Substitute teachers deserve respect. Let me tell you, it takes courage and commitment to be a substitute teacher.

We have to deal not just with students who are messing around but also with students who are screaming at us or throwing objects at us. Sometimes, we have to contend with the threat or the reality of being assaulted by a student.

It is no piece of cake.

On top of that, it takes years of experience to learn certain classroom management and teaching skills. You have to be an expert in most subject fields, since you may be assigned a math, science, English or even physical education class on short notice. It can be an unpredictable job, but substitute teachers become nimble, efficient and effective in navigating various public school bureaucracies.

Also, you have to jump through many hoops to become cleared through state education departments.

But you do it because you have a passion for teaching and a commitment to serve as a role model for students.

Yet you don't get much in return.

The sad reality is that substitute teachers have been getting the short end of the stick for way too long. Most receive only a fraction of what regular teachers get paid. Most have no union representation or a retirement plan.

Fed up, some substitute teachers are finally beginning to organize throughout the United States to demand that their pay be more equivalent to that of full-time teachers.

Many substitute teachers are struggling to pay their rent and other basic household bills. Although they perform a crucial task in educating our students in a pinch, too many can barely make ends meet.

We need to treat substitute teaches fairly.

Let us show substitute teachers that we appreciate and respect their work. In the toughest of circumstances, they do not back down. Every day, they are showing our young people that it takes resilience and fortitude to do a job right.

That's an important lesson for our students to learn.

Randy Jurado Ertll is a writer for Progressive Media Project. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

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