We talk so much about the importance of students attending school daily. We harp on the fact that when children attend school on a regular basis, they can be successful. The likelihood of students having high academic achievement is tied to their overall daily school attendance. It is true there is plenty of research out there that speaks to the importance of children attending school. What good is a child attending school daily if their teacher does not attend?
Teacher attendance matters just as much as student attendance. Teachers need to be at school. The students need their teacher to be there teaching. Having a substitute teacher is just as impactful to a student’s achievement as if they missed school that day. Teacher attendance is directly related to the academic outcomes of their students. Not only does it affect the academic achievement of students, but it also affects the overall running of the building. Being absent, as a teacher, affects a lot of people in the school and causes more of disruption.
When teachers are absent, schools need to call in substitute teachers. I work in a school and have worked in schools where we do not have building substitute teachers. When a teacher calls off work, we have to reach out to a service and request a sub. This is always difficult because the substitute teacher does not always show up. Then, when the sub does not show up, it puts the school in even more of a bind. We have to split the class and spread them among the classes, often time putting scholars in lower or higher grades. Substitute teachers in schools can often be a safety hazard. Substitute teachers often do not know the rules of the school and can put students at risk.
Teacher attendance is critical in high need schools. Typically in schools with a large majority population, you see teacher attendance is lower than schools where the population is not majority minority. The same can be said for schools with low-income students compared to students with a higher income. Attendance in charter schools is typically lower than traditional public schools. Teachers in those schools have to understand their attendance is even more critical. When they miss school their students regress a lot more than other students in other schools.
There are enough breaks throughout the school where teachers do not need to take off. Here is typically how a school year goes for many teachers: Labor Day in September, Fall Break in October, Thanksgiving Break in November, Christmas Break in December, Martin Luther King Day in January, Spring Break in April, and school is out in June. I understand that teachers get sick and “maybe” they have to take off, but scheduling vacations in the middle of the school year, or taking random days throughout the year is another thing. Teaching is different than many other professions. If your primary doctor cannot make your appointment, they will replace them with another licensed doctor. If you need to get a new lawyer, they will get you another licensed lawyer. Our children are not afforded the same luxury. When teachers miss, children get whoever picks up the position. That person 9/10 is not licensed.
As a principal, I can tell you one of my challenges is teachers being out. Whether it is absences that are pre-planned or ones that are short notice, it is difficult to operate and run a school when teachers are not present. I try to operate on the belief that teachers are professionals and I never question when they are absent. With that being said, teachers must be professionals and know that they when they are absent they put their colleagues in a bind, but more importantly, the children suffer. I urge all teachers before you put in that day seven weeks out that you think about it and think about your kids before you pre-plan a day that you think you will need off.