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Inside an online training program for substitute candidates

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post incorrectly described the requirements for becoming a substitute teacher. We regret the error.

An unusual online training is among the steps people must take to become substitute teachers in New York City schools, according to a person who recently took the training.

The training covers topics ranging from the appropriateness of humiliating bullies to whether sneezing constitutes a classroom disturbance, according to screenshots of the tutorial provided by the person. (A slideshow of the screenshots is below.)

One screenshot shows two photos of a woman on the phone. In one picture, she looks bored, and a thought bubble reads, “Hmmm…Did I leave my clothes in the washer?” In the next, she is shown laughing while she thinks, “That is so funny! What a great story!” The question beneath: “Which image shows a person who is demonstrating good listening skills?”

The full requirements of becoming a substitute teacher are unclear. An earlier version of this post incorrectly pointed to the requirements for becoming a substitute paraprofessional. According to a Department of Education web site, substitute teachers who are not certified as teachers in New York State can work in classrooms if they have a principal’s nomination and successfully complete certain “assessment and training components.”

The online course works as a slideshow, presenting information and then testing whether the viewer has mastered it. An opening slide warns test-takers that the tutorial could last up to ten hours, according to one substitute.

One working substitute said it only took him 45 minutes to complete the training. “It was neither rigorous nor an adequate preparation for a substitute’s role in the classroom,” he said.

Another question asks respondents to rate a statement as true or false: “All children with autism will love the sweetness of a fresh peach.”

The test is created and administered by ED Training Center, which produces several training programs for city teachers as part of an 18-month contract with the Department of Education. The contract, which began last July, is for $98,500. Department spokeswoman Deirdra Miller said some of that cost is paid by substitute paraprofessionals, who are charged an online fee for taking the course.

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