Opinion: My new side hustle — substitute teaching in Salt Lake City

Oct 8, 2022, 9:00 AM | Updated: Nov 16, 2022, 2:44 pm

First day on the job. Photo, Amanda Dickson

This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom.

SALT LAKE CITY — I don’t know which made me more nervous,  the first time I ran the board at KSL NewsRadio or my first time substitute teaching in charge of a room full of 5th graders.

I know what you’re thinking. “Amanda – they’re precious at that age. What could you possibly fear?” My brain knows you’re right, but this week as I began my new side hustle of substitute teaching in the Salt Lake City School District, I felt humbled by how little I know.

Here’s what I do know:

  • I love the children, and I really want to be there,
  • I want to help them in any way I can,
  • learning from the children is a real possibility,
  • their intelligence and already-developed skills in things like PowerPoint blow me away, and
  • their teachers are some of the most incredible people on earth.

I got through my first gig with the 5th graders with no injuries, to them or me. Whew!

Learning about teaching kids with special needs

My second job was to help with resource students at a middle school. I helped raise two children with special needs and I thought I would be a little more prepared for this one.


The paraprofessionals who had worked with these seven kids for years were inspiring to watch. They unstuck the kids when the kids got stuck. They protected themselves in case a child dealing with strong emotions tried to hit them.  And when the kids screamed, they didn’t flinch no matter how loud the screaming.

The love they so obviously felt for these kids brought me to tears as soon as I reached my car. I pictured the love that was shown to my own children when I wasn’t there, and I cried all the way to the freeway.

My substitute teaching experience

I’ve taught three times so far, and “taught” is probably not the right word. I am with them. I follow the teacher’s instructions, which have been impressively detailed.

It’s obvious how much these teachers care for their students. They want to make sure I do a good job while I’m there, and I try. Yesterday I had my first high school students at the Career and Technical Education Center. What a place! The students investigated ethnic studies, and we had a really good conversation before they did their assignment.

We talked about Columbus Day and why many states have chosen to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day instead. We talked about why they chose to take the class, whether they saw themselves in the curriculum, and how they feel about what they were learning.

I loved every minute of it.

Why I’ve chosen to be a substitute teacher

I wish I could tell you that I’m doing this out of a pure desire to help at a time when teachers, including substitutes, are desperately needed. That is part of it.

But the cost of feeding my family is squeezing me like it is for many of you. I looked around and wondered what I could do to earn more money, and thoughts of teaching would not leave me alone.

So here I am, going to different schools with different aged children as often as I can. If you are looking for a little extra work and have a love for children, I highly recommend it. I see postings for substitute teachers go unfilled every day. There is definitely a need for you, for all of us.

More from Utah’s Morning News host Amanda Dickson:

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Opinion: My new side hustle — substitute teaching in Salt Lake City