By Joe Rector
The brouhaha over Knox County Schools just keeps going. The school is led by a superintendent who has minimal experience in the classroom and is a numbers guy who cares most about the bottom line. The board of education seems unable or unwilling to put an end to the discord that runs throughout the system. In fact, most of them seem to just rubber stamp whatever the superintendent decrees. It’s amazing just how out of whack this school system is.
My wife lost her job last year, and although I vowed never to work in schools again, I swallowed my pride and applied to substitute in high schools close to home. Hey, I knew how to teach; after 30 years of working in a Knox County classroom, I figured I could babysit kids for a day every so often.
I completed the on-line application, and after some time, I completed some kind of profile test on the computer. The system’s website informed me that I would be contacted if I met the criteria, or something to that effect.
As of today, I’ve never heard a word from Knox County Schools, its website, or its human resources department. Now, most companies will send out a “thanks-but-no-thanks” letter to let applicants know they’ve been turned down. That’s not the way it goes with our local school system. I suppose the powers that be have decided that ignoring candidates is the best way of letting them know they’re not wanted or not qualified.
Not qualified—that’s a sore spot with me. As I said, I spent a career in high school classrooms at Doyle High School and Karns High School. Over the years, I worked hard and demanded much from my students. I don’t fool myself into thinking that every student, parent, teacher, and principal liked me. The truth is that I wasn’t in teaching for a popularity contest; I wanted to prepare students for what lay before them in college.
My evaluations were all good. I never cared if “big dogs” visited my classroom. I managed to complete the dog-and-pony shows when evaluators dropped in. That meant filling out the forms using my best educational jargon and making sure I covered each area of the teaching process that administrators and supervisors deemed important. When the whole thing was finished, I went back to teaching in the way I knew worked.
God makes sure we humans don’t make too many mistakes, and I give thanks He made sure I didn’t return to the schools in a substitute role or any other position. Still, it’s flabbergasts me that I now am not qualified to substitute teach, even though I was a teacher in the system for so long.
More prayers of thanks are sent above for my leaving the profession before this superintendent and others screwed up the profession. Testing, whether it’s demanded by an out-of-touch head of schools, windy politicians, or governing school boards, is ruining education. Yes, student progress needs to be assessed, but the main function of education is to teach children how to think, read, and express. At the same time, things like band, choir, and art are important components of a well-rounded education and individual.
When 6.5% of the workforce leaves, it might be self-serving to say it’s normal turnover in the organization. However, when teachers resign because they can no longer put up with the absurd demands of testing and evaluations and impossibility of performing their duties, the times has come for the public to demand answers and changes from the board and from the incompetent leader. Of course, these folks will only spread the manure about how great schools are, how committed to excellence they are, and how willing they are to listen. Don’t believe it for one second.
So, I am lucky that the school system decided that after 30 years I wasn’t worthy of substituting. I am thankful that my children have gone through the system already and have managed to earn college degrees and enter the workforce. Were shortcomings present then? Yes! Even so, many students received quality education from teachers who enjoyed their jobs. These days, the teaching profession is something to avoid. That’s because the leaders think they know better what schools should do, even if they have no field experience. It’s a situation that grows sadder and sadder.