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Knight Writers

The student news site of Robinson High School

Knight Writers

The student news site of Robinson High School

Knight Writers

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Coping With Physics Teacher Loss

What happens to the class when teachers leave?
Photo Grace Shafer
An abandoned physics classroom in the science building. The room is now used for storage.

Practically everywhere you go now, you’re bound to witness the societal consequences of job shortages. Restaurants void of decent service, stores where you have to chase down the employees, theme parks scarce with ride operators and the public school system.

In recent years, it has proved to be increasingly difficult to find people who are both certified to teach and passionate about it. The reality of teacher’s salaries doesn’t aid this pursuit. So, even when a passionate teacher is found, it has proved to be more and more challenging to encourage them to stay.

For several years, this has been an issue in the Robinson Physics Department, disrupting the education of students and depriving them of a constant and qualified presence in the classroom. 

Typically, when there’s an abrupt absence during the school year, a substitute teacher is placed temporarily in a class until a new teacher is found. This is a much easier task for less specialized subjects, like simply English or math; but when you have a class as specialized as physics, finding a qualified teacher can be an arduous task.

Due to how lengthy the process of finding a new teacher is, there has to be a provisional in place during this waiting period.

“Once a teacher leaves, the department chair, in this case being me, works with other teachers in the district to develop lesson plans,” said Kristina Chiodo, head of the science department. “This now forces the students to learn independently with online lessons and tutorials from other teachers in the district because the substitute is not certified to teach the subject.”

Chiodo and a team of teachers grade the students’ work and communicate with them via Canvas about day-to-day questions while the administration conducts the search for a new physics Teacher. 

“This [the unfilled position] puts a burden on the rest of the department because teachers have to [provide] coverage for the sub [while the permanent position remains unfilled]. This means teachers are losing vital planning time. As the department chair, I lose a significant amount of this time because I take on all the lesson planning and grading. I’m essentially doing the work of two teachers,” Chiodo said. “To give you an idea, I’m grading for over 425 students. This causes a major delay in me giving my students, and the physics students, feedback on their own work which is frustrating for me as a teacher because I prioritize timeliness.”

Although students have access to many of the devices used in a classroom with a permanent teacher, they are lacking the one-on-one guidance that can be crucial to many students’ learning. 

“Students aren’t receiving the education that they should because of these absences, but we are trying our best to give them work and different outlets to help them learn the required standards,” said Christopher Pettit, Assistant Principal of Curriculum. “But we understand that this isn’t the same as having a qualified teacher in front of you.”

A typical class lead by a permanent teacher is filled with many different activities and types of assignments to enrich one’s learning, however, when that teacher leaves, so does the creative lesson plans.

“I was worried for a while because we weren’t getting much done. When he left… it was left to Ms. Chiodo to grade [our work] and I just didn’t think it was going to be updated because she already has a lot going on as the head of the science department,” Physics student Kaelyn Curry (’25) said. “Most of us do our work but the rest of us sit on their phones. The [substitute] doesn’t give us much instruction. They’re just writing on the board and we are supposed to read it.”

Due to the nature of physics, it requires more effort to find replacement teachers compared to other sciences. Many people who have physics degrees usually pursue more lucrative careers, which leaves many physics classes, not just ours, teacher-less. 

“Most science teachers are much more comfortable teaching biology or environmental sciences which puts many schools in a difficult position in regard to physics,” said Manuel Montero, IB physics teacher.

While learning a subject as complex as physics without a teacher might be challenging, the road to success is not an impossible one to travel alone.

“Last year we had the same situation where a physics teacher left during the year and there was a long-term substitute teacher. These students still had to take the exam at the end of the year, and many of them passed with very good scores. So, it’s not to say that the situation is impossible, we just need kids to attempt to complete assignments and learn the content even without a teacher present,” Chiodo said.

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About the Contributor
Grace Shafer, Senior Staff Writer
Grace Shafer is a sophomore at Robinson and a senior staff writer for Knight Writers. This is her second year on staff. Along with journalism, Shafer likes to spend her time reading and watching films. Some of her favorite authors at the moment are Joan Didion and Eve Babitz. At the moment, Sse enjoys films such as "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", "Night of the Hunter" and "20th century." Her favorite directors currently are Greta Gerwig, Wes Anderson, and David Lynch. Even though Shafer describes herself to be a very high-maintenance person, she wishes to travel and backpack through all of Europe at some point in life because she believes it's a beautiful country and she has always loved it. This year, Shafer is most looking forward to her English class because she gets along with her teacher and they might start a film class and a literary magazine, both being things Shafer enjoys and can't wait to be able to be a part of. "I just love journalism and writing in general," Shafer said. Looking into the future, Shafer's dream job ties almost directly into what she's going to be doing in her English class this year. "My favorite thing ever and what I want to eventually pursue as a career is film," Shafer said. Profile by Heather Parker
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