The kids are alright: substitute teachers prove unnecessary


Photo by Lucy Dockter ’23

Students wait in an empty classroom for a substitute to show up; however, at Staples, there is no reason for there to be a substitute for the class. Students should be allowed to work on their own without a substitute watching over them, benefiting both the school and the students.

Since COVID, there has been a shortage of substitute teachers. It is becoming increasingly common to show up for class with the primary teacher absent, but with no substitute. What do you do? You stand around and chat about whatever insignificant topics come to mind. Perhaps you make bets on whether the teacher or sub will show up. Halfway into the period, the class collectively gives up waiting and decides to go somewhere else.  

Why are students wasting so much time waiting for a substitute that will never show up? At Staples, if a teacher is absent for just a day or two, there is no reason for there to be a substitute for the class. In fact, since this is a fairly common occurrence anyway; it is time to codify it as practice. 

High school students are more independent and self-sufficient and can accomplish the same tasks with or without a substitute.”

— Lucy Dockter '23

Usually, when there is a substitute in class, teachers post assignments on Schoology for students to complete by the end of the period or the end of the day. Sometimes, there is no work to do, and the period will function as a study hall. Why do high school students need to be monitored during this? We have already proven that when there is no substitute, we can go to the library or cafeteria and complete the class assignment or work for another class. 

Some may claim that unmonitored students could be unruly or unsafe; however, that is already the case for students every day, during free periods. There are already at least 100 unmonitored students in the building every day, every period. If students can be trusted daily to keep to themselves, without causing disturbances during free periods, why should substitute teachers be required?  

Sometimes, teachers assign tests on days they call out sick, and in that scenario, a substitute teacher is accurately required. However this can result in more complications as substitutes are often inept in the subject and can not properly guide, instruct or aid students throughout the test. 

In one of my own classes earlier this year, a substitute gave us a test, then continued to talk and distract the class for half of the period so that no one could focus and complete the test in time. There is also noticeable cheating when substitutes are proctoring.

Another issue is that teachers often answer student questions about the material or wording of a problem. But substitutes have no idea how to answer most questions, leaving students confused. 

If a teacher is out for an extended period of time, a substitute will need to fill in to teach. However, because of the general sub shortage, we should save resources for middle and elementary schools whose buildings actually need substitutes to watch the students for health and safety concerns. High school students are more independent and self-sufficient and can accomplish the same tasks with or without a substitute.