Since I began substitute teaching, I have found myself constantly subbing in for teachers long term. Every time it is different. Some assignments can be a couple weeks, while other times I’ll be in the same classroom for a couple months. In theory, it is great experience for me to teach my own class, but serving in this capacity for the last year and a half has opened my eyes to systemic inequities and has made me realize that my students deserve more.
Recently, I was asked to cover for a 12th grade English class. I had previously served as a substitute for this particular teacher. I had created a good rapport with these students, but I was not overly thrilled about returning to this class. The problem was not the students. The bigger issue was that I was the fourth long term substitute teacher this class had this year. Beyond that, these same students have never met “their” teacher putting into question some of the underlying issues that stem from tenured teachers on leave who are not able to be properly replaced by a new hire. I love the students in that class, and I feel that they respect me too, but when they saw me walk into their classroom again, they couldn’t help but sigh in disappointment. I wanted to sigh with them. Responses ranged from “Really Miss! Another Sub!” to “Is this teacher ever going to come back?” and “She better not come back at this point, it will be pointless! There is only two months left of school.” While I wish the circumstance were different, I can’t help but agree with them.
My students are eager to learn. They are intelligent, curious, and desperate for knowledge. Unfortunately, with so much inconsistency during what should have been the last foundation year of their high school experience, these students are exhausted. They are tired of having to adjust to a new teacher every few weeks. They are stressed because they are not learning the materials that will help them be successful as first year college students and with graduation approaching, the reality of the “adulthood” only adds more stress. They have lost interest in the subject and have stop showing up to class, because they ”just have a sub” or “aren’t doing anything that will affect [their] grade”. These students feel uncared for and are frustrated because they know this is not fair for them to waste an entire year of school without a permanently placed teacher.
I completely understand their frustration and while I wish I had a way to solve the bigger problem of staffing, I can only do my part to make their time worthwhile. Still, as much as I enjoy my job, and my students enjoy having me as their “teacher,” we both know that they deserve more.
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