Substitute teachers fill a unique role in our educational system. They are an important contingency plan for when full time teachers are sick, missing, called for jury duty or otherwise indisposed. They come to the rescue for any class at anytime, and are recognized as being so important that they even have a holiday named in their honor.
However, students often criticize substitutes for being underprepared to teach the classes they are assigned to or even wholly ignorant of the subject matter they are supposed to teach. Rather than substantial coursework, substitutes often provide busywork, leaving students without information their regular teachers will eventually test them on. To remedy this disconnect, when possible, substitutes should work with more closely with regular teachers to make sure that students are not short changed by this system.
Substitutes teachers are supposed to fulfill the role of the teacher whose place they take; however, many do not give the same level of educational environment, often because of their lack of a lesson plan congruent with the regular teacher’s curriculum. At best, the lessons taught by the substitutes are out of sync with the material the class has been exposed to up to that point, and at worst, substitutes forgo any traditional lesson plan or instruction and simply show movies.
“I had a substitute in my math class who showed us a movie for the entire class period,” freshman Andrew Jozefov said. “It was entertaining at the time, but there was a section on the test the next week nobody knew.”
In other cases, substitutes may be unsuited to instruct a certain class due to a lack of knowledge in a specific subject.
“My Spanish teacher was sick and the sub who came in for our class couldn’t even speak Spanish,” junior John Knowles said. “It was a waste of time for everybody.”
It remains undoubted that substitute teachers are capable professionals who each have unique traits to bring to the classroom, however often times there is a disconnect between them and students due to differences in material compared to that of the regular teacher. As a result, work done in class seems less productive.
To ensure that students and substitutes to get the most out of the days when a regular teacher is absent, substitutes should have easy access to the materials necessary for them to successfully take charge of the class, with as little disruption in the curriculum as possible.
With the recent adoption of Common Core State Standards, school curricula nationwide will be aligned to central standards, making it more important than ever that materials given to students by substitutes coheres with the rest of the information taught to them.
But with this greater responsibility handed to substitute teachers comes a greater need for more highly trained and better prepared substitutes. It is not sufficient that a local parent who knows nothing about science can teach an AP Biology class.
In order for the periods where a regular teacher is unavailable to not be a waste of time for everybody involved, more concerted effort needs to be made to give students the interesting, professional education, which substitutes are capable of.