MCHS has had more teacher absences than other schools in the area, especially those in the Fox Valley Conference. According to the Illinois School Report Card, only 50 percent of teachers have fewer than ten absences. (Allie Everhart)
A missing piece
Teachers at MCHS are missing more days on average then other Illinois schools and it is beginning to affect students heavily
Week after week, a student walks into their class room to a large empty desk. The chair that was supposed to have their teacher in it sat cold and empty just like it did almost everyday. The student huff and finds their normal desk as they wait for a substitute to fill that void that their teacher is leaving. The students have to teach themselves the content that a teacher is meant to be at that desk lecturing them about. They huff as they gaze at the desk that still sits empty long after the bell rings announcing third period.
At MCHS, many more teachers were absent during the 2021-22 school year than many other nearby schools. According to the Illinois School Report Card when MCHS is compared with the similar schools in the district, like Huntley and Crystal Lake South, MCHS has a significantly larger amount of teacher absences. Only 50% of teachers at MCHS have missed less than 10 days of school while other schools like Huntley and Crystal Lake South have anywhere from 69-89% of teachers missing 10 or less school days.
“We look at all our school report card data each year very introspectively so we can improve,” states Carl Vallianatos, the Assistant Superintendent for Learning and Innovation at MCHS. “Certainly there is a connection between our student achievement data and the other two most important metrics: student chronic absenteeism and teacher attendance.”
Over the years, since the COVID-19 pandemic started, there have been issues with attendance at MCHS. Whether it is students, or now teachers, there is a deep impact in people’s motivations to participate in a school community. This impact on motivation, therefore attendance may be a product of something else.
“The main question that we need to figure out — is it that people are sick, or are they burnt out?” Ryan Ellison, the co-president of the McHenry Community High School Educators Association questions.
The possibility of more teachers being burnt out, not only after the rough semesters following COVID-19 shutdowns, but many new implementations that have come along with a new edition to the school. The stress of blended learning, and more students cutting class than any years before. Ellison says there’s a possibility that burnout is a part of the problem, but it cannot be the only cause, as other schools in similar situations are not following the same absentee trends within all areas of the school.
Adam Maleinus, a social science teacher at the Upper Campus, states, “I don’t know the reasons for all the various [teacher] absences. There could be a variety of answers, but I think it’s something that’s going to have to be analyzed more.
Though, there is something bigger than just, teachers missing school and why it happens too often at MCHS. A part of this issue is how this chronic absenteeism in teachers affects a students daily life at MCHS. A teacher missing a lot of school days can often put the academic career of a student in jeopardy.
“I know that when I have to make sub plans, you’re trying tomake it as easy for the substitute teacher as possible.” Ellison states. “To be able to manage the class you’re not gonna have a substitute teacher teaching an entire lesson.”
The relationship between students and teacher is important, and often an integral part of success in an academic environment. Though, it is not limited to the academic part of school. If a student’s teacher isn’t in school for days on end, it is deprives a student of quality academics as well as the social aspects that come inherently with school.
Vallianatos states, “When you are out of school and look back at your most impactful teachers it is rarely the content that jumps out. It is the relationships that people remember and make a difference.“
More than that, the absence of a teacher can distract a student from what they should be focusing on in school. Whether it is social or academics that should be focused on, an absent teacher can pull a student’s mind away from those things.
Joseph Sacramento, a Senior at MCHS states, “I had encountered times where I had a teacher out of class more than twice a week. Most of my friends and I were first off concerned for our teacher.” Sacramento says. “And second, annoyed that our quizzes, tests, or assignments got pushed back.”
When I had a teacher who missed a lot of school I felt let down by them and often felt unmotivated to do work in that class. I believe that some students have thoughts like, ‘If my teacher isn’t putting in the work, why should I?’”
— Brooklyn Hardt
This lack of connection between teacher and student that is caused by the absence of teachers can also impact the motivation of students. Some students see teachers missing many days of school as more than just burn out. Many students see teachers missing many days of school as being let down by an adult set in place to help them learn.
“When I had a teacher who missed a lot of school I felt let down by them and often felt unmotivated to do work in that class,” junior Brooklyn Hardt states. “I believe that some students have thoughts like, ‘If my teacher isn’t putting in the work, why should I?’”
This disconnect between student and teacher is evident and can be very hard on the students at MCHS. A lack of motivation, as well as frustration with the adults who are supposed to be there to provide help and support. Students are often left feeling unmotivated and upset when their teachers are consistently missing school. School is meant to be a community of people working together, and when a piece of that is missing it has more of an impact than just data on a report card.
“The pandemic showed us that learning is a group activity and it is best done in person while connecting and building positive relationships with each other.” Vallianatos states. “That piece is missing right now in some circles of our school.”
A student walks in their classroom, the smile on their face falling as they see the person who was in place to teach them is missing. This missing puzzle piece leads to a frown forming on their face as they look at the sub sitting in their teachers chair for the fourth time in the past two weeks. They know they aren’t getting what they need academically, and not getting what they need in terms of connections within the school community.
Alayna Majkrzak is a senior at the MCHS's Upper Campus. She is a veteran staff member and enjoys playing "Among Us" with her friends. Alayna is a active member in choir and drama and likes to dye their hair. Their favorite part about writing for the Messenger is being able to voice their opinion and articulate how they feel.
Allie Everhart is a junior at McHenry High School's Upper Campus. She enjoys editing, photography, running and investigating. After school, she runs for MCHS's cross country team. This is Allie's second year on the Messenger's staff.
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