The Life of an Occasional Teacher

Many of you know us as supply or substitute teachers, those professionals who replace absent teachers. Here in Ontario, Canada, we are labelled occasional teachers.

I really don’t like that term. It makes our title sound as if we are occasionally professional and when we really aren’t in the mood to teach, we are unprofessional. What it really means, of course, is that we may or may not get a job every day.

We are tied to our phones for much of our lives, waiting for the call. The calls might come the night before or as early as six in the morning. Often, we know well in advance what days we are teaching on because the teacher we are replacing has an upcoming workshop or appointment.

I have been lucky this past year. I have had three LTOs in a row: LTO stands for Long-Term Occasional, which means I’ve been replacing teachers who are on extended leave. For example, maternity leave.

teacher with students

Just after the Canadian Thanksgiving, I taught ESL (English as a Second Language) to primary, junior, and intermediate students for two weeks.

Immediately after, I taught Extended French to grade 7 students for three weeks.

And for the past month, I have been teaching a split grade 1 and 2 class.

Three different schools, three different assignments.

In my first year of occasional teaching, I taught at 40 different schools.

So you can see that the life of an occasional teacher is never dull.

Plus, I have had my share of experiences that are worth writing about.

Just last week, a grade 2 student asked me if there was a Santa Claus.

I pondered the question, then told her that some people believe in Santa Claus and some didn’t. “Like God,” I added.

“But God made us,” she said innocently.

I went on to tell her that I believed in Santa Claus, injecting in my head the many symbols that Santa represented for me.

This seemed to satisfy her.

So you can see: occasional teaching is always interesting.


About randycoates

Randy Coates graduated from the University of Waterloo with a bachelor of arts degree and went on to acquire his teacher’s certificate at the University of Western Ontario. He is currently an elementary teacher in the Toronto District Board of Education.
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