year.  I decided I would apply to be a substitute teacher for the time being.  I found that the process of becoming a substitute was fairly easy, although there was some cost involved 

The state of California has three basic requirements for substitute teachers.  

  1. The teacher must hold a bachelor's degree in any field of study.  
  2. The teacher must pass the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST).  This test assesses the candidate’s abilities in reading, writing and mathematics.  It is administered approximately six times each year in locations throughout California.  You may take the test multiple times, if needed, to pass it, however you will need to pay the registration fee each time.  Once you have passed all three portions of the CBEST, the score and passing status is permanent.  
  3. The final requirement for substitute teaching in California is a valid credential.  If you do not hold a valid Teaching Credential, you can apply for an Emergency 30-day Substitute Teaching Permit.  This renewable permit is valid for one year and allows the holder to substitute in any preschool-through-grade-12 classroom. However, there is a restriction of 30 days per school for any one teacher.  While these are the basic requirements, other steps must be taken.

In order to receive either a Teaching Credential or the Emergency Permit, the candidate must

  1. Be fingerprinted for the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) to receive a Certificate of Clearance.  Each district is also required to have the candidate fingerprinted as a prerequisite to employment.  If you plan to substitute in more than one school district, you will need to be fingerprinted for each individual district to fulfill the requirement that each district keep your fingerprints on file.  Fingerprinting for the CCTC and the school district can be done at the same time, usually at the county sheriff's office. 
  2. Have proof of the absence of medical conditions that would prevent the teacher from performing his/her duties.  This will include a negative tuberculosis test and either a medical exam or a signed affidavit from the teacher attesting to his/her ability to perform the duties. 
  3. As a final step, many districts require a signed Oath of Allegiance to be kept on file.  
  4. Besides the state requirements, my district also requires each substitute teacher to complete a one-day training program before entering the classroom.

Unfortunately, the fees for the credential applications, the fingerprinting and the medical requirements can be costly. 

I have found many advantages to being a substitute teacher.  For me, the primary advantage is working with students and being able to touch their lives, if just for a day.  I also enjoy the knowledge that I am allowing the permanent teacher a day to rest, take care of personal business or gain additional training, all of which will make him/her a more effective teacher.  A substitute teacher also has the ability of flexibility in the schedule.  I have found this to be very useful on days that I need to take care of my own children or parents.  Although not every class is a pleasure to teach, the substitute has the choice of whether to go back to a difficult class.  When you leave at the end of the day, you can leave any problems or frustrations in the classroom and not have to deal with them any further.  Each substitute teacher finds his/her own pleasures in the job.

One of the greatest disadvantages is the unreliability of steady work.  Some weeks come with many job opportunities, while other weeks are very sparse.  Teaching in another teacher's classroom can be difficult.  While the substitute does not have to prepare the lessons, it can be hard to teach a lesson that was not designed to fit your teaching style.  Sometimes the instructions are not exceptionally clear and the substitute must make his/her way with limited knowledge of the final objective.  Classroom management can also be difficult when you do not have the relationship built up with the students to garner their respect.

Once you have determined that you would enjoy substitute teaching, you then need to contact your local school district.  The personnel at the district can then direct you to the next steps you need to take.  In some cases, the substitutes are hired by the individual districts, while in others, the county department of education hires for all the districts in the county.  Whether it is at the local level or the county level, the personnel there will serve as the liaison between you and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing for the required credentials, permits and fingerprinting services.  They will provide the guidance you need to complete both the state and local requirements for the job.  Once you’ve completed all the steps, you will find that substitute teaching is a blessing for the substitute, the permanent teacher and the students.  

Visit the Websites below for more information.  

[Note: California Southern Baptist Convention has no affiliation with any of the web sites listed below. Inclusion of any web site does not constitute endorsement my California Southern Baptist Convention or any of its agents. Visit all web sites at your own discretion.]

Click here for a printable version of this article (pdf file).

Last Published: June 25, 2009 5:20 PM