Lack of present substitute teachers reveals necessity for new policy

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Paige Tighe ’24

Students left the empty classroom as no substitute teacher arrived to cover the class. The next time the class met, the students were told that they should’ve remained in the classroom, regardless of there not being a teacher present.

Since the start of the school year, students across the school have arrived to class with no teacher or substitute present. This is due to shortages in substitute staff for class coverage. Increases in faculty absences and decreases in substitutes are the main contributors to this issue, but another issue is a lack of communication that the school has with its students to inform them of proper procedures.  There is no clear understanding if students should stay in a classroom or not when a teacher or substitute teacher doesn’t show up. 

After reviewing the Staples handbook and speaking with Staples Administration, I found that there is no written policy regarding how students should react in this situation.

I believe students should not be forced to remain in an unsupervised classroom to complete their work as there is no enforcement of a proper and controlled working environment.  As a solution to this mass confusion, a solid rule should be put in place: if a teacher doesn’t arrive within the first 15 minutes of class, students should be allowed to leave.

This story is personal to me as I have experienced the uncertainty regarding what to do when in a classroom filled with students without any supervision. 

There is no rule requiring us to remain in the classroom when a teacher and substitute are absent, therefore, we did not do anything wrong.”

— Paige Tighe ’24

At the end of October, one of my teachers posted an announcement on Schoology saying she was going to be absent for the first half of class, but hoped she would be present in the second half. 

There was supposed to be a substitute covering the classroom. However, my classmates and I waited in a teacherless classroom for 25 minutes, before deciding to head down to the courtyard to complete our assignments. 

With 10 minutes left in the period, apparently my teacher returned and found an empty classroom.  

At the beginning of class the following Monday, we returned to my teacher saying it was wrong for us to leave. I felt that this treatment was completely unjustified. 

Once we left class, most of my peers and I were using that time to be productive. 

I was made to feel guilty for no reason. I made the responsible choice to relocate to an environment that is best suited for my learning. There is no rule requiring us to remain in the classroom when a teacher and substitute are absent, therefore, we did not do anything wrong. Instead, the blame is on the school as they failed to provide coverage for the class. 

A similar experience happened to me in November when another one of my teachers was absent from class and no substitute showed up within the first 15 minutes of class. 

Some of the students in my class wanted to go to the library, the court-yard, the cafeteria and visit friends in other classes, while some students chose to stay in the classroom.

The students in the classroom were being loud and disruptive and as someone who needs silence to be able to focus on work, it was extremely difficult to concentrate on my work. I needed to relocate to the library or to the courtyard in order to complete my assignments in a quieter environment. 

As the school has continuously failed to supply coverage to classes, students need consistency as to how they should react when there is no teacher present in a class. Staples should institute a new policy that grands students permission to leave an unattended room after 15 minutes of class starting.