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any problems with school secretaries?



I have subbed at a lot of schools and usually find that the secretaries are friendly, well organized, and quick to send me on my way to class. However, this is not the case in one school I sub at. Whenever I sub I like to get to the school early so I have plenty of time to prepare myself for the class. At this particular school I come just as early as I would for any other school. Myself and the other subs often have to stand around for quite awhile in a very small, cramped office waiting for our assignments. I see her casually talking with others about personal matters, or doing the same on the phone. She meanders around for quite awhile seemingly oblivious to a crowd of 4-5 subs as she collects her thoughts. Then she starts the paperwork for the sub assignments and looks for the room keys. Eventually we are called back to her desk where she makes small-talk with each sub as she completes the paperwork. The last time I was there I did not get my assignment until 1 minute before the bell for class to begin. After picking up the kids from the playground I had to have them show me where the classroom was and then sit tight while I looked for lesson plans, etc. to begin the day. This is becoming the norm for me at this school.

I like this school for various reasons and prefer to sub there, but I'm angry at this secretary and want to do something about it. Has anyone else had to deal with this? How did you handle it? I can't afford to make waves with this person, but thought about an anonymous letter to the Principal, who is new to the school and may not be aware of the problem. But how do I get a letter to the Principal covertly?


New Member

If you wanted to get an anonymous letter to the principal, I'd probably send it through the mail. You do not have to sign it or put a return address on the envelope.

Do you have a supervisor? Is there a person in charge of subs? In my district there is. If I had a problem at a school, I would call the supervisor and explain the problem to her. It would then be her responsibility to take care of it (hopefully she would).

Emma K

Not a wise move

Any administrator worth his or her salt will not put much weight in an anonymous letter. It could easily seem like it comes from a bitter troublemaker with a personal grudge against the secretary. If you can't say it nicely, with your name signed on the bottom to show that you are sincere in your criticisms/concerns, then I would say don't send the letter. Hand delilver it, if you must, to his hands directly or send it marked "personal and confidential" but please rethink sending an anonymous letter. At best it will be dismissed and at worst, if someone finds out somehow that you wrote it, it will reflect badly on you.


Have seen this also

I feel your frustration...I have been in several schools where the secretaries have blatantly ignored me...an "I'll be right with you" or some sort of acknowledgement would be nice. I was in one school a few weeks ago where the secretary literally chewed me out because everyone was in a morning staff meeting and she did not have time to give me the keys to my locked classroom that I was subbing in...I was not even early, but on time. In the end, I tracked down the custodian who kindly let me in.

I feel as if secretaries are a good indication of how you will be treated at a school...they are usually the first person you see and also a major source of first impressions; however, sometimes, you just have to deal with crabby people. I say kill them with kindness: give her a compliment or bring her a treat. She will remember you next time and be more likely to help you quickly than ignoring you.

I would not put anything in writing that can come back to bite you in the behind later. If you think you could speak to the principal in confidence and just be very open and honest about how you feel and how frustrating it is, without fear of repercussions, then go for it. If not, grin and bear it, or cross that school off your list. Good luck!


New Member
slow secretary

I agree that if you're going to send this letter and you want it to be anonymous to just address it to the principal and drop it in the mail w/no return address. Unfortunately, if there is no response you might just have to plan to get to that school earlier since you want to continue working there. I would cheerily explain why I'm there so early with comments like:

"I like to get into the classroom early, before the bell, so I can get ready for the day."
"It's so nice to get into the classroom so I can read the plans and know what I have to do in the morning. It's nice to be able to take my time and not rush around!" (she should appreciate that, ha, ha)
Maybe she'd get the point.
Of course if you did that after sending the letter in she might suspect you, so I guess that wouldn't be a good thing... :-)
I hope it gets worked out!



Senior Member

Thank you everyone for your help. I think I agree that an anonymous letter might not get the results that I need. As for getting there early; believe me I get there plenty early, but that has no effect.


good luck

Hey Good luck to you - I guess reading your post made me feel very appreciative of my own experiences. I would say 9 times out of 10 the school I sub in has a friendly face on the front line who immediately directs me not only to my classroom but to the staffroom, washrooms and photocopier. I have been pleasantly surprised as well by the occasional principal and/or VP who have introduced themselves and directed me to my classroom.

I appreciate that you like that school to sub in... I hope this issue resolves itself for you. Let us know!


Senior Member
NOW I know it could be worse

I'm pretty sure complaining to the district's personnel office would be a waste of time, plus I'm hoping to get hired in this district when I complete my credential so I don't want my name out there as a troublemaker. But a funny thing happened at the end of this week in the other district I work for; I had the absolute worst experience with office staff, teachers, and the teacher I was subbing for - so now I know things could be much worse than a secretary who gets me off to a late start. I let that teacher know exactly how I felt about her treatment of me. I will never be back at that school again.

Mrs. Olson

As A School Secretary...

I'm sorry to hear of your frustration. I am a school secretary and have to assist substitute teachers as part of my job, and can see things from both points of view. My frustration is that I don't always know WHO is coming to substitute until I arrive at work -- sometimes the substitutes tell me who they're working for because I have not received notification yet! I wish I could have notification the day before so that I have time to get the paperwork completed before the substitute shows up. There have been several occasions in which I have given the substitute their assignment for the day and asked them to come back when they have time to complete the paperwork. That way, neither of us is feeling rushed and the substitute has time to review lesson plans, locate teacher guides, and prepare for the day.

The district I work for requires the substitute to arrive 30-minutes prior to the start of classes and it would look very odd to have a group of substitutes waiting around the office until a minute before the bell rings! Where is the Principal while you're waiting around?

When I enter the school office, substitutes are my #1 priority because I have actually been required to make photocopies, print off lesson plans, or even contact the regular teacher about the lack of lesson plans! That kind of stuff can't wait!!

I try to be friendly and helpful to all substitutes, because I know they have a tough job to do. If you experience this situation again, I would ask to speak to the Principal (do it in a friendly way so the secretary doesn't know you're going to complain about her. "Is Mr. Jones available? I'd like to tell him how much I enjoy substituting at this school.")

Oh, don't forget that when you do run into those exceptional secretaries (friendly, helpful, efficient), let the Principal know!! We like to hear about the positive things we do too, not just what we may need to improve on!

Good Luck :-)


New Member
mrs olsen deserves an award

i too, in my short career as a sub, have been treated in such a manner. when i first arrive in the office i am always ignored and have learned to just go searchng for the sub book myself. usually this prompts someone to ask me if i need help and then i get my room number and that is about it. i hate starting the day off with such a negative vibe, especially when i come in pleasant and patient.
my only advice is, don't take it personally. the secretaries work with SO much of the traffic coming in and out of school and it isn't a reflection on you.
i just wish more secretaries could be like mrs olsen. she deserves an award!!!