As someone who has been both a part-time and full-time substitute teacher, I can tell you that a day with a substitute does not have to be a “wasted” day (“Do teachers' absences affect student learning?”, Dec. 30 and TribLIVE.com). It is up to the classroom teacher to leave well-developed lesson plans, but it is up to the principal to monitor the quality of the substitute.
One problem not mentioned in the story is principals' absenteeism. A study of this would make a great follow-up, and I'm betting the schools with the lowest teacher absenteeism also have the lowest principal absenteeism. In the last few years that I taught, I noticed a definite decline in principals' availability. Too often, their meetings and activities leave schools without leadership and direction.
Like everyone else, teachers get sick and have emergencies. Days off should not be abused, but when teachers, substitutes and principals are committed to quality education, every day can be a productive day of learning for students.
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