EYE OF THE TIGER’S VIEW: Absenteeism not just a student issue




Getting sick, attending a necessary appointment or seeing your kid’s performance or recital are all valid reasons people miss work. Teachers are people and they’re going to miss school for these reasons. This, alone, is not an issue. However, when these absences are compounded with days off for conferences, professional development days, field trips and other training opportunities, this normal behavior becomes a problem.

According to its 2018-19 site goals, RJUHSD aims to improve chronic student absenteeism which stands at 7.5 percent, but fails to mention improving the district’s teacher chronic absenteeism rate, which stands at 26.8 percent according to newly released CDE data from the 2015-16 school year. In other words, 26.8 percent of teachers in the district are chronically absent.

Professional development days called for by individual campuses or district administration are usually scheduled on Mondays students don’t have school. However, professional development days for individual departments often pull a pool of teachers away from each of their classes. Not an issue. But when compounded with time off for district grading, we begin to question their vitality and why they cannot be held during non-school hours if attendance is a district priority.

Holistically, however, regulating the amount of time a teacher spends in class should be up to the teacher. It is a teacher’s responsibility to understand what they are getting themselves into and whether or not it will be beneficial, in the short or long run for their students.

The seemingly most noble of teacher absences is one to attend a conferences, but conferences are often hit or miss. When most are led by peer professionals there is no guarantee that each conference will be completely advantageous. When a conference is a miss, the trickle down effect of teacher improvement and therefore student improvement does not exist. Unfortunately, too often the scenario exists when a teacher returns from a conference empty handed, to a class that learned little with an unprepared sub. Teachers’ main priority should be students, and when half of conferences end in little classroom academic returns, we question the sheer quantity of days off taken to attend them.

For teachers that teach in multiple programs or in multiple subjects, absences due to field trips become a game of pros and cons. If one class is drawing a teacher away from another repeatedly, it might be time to diminish the number of trips or it might be time to schedule more trips on weekends. There are many ways in which learning outside the classroom is an invaluable experience for students, but remembering to consider those left behind is important.

Taking this into account, we do realize teachers are not going to stay in the classroom for every second from August to May. But working to minimize the time wasted out of the classroom should be a priority, considering when they are gone, the district must either hire a full-day sub or convince another teacher to give up their prep to period sub.

With that being said, subs will be hired and teachers will sub on their prep. While they are there, they should have a detailed plan to follow. Most students are capable of being self-starters, so leave them more to do than watch a movie.

But in general, expecting students to be at school without teachers present is a bit ironic.

And teachers, just be responsible. If you can’t afford to take the day off – don’t.