Absent Teachers, Untrained Substitutes
The practice of subs babysitting, rather than teaching, students must end.


Third, current teachers should stand in for absent colleagues. In addition to lunch, many teachers have a free class period each day, largely to prepare for upcoming classes. But since most teachers recycle previous lesson plans, prep periods are not absolutely necessary. This approach may also reduce teacher absenteeism, because teachers will not want to burden colleagues with subbing duty.

Fourth, good teachers laid off solely due to lack of seniority can be hired as subs, and used instead of less-qualified subs. To make up for their lower pay, these new subs could accrue seniority while subbing, resulting in higher income and greater job security if they are later re-hired as teachers.

Immediate corrective action is necessary. Last fall, more than half of the students at a Rhode Island high school plagued by teacher absenteeism received no grade in at least one subject. Administrators concluded that the students had received insufficient instruction to warrant a grade, although subs had run the classrooms. The practice of untrained subs babysitting, rather than teaching, students must end.

— Paul J. Leaf was a substitute teacher in the Phoenix Union High School District. He is now an attorney in Los Angeles, and has worked on education-related pro bono matters.


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