Substitutes don’t fix problem


Michealla Foules

Annie McDonald has been substituting substituting in the English 5-6 class, for the last three weeks. She discusses current events with her students.

Students in a Chemistry 1-2 class shout in unison that they’ve seen “too many” subs come in to fill the vacant spot. One student estimates that 12 substitutes have filled in the position, with only two long-term subs, each teaching for about three weeks at a time.

“Too many” may be an understatement. Currently, teaching positions in three science classes, one English class, and one math class have not been filled. The instability of not having a permanent teacher results in students not taking the class seriously, thus ignoring the work. With most of these subjects being a-g courses, required for graduation and UC and CSU admission, it is important for students to have a teacher, or at least a long-term sub who knows the material, to teach them.

Some subs have background in the subject. Annie McDonald has been the long term sub for an English 5-6 class for the last three weeks.

She follows a lesson plan that she makes herself and engages the class in understanding the material. However, she says she’s not sure how long she’ll stay. Learning these core subjects can be hard enough for students, even with a teacher going over the material. Imagine having to teach the material to yourself without any background knowledge or even confirmation that you’re understanding it. Questions are left unanswered leaving uncertainty and confusion.

The problem originates at the district level. When hiring people at the beginning of each year to fill in vacant spots, the district hires teachers late and only considers teachers within the state. Whereas other districts are hiring in the spring, the Stockton Unified School District usually hires in July. This creates the problem where many positions must be filled but not enough teachers are available to fill them.

Taking the matter into their own hands, Marcus Sherman, Science Department chair, and chemistry teacher Bill Lorentz have teamed up with Principal Andre Phillips to come up with a better way for students to learn the science material. The plan is use the period as an Apex course at a computer lab on campus. Students would also perform labs with Sherman or Lorentz to gain the hands-on experience of the subject that they’ve been deprived of as of now. The district has not approved the plan, saying there is not money in the budget to fund the added Apex courses.

This idea would be an efficient remedy to the problem, and is definitely better for the students than how they’re currently being taught — or not taught. The question is: What is the district doing to address the lack of teachers in a way that most effectively benefits the students?

So far, not enough. Except continuing to hire subs to replace other subs and prolonging the never ending chain of unfamiliar faces to babysit a class every day.