Substitute Steve Duhamel helps junior Sophia DiBlasi with her math homework.
Learning with new people isn’t always easy, and while most students and their substitutes get along with each other, there have been some negative encounters on both sides; some students don’t take the presence of a substitute seriously, and others have
been disrespected by their substitutes. Junior Daisy Simmons* (she/her)’s science teacher has been out for a month. Simmons noticed that her peers tend to disregard substitutes’ authority because substitutes don’t always know how the class is supposed to function. But she’s also noticed that most class time is spent on independent work. IB English 11 and Pre-IB English 10 teacher Joanna Walker (she/her) acknowledged that coming up with a lesson plan for a substitute is difficult.
“There’s so many things that if I were to write out everything, it would be multiple pages long,” said Walker. “And so I’ve tried to make it succinct, but in doing so, you want to do the lesson, so it never goes exactly how you imagine it. There’s also things lost in translation.”
There are a couple of substitutes who Walker trusts will do a great job teaching the class. She said that one of her favorite substitutes is very communicative, and he always asks her to send him the lesson plans beforehand. She said that this substitute loves teaching and wants to be active in guiding the lesson.
On the other hand, Walker has also had a handful of less-than-stellar substitutes, including one of her more recent ones. She explained that several students emailed her about how a substitute was extremely disrespectful and that she was very worried and disappointed about the way that the substitute treated her students.
“There are times where students will say, ‘Please don’t invite that sub back’,” said Walker. “There’s been times that students have had some somewhat alarming reports about subs — what they’ve said or what they’ve done, to the point where I’ll be very careful not to have that sub back in the classroom again.”
IB Global Politics and IB History 12 teacher Christopher McQueen (he/him) has also had a substitute he won’t be requesting again. He said the substitute completely disregarded his lesson plan and showed the class a random video.
“He wanted to teach the kids a lesson about some political point of view that was not appreciated,” said McQueen.
While some students haven’t always had the best experience with some of their substitutes, the same has been said the other way around. Pre-IB English 9 and 10 teacher Michelle Lobb (she/her) said some students will take advantage of the fact that there’s a substitute by not following the directions and expectations set in place by the teacher.
However, Lobb doesn’t believe this happens to a concerning extent. Some students just use the bathroom pass longer than they should or don’t sit in their assigned seat.
“It’s just a natural part of what some young people will do to just push and see how far they can push it,” said Lobb.
Lobb clarified that she has a student teacher who can substitute for her, which makes it easier to keep students in line when she’s gone.
“I would prefer to be here as much as possible because obviously, that’s easier for the students and me,” said Lobb. “But I’m glad we have the option of having a sub because obviously there are times when you need it.”
McQueen echoed Lobb’s sentiment. While he’s seen some students misbehave with substitutes, it’s mostly in the sense that they disregard their presence and sometimes choose to use their phones right in front of them. For the most part, though, he believes students have polite, respectful attitudes toward their substitutes.
“When I am gone, I tell my kids they need to behave. I have a class of seniors first period. Do you know how hard it is to get seniors to come on time first period?” said McQueen. “Generally, when I have a sub, my seniors first period are more on time than when I’m there because I say ‘Hey, you’re running the class. I don’t want it to be wasted time.”
Because McQueen isn’t a fan of lesson plans consisting of movies, worksheets and tests, he tries to make his lesson instructions clear enough for the substitute. He knows that students may try and take advantage of substitutes if they don’t know how the class usually works — he’s seen kids lie to them, claiming their teachers usually give word banks during vocab quizzes.
“Kids could smell fear in a sub, and they would just try to take over the class,” said McQueen. “I know that I did that when I was in junior high back in 1972. So, I try to make my plans ‘sub-proof’.”
However, Walker shared a different perspective. She hasn’t seen students misbehave nor disrespect substitutes. She said that if students really treat substitutes like this, she’s completely unaware of it. In fact, Walker doesn’t even feel the need to remind her students to be nice to substitutes — she trusts and knows that they will.
“I always — more often than getting the note that the student was off task — I get the note: ‘Your students are wonderful!’ Which they are.”