Long-Term Subs Good and Bad for Students
February 24, 2017
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Sometimes teachers get seriously ill, have family emergencies, or leave their jobs to take others. When this happens during the school year, that often leaves a class without a teacher. That is when a long-term substitute teacher is called in.
One of these long-term subs is Chris Hammond. Most of the time Mr. Hammond serves as a “day” sub, an adult who supervises students when a teacher is only out for a class period, a day, or a few days in a row. Recently, however, he filled in for English teacher Greg Hill who was out from late November through Christmas Break due to surgery. Currently, he is acting as a long-term sub in Math.
During his time as a temporary English teacher, Mr. Hammond put forth his best effort to instruct Mr. Hill’s Grade 11 and 12 English classes.
“I hoped to engage them for the better. However, with being a sub there is a connotation that I’m not their teacher, and they don’t have to do the work. After a while, they started to see it in their grades,” he explained.
Mr. Hill has since returned after recovering from his surgery and is helping his students make the transition.
“Students say this is the first time they have had to do work since I had left. I say you had work, but you just didn’t do it,” Mr. Hill explained. Mr. Hill and Mr. Hammond communicated often during Mr. Hill’s time out, and Mr. Hill provided detailed plans for lessons during his absence, and tried not to stress himself too much as he says this important while during a recovery.
“I tried not to think about the stresses of the students when I wasn’t there because I was recovering, and was important not to stress myself,” he explained.
This can be the dilemma which goes along with a teacher being out for any length of time: students may not work as hard or learn as much with a substitute. Subs usually don’t teach the class like a normal teacher and have to give the students certain work which can make the class less engaging. Often, subs don’t know the content very well or at all, and they rarely are trained to be teachers.
Jack Linsenmeyer is another long-term sub, one who recently took the place of Mary Gherdes who was out since early October, teaching computer science and marketing. The new teacher that’s teaching these classes is Richard Blorstad. Currently, Mr. Linsenmeyer is long-term subbing in Science.
Mr. Linsenmeyer thinks it’s important to have a good long-term sub, saying “It’s significant to have a stable person in class everyday since their teacher had resigned early in the year.”
He thinks he does a good job teaching as a substitute.
“Although I’m not an expert in the areas that I am teaching, I find it important to have someone with experience for the students. I have dealt with many students and nothing surprises me,” he explained. ” Allowing a certain amount of freedom without allowing disrespect works best for the students.”
Sometimes students even prefer the sub to the missing teacher. Sophomore Jackie Keohanam is a student who is in a Marketing class that was taught by Mr. Linsenmeyer. Keohanam was affected positively.
“Before the sub was there, it was a lot more boring, and the sub made it a lot funnier,” he explained. “The class got easier and was more laid back with a sub, and my grades got better.”
Another student who was taught by a sub was junior Musa Mahammad Sani who was taught by Mr. Linsenmeyer when he took over in his computer science class.
He likes the class better with a long-term sub saying “The class got funner because we had more freedom after we finished our work. It made me want to do better because it made me able to do my work because it made it more fun and understandable.”
Sometimes the more laid-back style of the class after the sub takes over can benefit some students.
In late November, English teacher Julia Merchant resigned and her class had no long-term sub to teach it, only several short-term subs and other teachers to fill in. Even though new teacher Gabrielle Smith has since been hired to take her spot, the long-term sub situation was not beneficial for the students.
Freshman Alif Anwar felt negatively affected.
“We didn’t really know the subs name most days,” he explained. Sometimes “the sub was usually annoying and rude,” he added.
His grades also went down as a result.
“The sub didn’t know what to do, so our grades went down.” Anwar commented. He also said “Everybody was bad and no one did their work.”
Long-term subs are a different story however for department chairs. Math department chair Paul Brenner currently has three long-term subs teaching math, and he is responsible for helping each.
“For subs that are more knowledgeable in the subject, you want to provide the sub with as many resources as possible. Other teachers in the department can be a great resource. The weaker subs are the ones that you want to sit down with and help plan lessons and give them more support,” he explained.
Science department chair Tina Lure agreed that she need to help subs and students.
“It’s very hard to find subs that are familiar with the content. Subs need to learn from scratch and learn on the fly,” she explained. “I need to find appropriate materials for the sub, usually ones that go with textbooks.”
In addition, Ms. Lure pointed out that “subs have to figure out where the students were when their teacher left. We offer coach classes for students that have subs and don’t quite understand the content.”