ORLEANS — Walking into class and seeing a substitute teacher at the front of the room can mean different things to different students. Some see an excuse to relax and mess around. Others see an opportunity to help out a guest. At the Nauset Regional Middle School in Orleans, which most Outer Cape kids in grades 6 to 8 attend, substitute teachers perhaps deserve more credit than many students give them.
Guest teachers at Nauset Middle differ greatly from each other. Each has a distinct personality and teaching style, and sometimes, because those traits are different from those of the teachers pupils have grown accustomed to, that leads to some disrespectful behavior.
Most students would never contradict their regular teachers’ statements or switch their assigned seats in class. But when there’s a substitute in charge, many seem to have no problem doing these things. And this can lead to trouble in the classroom.
“It is usually the kids that make the experience unpleasant,” comments Alyia Vasquez, a Nauset seventh-grader.
Not everyone does this, of course. Some students are well-behaved and quiet when there’s a substitute. Strangely, no one seems to act exactly the same way they do with their regular teachers. A couple of pupils, for example, who are usually shy and keep to themselves become very outgoing, making loud remarks and jokes, sometimes at the expense of the substitute in charge.
Substitutes can find themselves in hot water when they don’t follow the lesson plan left by the regular teacher. If the guest teacher doesn’t complete the plan, this can lead to students having an excessive amount of work the day after.
“Substitutes don’t always understand or accomplish everything on the lesson plan,” says Maya Lima, “so when the teacher does come in we have to redo part of the class or assignment.”
Of course, it may not always be the substitute’s fault if they don’t finish the lesson. The plan may not have been detailed enough, or perhaps it was just too boring. And when kids do not understand the lesson, that can snowball into chaos.
Some substitutes get a bad reputation with students because they do not even try to get to know them individually. Dana Franchitto, who lives in Wellfleet and has been substituting at Nauset Middle School regularly for the past four years, doesn’t have that problem.
“I’ve come to know a lot of the kids at Nauset,” says Franchitto. “When I first started, I expected them to be kind of harassing. But some are tactful or quietly respectful; others are just a little noisy among themselves. They bicker more with each other than they do with me. I rarely get any kind of abuse or disrespect from the kids.”
Franchitto is one of the most popular of Nauset’s regular subs. “Maybe that’s because I like to joke around a lot,” he says. That’s part of it, but the other part is the respect he pays to his students.
“I learn a lot from these kids,” Franchitto says. “I feel challenged in the right way by their intelligence. If you have a good attitude, it’s really a rewarding experience to be in the classroom. You generate a climate of respect. They can see that you enjoy being there.”
Many substitutes are appreciated by the students at Nauset Regional Middle School. Even when they make mistakes or are slow to catch on to the agenda, most truly try their best, and many kids believe they deserve more credit than they get.