The Substitute Teacher Problem

| January 3, 2011 | Comments (2)

school_doorThe girls’ teacher (Mrs. P) has been on emergency leave since Thanksgiving.  Her husband was in a serious car accident while patrolling on Thanksgiving Day.  As a result, he broke both legs, an arm and a wrist.  He’s in bad shape and we all understand that Mrs. P needs to be home right now.

The girls had the same substitute for all of December.  She’s a nice woman who used to teach full-time at another school.  The good news is there is consistency as they have the same substitute every day.  The problem is she is a substitute.

Mrs. P did a good job differentiating within the class.  She had four levels of work to make sure all students were challenged to their abilities.  She worked with different groups to monitor each student’s progress and move students between levels based upon the student’s needs.  She did all of these things in part because this is how our district works.  Mrs. P did other things because she was truly interested in each student.  In short, she was wonderful.

Now they have a substitute who lumps all the students together into one low-level group.  She wasn’t trained to differentiate, and she doesn’t make any effort to do so.  Somehow the students are so well-behaved each day that they “earn” extra recess or free play time.   On the one hand, she is doing what needs to be done to meet the state standards.  She does make sure students know what they need to to do well on the ISAT and MAP tests.  On the other hand, only some of the students’ needs are being met.

The biggest problem right now is that no one knows when Mrs. P will be able to return.

We’ve been talking about this a lot during the break.  The girls are bored in school.  They come home every day complaining about how easy the work is and how much they miss Mrs. P.  We know we need to talk to the school about how to better meet our girls’ learning needs.  It’s a delicate balance because we need to advocate for our daughters without coming off as difficult parents.  We’re trying to figure out how much we can ask of a substitute teacher, but if she’s going to be there for months on end, can we still think of her as the substitute?  I think it’s only a question we can answer after we speak with the girls’ principal.

Shari blogs about life with twins at Two Times the Fun.  Photo courtesy of Stock Exchange.

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Category: girls, New Posts, School

About Shari: Shari is a mom, wife, marketing communications professional, gardener, Chicago Blackhawks fan, college sports fan, traveler, quilter, community volunteer, sister, daughter, aunt, friend, Siberian Husky owner, Girl Scout troop leader and book lover. You can find Shari blogging about life with twins at Two Times the Fun and tweeting @slcs48n1. View author profile.

Comments (2)

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  1. Susan @ 2KoP says:

    We have faced a similar problem this year. My son is in eighth grade, but goes to the high school for advanced math. His math teacher, whom he loved, was pregnant and due at the end of October. She had planned to work until her due date, but was put on bed rest in early October (having been on bed rest during two pregnancies, I sympathize). She also planned to return to teaching before winter break, a somewhat unrealistic goal stated to her students by a first-time mom. As I predicted, she did not return from maternity leave until after winter break.

    In the meantime, between the beginning of October and the start of winter break, my son had three different substitute teachers — none of them math teachers. The first one, who stood in for parent teacher conferences, was there for about 2 weeks. Another was there for one week. The third was there for the remainder of the time, except when he had to leave town for a week due to a death in his family. My son was frustrated and confused. He showed up early for help, but the substitute teachers were never there. Because he is an eighth grader and not a high schooler, he does not know the other math teachers and could not find anyone else to help him.

    I, like you, understand that extenuating circumstances happen. In this case, it seems to me that it would have been better to assign the 8th graders to a different teacher who was not planning an long absence starting so early in the school year. My son is happy his teacher is back. I hope you can help your girls. Good luck. (P.S., I’m a substitute teacher, so they also have my support.)

  2. Lisa says:

    Ah, I say it’s ok to be the difficult parent if that’s how you might be viewed for simply asking for the best for your children. I ended up going over our principals head to the Superintendent of Curriculum when I because frustrated with the lack of response I was getting within the administration at our school. They wanted me to essentially wait until my son began getting in real trouble because of his boredom before it would be addressed. I got the real testing I wanted and some REAL differentiation after that!!! It would be nice to be able to handle things and still be on great terms with those in our own school but it came down to me needing to do what I needed to do. I hope by now you’ve gotten word that the regular teacher will be back soon and its a nonissue!!!!!

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