There’s no substitute for missing substitute teachers

The Southerner

By Grace Power

In preparation for his two-day absence in mid-March, AP calculus teacher Andrew Nichols hired a substitute and left lesson plans. The substitute didn’t show, however, and students were left with no teacher and no direction. When Nichols returned to the classroom on Monday, he noticed something different.

“The roll hadn’t been taken, and it felt weird in the classroom,” Nichols said.

Junior Mona Adams, enrolled in Nichols’ AP Statistics class, said the students completed their work, but eventually learned that without instructions, they were doing the assigned work incorrectly.

“There was stuff on the board to do, but it was kind of vague,” Adams said.

This problem was only brought to Nichols’ attention on the following Monday.

Numerous teachers, including Nichols and fashion teacher Vincent Martinez, have faced this problem, although the discipline office could not say how often substitutes have failed to show up this year. Grady and APS officials were unable to provide any data regarding how often substitutes do not show up.

All substitute teachers sign in at the discipline office to be checked in by administrative assistant Nicole Rozier before going to their assigned room.

“A sub just didn’t pick up the job,” Rozier said, regarding Nichols’ absent substitute.

Debate and journalism teacher Mario Herrera experienced a problem with a substitute on Feb. 3. The substitute he had hired to work never showed up, leading to his class being split up and sent to other teachers’ rooms.

Herrera said that a large factor in this problem lies in the selection of substitutes, which are either chosen specifically by the teacher or randomly by a computer.

Hiring a sub involves the use of the Internet-based program called Sub Finder. Each substitute has a number that identifies him or her, and a teacher can either ask for a certain substitute or let the computer decide between the many subs listed on the website.

“Certain times there may be a shortage of subs, which leaves the school in a bind,” assistant principal Rodney Howard said. “If we can’t find a substitute, we will split [the class] up amongst [the] department or ask [teachers] during their planning periods.”

Each academy leader within the small learning communities should be alerted whether a teacher will be late or absent, and if a teacher is unexpectedly absent or a substitute doesn’t show up, an administrator must put in a request to the discipline office, prompting the administrative assistant to put in a call to find a sub, Howard said.

There are, however, no records at Grady of how many substitutes do not show up to their assigned classes, and the discipline office is not always alerted by the teacher or class, Rozier said. After repeated attempts to reach the Atlanta Public Schools offices, no one was available for a comment on this issue.

Finding a substitute at the last minute is difficult, especially on a Friday, Howard said. This was the case on March 23, when the substitute assigned to Martinez did not show up for class.

“When this person took this position, we [expected] them to be here,” Howard said.

Finding a substitute teacher on that Friday at noon proved to be particularly difficult.

“We can make an attempt to get a new [substitute teacher] depending on time of day,” Rozier said. “As of right now, we are unable to get anyone to cover.”

Frequent Grady substitute and former teacher Olympia Jenkins was surprised to learn that substitutes sometimes did not show up to their jobs at Grady, specifically because substitutes like working at Grady due to the overall atmosphere, student body and the cooperation from administrators and staff.

“If a sub does not come, there is probably an emergency,” Jenkins said. “There are a lot of jobs out there. It could be that, after a sub accepts the job, they find another and cancel [on the original job].”

Although the discipline office does not keep records on the substitutes who do not show up to their jobs, Rozier suggested that the incident of an absent sub could have been created because a teacher requested a substitute and no substitutes chose the job on Sub Finder.

“It is very rare that a substitute does not show up,” Rozier said.

The absence of substitutes, however, is not the only problem. Herrera also explained that some substitutes will ignore instructional notes given to them by the teacher. Some teachers prefer to hand-select their substitutes to prevent this from happening. Martinez explained that although he has needs different from an English or math teacher, he still needs a substitute who can use common sense.

“I use subs who I have history with, so I pre-arrange a date with them,” Martinez said.

Nichols said he is also usually satisfied with substitutes he chooses himself.

“But I’ve had substitutes blatantly not follow the instructions I left for them,” Nichols said.

Howard explained that once a substitute is caught not following class rules and instructions given to them, he or she is asked for an explanation.

“Anytime we find subs that aren’t doing what they are supposed to do, we remove them from the list [of potential substitutes] at Grady,” Howard said.

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