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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

‘Parachute teachers’ seek substitute slots

Parachute Teachers hopes to supply substitute teachers who will share their skills and experiences instead of handing out worksheets, writes Hayley Glatter in The Atlantic.

Parachute founder Sarah Cherry Rice, a former teacher and administrator, recruits community members who have something to teach — though it may have nothing to do with the subject of the class.

We have engineers who come into our classrooms and offer coding and 3D printing. There are folks that come in and offer art: watercolors and pottery. We have a farm-to-table cooking curriculum through MIT where farmers in the off-season come in and talk to students. So that time is not lost to learning; there’s real learning that’s connected, hands-on, relevant to real life, and coming directly from folks students pass on the street all the time in their own neighborhoods.

When classroom teachers leave a lesson plan — instead of a video of Lion King — it’s usually very basic, Cherry Rice tells Glatter. But it’s hard to teach someone else’s lesson plan “in a way that’s really effective and meaningful for students.”

When the teacher’s away, the Lion King will play.

Parachute Teachers focuses on urban public schools, which tend to have high teacher absenteeism and lots of substitutes.

That raises a question for me: Maybe it’s fun to spend a day on pottery or cooking instead of algebra, but what if the classroom teacher is out for a week. Shouldn’t the sub be trying to teach algebra?

One of my husband’s cousins left engineering when her children were young. She’s done a lot of subbing — often in classes that don’t use her math and science knowledge. She’s “taught” foreign languages she doesn’t speak. She’s seen Finding Nemo many times.

Is a “parachute” non-teacher better than a traditional sub?

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