London school seeks bouncers to ‘cover’ kids

Substitute teachers have to be tough, writes Carolyn Bucior, author of Sub Culture, in the Huffington Post.

A north London school advertised for bouncers, ex-Marines, policemen, firemen, athletes and actors to supervise students when teachers are absent. The key was experience in crowd control.

New teacher contracts were limiting the number of hours that teachers were required to cover for absent colleagues and thus more outsiders were being hired to lead classrooms, U.S. style. In England, a traditional substitute teacher, called a “supply teacher,” possesses teaching credentials and earns as much as a regular teacher per day; this bouncer-filled position, called a “cover supervisor,” required no credentials and paid far less.

A Montana school laid off a music teacher who’d forgotten to renew his credential but offered to hire him back as a substitute for himself.

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  1. My daughter has had a substitute for her algebra I class for the past three weeks. There is no regular teacher. The class has degenerated into chaos. I would be delighted if a bouncer/ex-marine/fireman or anyone else who could maintain control was hired as the substitute.

    Algebra I knowledge would be nice, but at this point, classroom control is essential.

    On a related note, does anyone have any suggestions on how my daughter can learn algebra I without a teacher? For what it’s worth, she got A’s or A+’s all last year in pre algebra and got advanced on the STAR test. She is somewhat motivated, and understands she needs to learn it.

  2. Khan Academy videos at

  3. Deirdre Mundy says:

    Also, if you’re willing to work with her for about 15 minutes an evening, she can just work through a text book. Once you get the whole “balancing the equation and solving for a variable” thing down, Algebra 1 is pretty trivial.

    • Wally Katolik says:

      @ Deidre You can’t possibly be a teacher of mathematics if that’s you you believe Algebra 1 to be.

      • Deirdre Mundy says:

        Wally– That’s not ALL algebra one is, but once a student masters the concepts of balancing the equation (same thing to each side) and solving for the variable, the rest is just a natural progression.

        The kids I’ve seen who have a lot of trouble with Algebra One are the ones who can’t get these two concepts down. If you get those down, the other skills and manipulations are just more complex variations on the same idea.

        Usually in High School Algebra 1, the class finishes up around polynomials and quadratics and inequalities—- but none of these are dramatically different from the intial theory— even factoring comes from equation balancing– (i.e. you have an expression that =0, so if you can make it into two or more things multiplied together, you know at least one of them must be zero because the two sides are equal!)

        The big hangups I’ve seen are 1. Confusion about where the balance is. So if a kid has x+6 = 6,. they change it to x-3+ 3-3 = 6-3 (they’re balancing terms instead of sides.) and 2. freaking out about moving variables around, or the fact that it doesn’t matter WHAT letter you put there, it’s the SAME PROCEDURE.

        If you get kids past that, the rest just follows. The “how do I teach my kids algebra?!??!!” panic is unjustified.

  4. The bouncer thing doesn’t sound bad. My youngest daughter worked as a sub, and found that both her experience as a mother of three AND her military experience were helpful. She had no problems with the tough middle school level.

    FWIW, one of the best subs I ever saw worked in a chaotic school (they had, in a SUPER bright move, fired the principal AND his 4 vice-principals at one swoop), and was a teeny man (around 100 pounds) with a BIG attitude. He had no hesitation about getting in the gang-bangers’ face, and getting them to back down. Amazing to watch; he took no nonsense at all. Could he do the actual lesson? Eh. But he was aces at crowd control, which was what we were looking for at that time. We knew we couldn’t get any assistance from the office; they had their own issues.

  5. I would argue that the ‘ideal’ substitute teacher should have both the academic credentials as well as the ability to maintain classroom order. All teachers are expected to possess these skills. However, recognizing that we are usually only talking about temporary classroom supervision, I would say that the crowd control qualifications are the more important of the two. Therefore, when in need, why not ask individuals who command respect and order to supervise our children?