The teacher-absence policy at my school was clear: The teacher isn’t coming to school? No technology for the class. The rationale is that it’s just not worth it. Devices are too valuable to be trusted with kids when they don’t have experienced supervision. Only the classroom teacher can manage classroom tech.

It’s true that subs don’t always find quick success with classroom management. Some can maintain a positive environment by establishing relationships with students right away. But devices cost a lot of money, and schools typically will do everything they can to protect that investment.

But how does this policy affect students?

From my experience, banning tech due to teacher absence is a big missed opportunity for student growth and independence.

How to empower subs and students to make the most of your sick days #edtech

Strong class culture is key
As the classroom teacher, I learned that the biggest factor for how things went when I was gone was the strength of the classroom culture. How well had I prepared my students? How much ownership and voice did they have?

An empathetic, responsible, and student-centered culture does not come easily. It takes many years of trying many approaches to see concrete results. A crucial step is the leap of faith that has to happen at the beginning. I had to relinquish control as the sole author of what we did and how we did it.

About the Author:

As senior manager, educator professional learning programs, Jamie Knowles creates online professional development services for teachers. Prior to his work at Common Sense, Knowles taught middle school English in Oakland, California, for eight years. For the 2016–2017 school year, he received an Excellence in Teaching award and was one of three finalists for Teacher of the Year in Oakland Unified School District. While teaching, Knowles also successfully implemented a $200,000 school-wide blended-learning program funded by the Rogers Family Foundation and led professional development on a wide range of teaching strategies.


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