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Do I Look Like a Secretary?

Mrs C

Junior Member
I'm thinking that what happened to me on Thursday is "sub abuse"! If there are any "regular" teachers reading this, I would love to get some input.

I subbed for a 4th grade teacher who left basically just page numbers in texts as plans. I was relieved to see that the students went to special first thing, especially as this district has adopted a new Math curriculum that does things in a radically different way (it's the University of Chicago program if anyone is familiar with "Math Boxes") & really requires prep time to walk into cold. There were also three Reading groups' worth of material to skim through, so I was glad to be able to review these things early in the day.

The teacher, however, had other plans for that prep period; she wrote "Use Library time to run off copies in red ELA book". Naturally I thought it was something required for the day's ELA lesson, or even maybe something she might be needing the next day. She had about 20 pages bookmarked, & wanted anywhere from 13 to 60 copies of each! Fascinated, I did the math; it was close to 600 copies she expected me to make in 40 minutes! The HARD way...flipping through the book & lying it down on the glass repeatedly. I was quite annoyed at these expectations that because I was a sub I did not need to have a "free" period.

Well, I thought, first things first here; prep for lessons was definitely a higher priority for me than doing 600 copies that were obviously not urgent. Then I got lucky; I discovered the faculty room copier had been down & there was now a line for it. So this teacher did not get any of her 600 copies done. She did, however, get a quality Math lesson for her students. :)

At any rate, I found this so bizarre a demand that the following day, in a different district, I brought this up in the faculty room conversation. A regular teacher interrupted with "I couldn't help overhearing, I'm one of those 4th grade teachers who leaves things for subs to copy as well, it's not like you had anything else to do"! I find that statement equally bizarre; do regular teachers really expect that subs don't require any prep time at all? I did tell her that is what I used my prep period FOR...preparing for my lessons! :)


Full Member
Secretarial services

I agree with you that this is outrageous! It certainly has happened to me! I just laugh, make sure my prep is done, and if it's near the end of the day, my clean-up, note to the teacher, etc., my coffee break, and THEN, if I have time, I do the secretarial work!

Then I leave a note saying, "Sorry I didn't have time to finish the copying."

I think some teachers want to be sure they get the district's money's worth! Sometimes I feel like slave labor.

I really don't mind doing a little bit of that stuff if I have time. But I've had the outrageous requests, too. I just do what I can and don't sweat it.

But I do think twice if that teacher requests me again.

And none have ever not requested me because I didn't finish their copying!


Senior Member

I haven't run into that particular situation, but I have had my share of situations in which I was taken advantage of. Luckily I am in an area that is extremely short of subs. There is so much work available that if a school makes a habit of screwing around with me I cross them off my list and won't accept any more jobs there.

And I love the the teacher's comment in lunchroom. I bet she often wonders why they just can't keep good subs.


Senior Member
Think about it

Have these teachers no memory of subbing. You are not familiar with the text or curriculum of every grade in a district. I would prefer a sub in my room to take time and learn material and present it well instead of being my personal slave for the prep time.

Marie from PA

a teacher

No way!!!!!!!

I would never expect a sub to make copies for me during any time. That's my job or the the TA's responsibility. I would much prefer the sub get acaquainted with my lessons, the room, and the kids. If I need that many copies for the next day I'm not doing a good job at planning anyway. I'm sorry you went through that- but unfortunately it will happen again. However, one word of caution: You probably shouldn't discuss another school, teacher, or assignment (even if you don't mention names) out loud in another assignment. It just is not good practice and some teachers may feel that they can't trust you. Sometimes the network is closer than you think. Good Luck to you!


New Member
I agree

I agree, I wouldn't talk in the staff room about issues, unless I was asking another sub of their experience, and making sure we are not overheard. I find that if there is an unscheduled hour and the teacher wants some copies made, I will make what I can, but in most cases, they are grateful for whatever you were able to accomplish. I wouldn't think they would be upset that you could not finish all of their request. Like your situation, it does sound pretty outrageous, I would just cross them off my list. Eventually, they WILL have a hard time finding decent subs.


Senior Member

That is completely ridiculous. I would never leave that many copies to be made. Once in a blue moon, when I am actually sick, there may be one or two pages (worksheets) that may need copying. But, I also leave a note that says if you can't get to it don't worry about it. I can't believe she wanted you to make 600 copies. When I was a sub, I wouldn't even have attempted it.


Copy jobs and COPY JOBS!

I don't mind running off copies if I have time and I'm asked to do so. Most of the time, this isn't a big issue. I agree with the others about the teacher for whom you subbed--she was being quite unreasonable.

I have been asked on occasion to do some major copy jobs, and one memory from last spring stands out. The teacher wanted packets made with several two-sided copies, but I really wasn't sure which pages were supposed to be attached to each other (the directions were a little unclear). I asked other teachers for their opinions, and they weren't sure either. The teacher wanted me to have the copier sort and staple (I hadn't done this in a long time), and I honestly couldn't remember how to do it. The teacher said in her note that if I wasn't sure how, I should ask another teacher. Well, the other teachers who came in and out were in such a rush that they didn't want to be bothered. I also felt guilty about taking so long on the machine myself when I knew that other teachers also had things to run off. I interrupted my job several times so that others could also use it. Furthermore, the copier was low on toner, and it wasn't running at its best. To make a long story short, I got all the pages copied, but I ended up doing a lot of stapling by hand and staying after school to finish.

I wonder how other teachers in a school feel when a sub ties up the copy machine for long periods of time to finish a big job. If there are any regular teachers reading this, I'd like to hear their opinions.


Senior Member

I have to admit that it is irritating to have to wait in line for a sub to figure out the copy machine. I usually just help them out and make the copies for them...it goes so much faster. What really bothers me are the subs who come in early and don't get their prep work done. We have a few this year who come in and coffee clotch (sp?) in the morning instead of preparing for their day. It's these same people who come into the copy room all frantic and ask to cut the line because they only have a few minutes before they pick up the kids. I never let them go ahead of me. I don't have anything against subs...just unprofessional ones.


Senior Member
"regular" teacher's view

1. it was not appropriate to leave that much of a detailed copy job for you.
2. it was not appropriate to leave a big job when the teacher had left detailed/complicated plans for you to "decipher".
3. teachers leave copy jobs (and other jobs like grading/filing/ cutting/laminating) because those are activities they would normally get done during their preps--they are just trying to make up for that "missed" time. (i'm bummed when i have to be gone on a good prep day!)
i expect substitutes to do a good job with my lessons; if i've left something extra for them to do and it gets done--that's frosting; if it doesn't get done, that's okay.


Senior Member
Thank you Tia!

I actually appreciate when the "regular" teachers leave optional jobs for me. Sometimes, it's SO fricking boring that having something to DO is appreciated! I'd rather DO something than sit around all day. If I don't have things to DO, the day is about one billion hours long. I'd really, frankly, rather deal with problem kids all day than deal with...nothing.

It is truly a fine line. I don't want teachers to think I am going to do their s&*t work BUT if they have some stuff to do, heck, I am there, might as well! The minutes go faster if I am busy.

But I DO think the "copy" work is difficult, as stated previously. Each copy machine is different, and walking in, I have to bug someone about how it works. THEN, there are the regular teachers waiting for ME, and I don't want to get in their way. THEY deserve time on the copy machine, definitely. If everything works well and my prep period is light and no one is around much, then yeah, great, I WILL make 600 copies. No problem! Better than sitting around bored. BUT if I am getting in the way of people doing their regular jobs....frankly, I am better off sitting in the classroom being bored....For the system, it's better for me to just lay low and not get in the way of people on a rush to do thier job.

I truly think, the more I work, that there is such a dividing line between the regular teachers and the subs. No one's fault. They are busting their, uh, well, asses, all the time, and then I come in - with every great intention....but frankly, how much time do you wanna train the temp?

Ultimately, what I think is ideal (and what I am workiing towards) is for the regular teachers to develop a stable of subs who they work with and can train and cultivate. If I taught every day, I'd want "temps" who progressively knew more what was happening, rather than one after another person who was clueless.

My two cents.

Mr. G

New Member
I can't recall ever having such an experience. If I did, honestly, I would laugh at such an absurd request and ignore it. I'm there to teach kids, not play 5 rounds of "let's jam the copier." Pfft...

Mrs C

Junior Member
The Luck of the Draw

LOL LOL LOL I have just been assigned to sub for this teacher again on Friday...wonder if she got anyone to make her 600 copies yet, or if they are still there waiting for me??

Mrs C

Junior Member
600 Copies Done & Dusted!

Apparently this teacher was out again two days before I came back in for her. Tacked up near her desk was the other sub's note which stated that the copies had been completed. I guess they weren't terribly urgent if she could wait almost a week for another sub to get them done. Busy work!


"regular" teacher too

I think that what you were asked to do was way out of line. For me, personally, just having a sub being in the class is so wonderful that I would never ask that person to do anything like that. I teach 6th grade and I know that they are awful for subs so matter how much I tell them that subs are guest teachers and need to be respected. In fact, I hate being out on non-prep days because I feel that it's worse for the sub. I feel that the prep period should be a complete break for them because they had to deal with 12 year olds all day!!!! My prep work is my work--subs aren't secretaries or copiers or even paper graders. All that I hope for is that the sub has a stress-less day and that the room doesn't look like a tornado hit it. I completely respect the job of a sub, I don't envy that job. To come in to a room of 12 year olds when they know their teacher is out and it's fair game......my goodness, the sub needs that 40 minutes(oh-soooo long) to just relax. Especially, earning no benefits. I admire subs and am happy they are wiiling to do the job when I can't. God Bless you all! :)

Mrs C

Junior Member

Wish more teachers felt the way Margaret does! :)

Yup...that was the one with the bio!


Senior Member
I can't believe that

I've been a teacher for 11 years and it has never even OCCURRED to me to ask my sub to make copies--of anything. If I don't have copies on hand, the sub won't be doing it, and as far as anything I need to get copied--if I'm not there, it just won't get done.

Of course, I'm a middle school teacher and often they have to throw subs into other classes during free periods because they're short, so I don't ever know if my sub will even have a free period that day. But my copies is my responsibility--not theirs.

When I did sub I was asked to grade papers once, asked to make copies once, and asked to write a lesson plan once when the teacher had been out with the flu all week. All those were kind of strange requests in my area, but I did it without complaining because I was hoping to get into teh district.


Admin. Assistant (aka School Secretary)

I totally agree that asking a substitute teacher to make 600 photocopies is extremely out of line! However, I really take offense to the fact that you felt that what you were asked to do by the "regular" teacher was secretarial work, or as you put it, "Do I look like a Secretary?"

I am a school secretary and take great pride in my responsibilities. Secretaries are NOT responsible for making photocopies for teachers any more than a substitute teacher is responsible for that "job". I don't know of many school secretaries who would take time out to photocopy for a "regular" teacher, but would definitely do it for a substitute teacher!

Perhaps if you are asked to do this again, you should send a note to the secretary with a student requesting that the secretary make the necessary copies -- if the secretary is smart, she will report this to the Principal and guarantee that the "regular" teacher will be better prepared for a substitute in the future and not take advantage of him/her.