Long-term substitutes take on challenging but essential roles


Sofia Reynoso

When teachers must temporarily leave, it is up to long-term substitutes to take over.

Anoushka Mallik, Staff Writer

Having a substitute teacher for one day can be tough, but imagine having one for a semester or longer. There are certain life experiences that require teachers to need long-term substitutes, but it can take a toll on teachers and their students.

Math teacher Marika Alibhai had two substitutes while she was out on maternity leave. Alibhai found that her experience was easier when she was on leave at the end of the year than when she left in the middle, because it meant that her students would have known the substitute longer.

According to Alibhai, ensuring that all of her students were at the right level before she left was a priority.

“I wanted to make sure that when I left everyone was appropriately placed,” Alibhai said. “That there would be no one left wondering, ‘should I switch levels?’ or ‘should I switch courses?’ because the sub wouldn’t be able to have that conversation with them.”

Alibhai said that one time a substitute misinterpreted some of her grading policies, which was difficult to accept.

“ is not what it’s supposed to be, but I can’t change it now because students have been under the impression that their grade is X while according to the actual course policies for grading it should be Y,” Alibhai said.

Physics teacher Stacy Kissel, who had a long-term substitute while she went on the China Exchange trip, believes that being able to go on the trip was worth the time it took to find and teach the substitute.

“I think it takes some time, in the beginning, to teach the sub how your class operates, so I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but going on China Exchange was a great experience for me and it was certainly worth the time I had to put in to teach the sub what she needed to know,” Kissel said.

Kissel cited salaries and benefits as reasons for the difficulty in finding long-term substitutes.

“Even though they’re planning lessons, they’re grading and they’re dealing with students, they don’t get the same pay as full-year teachers. So that makes it a little more difficult to find long-term subs,” Kissel said.

Sophomore Lydia Richardson had Kissel as her physics teacher and said that she was expecting to get the same grades but ended up getting better grades with a substitute.

“It wasn’t that the course got easier toward the end, it was just that the teacher was an easier grader,” Richardson said.

Richardson said that she thought the substitute felt a lot of pressure teaching her physics class. She said that part of the pressure came from the students themselves.

“She had just come from college, it was a high school class, most people were disrespectful in that class, and also Ms. Kissel was a well-known teacher who was hard,” Richardson said.

Sophomore Caroline Viola currently has Meaghan Cells, a chemistry teacher, who will be chaperoning the China Exchange trip later this year. Viola said that Cells has not taught the class any differently than a normal class.

“Right now she’s just teaching the normal content, and we’re all crossing that bridge when we come to it,” Viola said.

Viola is enjoying Cells’ class but predicts that it will go downhill after she leaves, based on her previous experience with having a long-term substitute.

“I’ve had long-term subs before, and they usually haven’t known the material that well, and that was in younger grades,” Viola said. “So now in high school, I’m even more nervous because I think it’s really hard to get a sub who gets the content and is prepared to help the students.”

Alibhai found that overall, the experience can be difficult, but there are certain life events that require teachers to need long-term substitutes.

“Needing a long-term sub is one of those situations where it’s not ideal, so no teacher wants to put families in that position,” Alibhai said. “But there are some things in life where you’re like, ‘I know it’s not ideal, but it’s necessary for me as a person, so I’m going to do it, and I’m just going to make the best of it.’”