The Tiger Times

The Thomas Jefferson Elementary Parent Newsletter

October 24, 2019

Chalk Dust: Notes From The Principal's Desk

It goes without saying that any reader of this "Tiger Times" article has a student whose class has been taught by a substitute teacher. As long as there is illness, family, professional development needs, conferences, or countless other events that necessitate teacher absences, schools will have subs teaching some classes.

This year, across TJ and many schools, there has been a considerable need for substitute teachers, both in the short term and long term. The truth is that finding subs has proven to be quite difficult. (Interestingly, the U.S. is also experiencing a growing shortage of permanent K-12 classroom teachers). TJ and FCCPS have been incredibly fortunate to have some dedicated, dependable, and truly kind substitute teachers, and we are grateful for them. Given that all of you have kids who have been impacted to some degree by having a substitute teacher, I wanted to give you an overview of our substitute teacher procedures and give you a few ideas of the things we take into account when staffing our building with subs.

As you perhaps know, FCCPS hires substitute teachers the same way it hires virtually all employees. Potential subs apply online and are interviewed by administrators. Once approved by administrators, prospective substitute teachers then go through the typical hiring process of background checks, paperwork, and so on. Once our central office processes this work and the hiring is finalized, the substitute's name is placed into our automated system, and that sub will have the opportunity to pick up sub jobs as they come open.

Typically, teachers will leave lesson plans for substitute teachers to follow with kids. In some cases, such as a quick and immediate sub need, grade level teams might put together for subs. Our expectation is that even when a sub is in the room, learning continues. I think it goes without saying that a permanent full time teacher cannot be replaced by even the highest quality sub; after all, it would be a problem of a different sort if a permanent teacher left the classroom and his/her absence was not felt at all. But nonetheless, we believe that quality subs can ensure that productive learning continues even when a teacher is absent.

It seems surprising to say, especially in a metropolitan area like DC, but schools across northern Virginia are facing significant struggles in finding subs. While FCCPS has done good things, including raising sub pay, in order to make our substitute teaching positions more enticing, the reality is that it takes a person in a unique position to be able to commit to being a substitute teacher. The pay is worthwhile and fair, though probably not enough to support one's family or likely even one's self. There is also no guarantee that a substitute teacher will be needed every day, meaning that there is no guarantee a sub will have a job every day.

Now, all this is difficult enough. But what is of extraordinary difficulty are those times when we need a multi-month, long term sub, such as someone to cover a maternity leave, a long illness, or something much longer than just a few days out of the classroom. During these times, the rigor of TJ's academic program require a substitute who is skilled in math workshop, readers workshop, and other instructional tools used by TJ teachers on a daily basis. In addition, our hope is that when a long-term substitute covers a class, the PYP framework and learning still continues.

The reality is that very, very few licensed, highly qualified teachers are on sub lists for any school division. After all, the overwhelming number of licensed teachers seek and have full time teaching positions in schools. Those that are substitute teachers are certainly highly sought after. It often takes us some time to find the right sub for a particular classroom, but as has often been said, better to be right than fast. We fully explore options before we place anyone in a long term sub job, but TJ's track record for its long term sub hires is a good one.

As always, we are deeply appreciative of the incredible work of our substitute teachers. Some of them are in our buildings enough that we look at them as part of the TJ family. Some we may only see occasionally, and some simply move on to different careers. But one thing that is a constant is our recognition that being a sub is not easy, but it is incredibly important and deeply appreciated by us at TJ.

Fay and McCann Win PYP Award

Congratulations to TJ 5th grade teachers Torey Fay and Layton McCann on their receipt of the IB Mid-Atlantic Faculty Excellence Award! Over the course of the summer, Ms. Fay and Ms. McCann came into TJ and worked on connecting math concepts and PYP planners. We are deeply proud of them and ask you to join us in celebrating their work and recognition!

TJ Chalk Chats Scheduled

Chalk Chats, the parent discussion event at TJ, have been scheduled again this year. In Chalk Chats, Mr. Swanson will begin the discussion with a 3-5 minute overview of a program, event, or happening at TJ. The meeting will then become a town hall event, with parents being offered an opportunity to ask questions about any topic they wish. Chalk Chats are 45 minutes long and will be held at 7:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on the following Thursdays:

November 7, 2019

December 12, 2019

February 13, 2020

April 2, 2020

June 11, 2020

All Chalk Chats will be held in the TJ Library.

Red Ribbon Week Activities At TJ

Like other schools across the country, TJ is participating in Red Ribbon Week. We have chosen to take a more nuanced approach to the week, broadening our efforts to celebrate and promote a healthy lifestyle. These are the activities we are doing each day of next week:

Monday: Team Logo Day

Wear your favorite team jersey and "Team Up" to make healthy eating a balanced diet and leading an active lifestyle by being physically fit.

Tuesday: Twin Day

Focus on having positive friends! Plan ahead with a friend...or two or three... and dress alike to show you know how to be a friend to others and choose good friends for yourself.

Wednesday: TJ Day

Show that you are part of our "Caring Community" united against bullying by wearing TJ colors (orange and/or blue)...or any TJ shirt!

Thursday: Book Character Day

Make healthy choices with your free time by choosing to turn off the screen and read a book! Increase your knowledge and love of learning while making your favorite book character come alive by dressing up like them on Thursday!

Friday: Wear Red Day

Wear red in support of the healthy lifestyle choices Red Ribbon Week celebrates.

2020-2021 School Year Calendar

2020- 2021 FCCPS School Calendar Development

The Falls Church School Board will be considering the calendar for the 2020-2021 school year. Due to a new state law, school divisions are permitted to start school before Labor Day for the first time. The School Board is seeking robust community input as they consider this possible change. All are invited to attend public meetings to learn about the topic, and provide feedback on November 14, 6:30-7:30 p.m. in GMHS Mustang Cafe.

Check out the FAQ document for more information.

Reminder: Last Day For Odyssey Of The Mind Sign Ups 10/25

The TJ Odyssey of the Mind season is officially under way. We are excited about this next season of problem solving adventures. Please sign up your child no later than Friday, October 25 using the following link:

Math Kangaroo Competition Upcoming

Thomas Jefferson Elementary is hosting the Math Kangaroo Competition again this year. We have made the testing site private. When you register, click on the “by invitation” tab and enter code: VAFALLS0004606@20MK

Please go online to and register your students if they would like to participate in this international mathematics competition occurring at TJ on Thursday, March 19 at 6 pm. Cost: $21

Registration closes on December 15, 2019. Don’t delay! Space is limited! Questions? You can contact Laura Coates:

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED, night of the event:

About TJ

Thomas Jefferson Elementary School is a grade 3-5 school in Falls Church. Like all Falls Church City Public Schools, TJ is an IB school. Our students are the beneficiaries of the Primary Years Program, which focuses on thematic instruction, international mindedness, and the development of the whole child.

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