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Virtual substitute’s success is up to the students

Joe Kronberg, Staff Writer

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In most classes when a teacher is gone for the day, it is usually left up to the sub to simply take attendance and make sure everyone is on task. In the past year, this has caused the district to beg the question on whether or not there is a need for a sub, or if it would be more efficient to trust students to get the work done, without someone on their back.

Tabitha Doherty, ’18, has had experiences with traditional substitutes that have been less beneficial than self-directed work. “I had this sub once that came into my English class last year, we were working on a group project and we were supposed to be collaborating with everybody,” Doherty said. “From the start she was saying ‘You’re not supposed to be talking to people’ and ‘You’re supposed to be working on your project,’ which was very contradictory, because in order to work on these projects we had to talk to one another, so she was constantly yelling at everybody to stop talking, and saying that she was going to write a bad note for everybody.”

Doherty described why it would have been better had her class used a virtual sub. “It was just a very poor experience,” said Doherty. “We were able to accomplish whatever we were working on at the time, but it was very distracting to have the sub screaming at us often. If we had a virtual sub then I wouldn’t have had someone yelling at me or prompting me when I know what I should be doing, and even if I chose not to that would be my own decision and I wouldn’t have someone on top of me constantly.”

Principal Ryan Woods elaborated on why the administration believes virtual sub will work for the school. “I think the idea of the virtual sub is basically based on the fact that we’re iPad driven and a one to one (one iPad per student and teacher) school,” Woods said. “A lot of classes work off of Moodle or other sites, and textbooks and other materials are online. What we heard from a lot of teachers was if they know that they’re going to have a sub, they will typically make it a work day where kids will download their materials, which doesn’t require a substitute do more than take attendance and be there to supervise.”

Many classes do not have a need for a traditional sub anymore, but the option is still available for any class that needs it. “If you’re a teacher who gives the sub a lesson and you want them to teach something specific, then you always have the right to request a traditional substitute teacher,” Woods said. “It just gives them a choice and some options. But because of our luxury of being a one to one school, I think the virtual sub fits in well.”

As some students and staff have already noticed, the virtual sub program is not in full effect yet. “Because we got to it on a late start it’s rather limited,” Woods said. “We wanted to start slow because we wanted to work out the kinks before we open it up more. Now we would only allow up to two teachers on a given day to use it.”

Whether or not the new method will be used in future years is really up to the students. “If students decide to skip out, cause trouble and do things they shouldn’t, then we’ll take it away and they’ll have a normal sub and be trapped in that room and make sure that they’re doing what they’re supposed to do,” Woods said. “If students want the flexibility and the respect and the trust, our hope is that they’ll behave in the right way and we’ll keep letting them have it.”

Woods explains that so long as it is only a handful of students, the virtual sub will continue in the coming years.”If it’s one student that does something then we’ll deal with the one student, possibly while the rest of the class has a virtual sub they may have to come down to the office during that class,” Woods said. “That doesn’t mean it’s forever. I’m a believer in second chances and I think once they know that they made a mistake, they’ll do it the right way next time.” 

Disciplinary action for skipping will be treated the same as if a student were to skip a normal class. “The way I see it it’s no different than skipping class, whether you skip virtual sub or you skip third hour Geometry with your teacher, you’re still skipping, and we have rules against that,” Woods said. “As long as you go where you’re supposed to go, technically you can work on anything. You may be there for math, but as long as you’re working on something we’re not going to worry about it.”

As for how well virtual sub has been working in these early stages, students and staff alike seem to find it to be successful. Doherty believes that virtual sub is as effective as a traditional sub. “I know that in the past they’d have us sign up for an area through a link provided by a teacher, and we scan a Q.R. code that will make sure you’re in the place where you signed up,” Doherty said. “I think they’re just about as useful as a regular sub, it just makes it a lot easier so no one has to monitor students in a particular classroom, because there are students who will continue doing their work no matter which type is used.”

Doherty elaborated on her thoughts on whether students skipping will be affected, which in her opinion overall was little. “I think that the number of students that skip with a regular sub or a virtual sub is about equal,” Doherty said. “I think maybe a little bit more will skip virtual sub depending on if they just don’t know where to sign up or think that they don’t have to show up for the virtual sub, and with a real sub they’ll know that somebody for sure will be taking attendance.”

The idea of the virtual sub is something that can be beneficial to many students. As Woods stated, students have more freedom to finish everything they need to accomplish, without having someone over their shoulder, despite only needing to accomplish simple tasks. However, if they are to continue to accomplish everything they have to in this way, students need to understand that it is truly up to them.

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