Substitutes No Longer Required for Grades 11 and 12


Nicole DeCesare

Students work in groups during Chemistry without a teacher overseeing them.

Substitutes are no longer required to cover 11th- and 12th-grade classes, according to an October announcement from Upper School Head Joshua Neudel. Now, teachers, students, and administrators are responding to the change.

Teachers who require short-term coverage may allow upperclassmen to complete work without adult supervision.

“We will not assign a faculty substitute teacher to the period if the person will only be out for up to 4-to-5 class periods in a row,” Neudel said. “The only exception, however, is if there is an assessment planned, or a lab or activity planned, which requires a teacher in the room for safety purposes. Since we implemented the policy, teachers have been positive about the change. I will stop by classrooms from time to time and find students actively engaged in the work that teachers left for them to complete. I think this is representative of our students at Brimmer, who are academically engaged and motivated to learn.”

When teachers are absent, which Madeline Hsiao ’23 says happens only rarely, she makes effective use of her time to complete work.

“I think that, as a whole, it is a fair policy because upperclassmen should be able to take care of themselves without an adult present,” Hsiao said.

According to Humanities Department Co-Chair Donald Reese, who teaches several English classes, the change also benefits teachers by freeing up time for grading and lesson preparation. Upper School teachers are slotted for two or three substitute blocks during the week, in addition to duties like Learning Center, Writing Center, Math Lab, and holding advisee meetings

“As a teacher, I appreciate having to do less coverage and not having to worry about sending a roster to a substitute teacher, including making a formal sub plan,” Reese said. “It is really appropriate to expect juniors and seniors to be mature enough to handle their online assignments, even when I am not in class. As a teacher, you must structure it somewhat so students know what’s expected of them. However, once they do, in my experience, students have been responsible and gotten their work done.”

Upper School Math teacher Peter Slaski agrees.

I will stop by classrooms from time-to-time and find students actively engaged in the work that teachers left for them to complete. I think this is representative of our students at Brimmer, who are academically engaged and motivated to learn.””

— Upper School Head Joshua Neudel

“I think that allowing juniors and seniors to go to class without a substitute has been really helpful for teachers,” Slaski said.

“Teaching an AP class where it’s predominantly seniors, many of them are at a place where they can work independently and don’t need teachers to proctor them. I can only speak for my class, but assignments that I have given when I’ve been out a few times this year have been completed and turned in promptly,” Slaski said.

For Upper School Science Teacher Zoë Stublarec, however, the new policy largely depends on the makeup of a class.

“For some classes, I know that I can trust students and that they will do the work I put for them on Canvas,” Stublarec said. “But just because you have juniors and seniors does not mean the group can necessarily handle not having a sub. I appreciate the change because it gives me fewer blocks that I have to use as a substitute teacher, but in the two times I was not in class, the kids did not get as much out of it as they could have.”

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While there have been a variety of reactions amongst faculty, students are pleased with the new change.

“I think with substitute teachers not being in class paired with the ability to choose where I can study, my productivity has increased,” Eleanor Reyelt ’23 said. “I think that going to quieter places where I can work alone at my own pace has helped my productivity when teachers are not in class.”

“I personally find the unsupervised periods very beneficial,” Ava McDonald ’23 said. “I often have a hard time focusing in a loud classroom, so having the opportunity to work wherever I choose is really helpful and makes getting work done a lot easier. It is nice to have the chance to be more independent and organize our time however we choose is best for us.”

The new policy will stay in place for the remainder of the school year, according to Neudel.