Substitute Teachers and Fingerprinting

Robin Higgins / Pixabay

Bizzare! That’s one word used to describe a “rule change” made by the Department of Education that affects substitute teachers. I will attempt to sort this out for you.  You don’t have to understand the why, but you will need to understand the what and how.

When you first become a sub, fingerprinting is a requirement. The process is relatively uncomplicated. Information is typically available from the superintendant’s office of the district where you plan to work. You are fingerprinted and so state in an application to the DOE (Department of Education). The fingerprinting includes a background check. In short, you will ultimately be issued a “certificate” indicating you are “approved” to work with children in public schools. The certificate is good for five years.

You will not be reminded of the expiration date by the DOE. When the time comes, if you apply logic, you will likely attempt “renew” your approval, ideally before expiration. Well, under current rules you can’t.

I recently discovered that subs and mentors do not have that option… even though you’ve worked consistently during the past five years. (Other employees who have worked during those five years can simply renew.) You are going to have to start over.  In other words, the process is the same for first-time substitutes and those who have been fingerprinted in the past.

The”why” ultimately doesn’t matter, although we could probably have some fun speculating. You’ll need to make an appointment to be fingerprinted, complete and submit an application to the DOE, much the same as you did the first time!

As I often tell students, you don’t have to like it, but you do have to do it.

Maine Department of Education Approval Instructions

Maine Department of Education Application Form

Identogo Site to make an appointment to be fingerprinted

 

 

Focusing on Solutions

“Did you know that eating mashed potatoes causes Alzheimer’s?” During one of my annual checkups I told my doctor this–he looked at me in disbelief and asked why I thought that. I replied, “Well, everyone I know with Alzheimer’s has eaten mashed potatoes.”

He laughed and called me a statistical nihilist. I replied that I was merely trying to distinguish between “cause and correlation” since he had been citing some statistical risk factors I have. (This was, by the way, a very friendly conversation.)

With that background, I offer some statistics recently published by NAMI. With the notation that all statistics have limitations, I have confidence in their accuracy.


I do not “enjoy” publishing statistics like this and I confess I find myself sometimes wondering if their publication accomplishes the intent. If it’s not clear, the intent of this infographic is to encourage people to sign up for a Youth Mental First Aid Course.

I’ve taken it; it’s a good course and I highly recommend it. I truly believe, as the infographic suggests, it can help those who take it start a conversation that could save a life. Make no mistake, I’m not at all critical of the course or its intent. But if  I’m going to be totally honest, I firmly believe more is needed.

Without opening a debate about the causes of mental illness, what we are looking at here is identifying a high-risk population. The question that is not being asked is “Why?” and “Are there are actions we could be taking that will reduce that high-risk population?”

I’m a bit troubled by the medical community’s increasing reliance on statistics. The conversation I cited at the beginning took place in part because my doctor was assessing my risk factors for certain health issues. Because data is so readily available, it’s in danger of becoming the holy grail. What happened to science and simple logic?

But I digress, probably because I don’t fully understand our approach to suicide prevention. We are very focused on crisis intervention.  Again, that’s not a bad thing. But I see it as comparable to sending someone to the dentist when they have a toothache. Not a bad idea, certainly, but let’s not omit the importance of oral hygiene–aka brushing and flossing.

So why aren’t we teaching kids (and adults) how to “brush and floss” their minds? If we truly are committed to preventing suicide, can we back up and prevent the crisis?  In much the same way we can avoid trips to the dentist with good oral hygiene, we just might avoid some of those 5,240 attempts in grades 7 – 12 every year by teaching and encouraging good mental hygiene starting at a very early age.

I’ll repeat–crisis intervention is valid and important.  I’m simply using the occasion of “mental health month” to suggest we might be a bit more passionate, excited, and enthusiastic in some positive ways. If kids can learn how to take care of their teeth, they can learn how to take care of their minds.

Perhaps the bigger question is, “Can we teach them how?”

Suicide Prevention Workshops

Again this fall, I’m pleased to offer several opportunities for anyone interested in learning some facts about suicide and steps to prevent it.  This workshop also meets the requirements of LD 609 for public school system employees who must have a minimum of 90 minutes of training every five years.

In Guilford:

  • Wednesday, September 20, 2017, at 6:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, November 15, 2017, at 6:30 p.m.

Both programs are hosted by the Guilford United Methodist Church and there is no charge to attend! Call me at 343-1842 or visit my site for information and to register.

In Newport:

  • Thursday, September 12, 2017, at 6:30 p.m. Contact RSU 19 Adult Ed at 207 368-3290 for more information or to register.

In Pittsfield:

Tuesday, October 3, 2017,  at 6:30 p.m. Contact MSAD 53 Adult Ed at 207 487-5145 for more information or to register.

Substitute Teacher Workshops…

Here’s a reminder that I’ll be teaching the Substitute Teacher Workshop Tuesday, September 12 at PVAEC. And yes, there’s still some space left! By the way, if you saw the program listed in the PVAEC Catalog, the start time is incorrect; we actually start at 9: a.m. For additional information or to register, contact PVAEC at 564-6525 or visit the PVAEC website. I’ll also be teaching an evening version with MSAD 53 Adult Education at Warsaw Elementary School in Pittsfield starting on Tuesday, September 26. Contact them at 487-5145 or visit the MSAD 53 Adult Ed Website for more information or to register.

We’ll address some questions like “To go or not to go…” Believe it or not, managing bathroom breaks can be a challenge for subs!

You Are Not Alone!

This may not be your style of music… but it is another way to deliver a very important message.  “You are not alone.” Don’t politicize it. Watch and listen… see the woman crying and hear messages like “What is a day without night.”

Register for my next free Suicide Prevention Workshop!

Suicide prevention resources on this website.

Walter Boomsma (“Mr. Boomsma”) writes on a wide array of topics including personal development, teaching and learning. Course information is also available here!