A Knoxville kindergarten teacher wrote this disturbing letter on conditions at her school. She shared it with the Board of Education and state legislators from her area.
I know we have met before, but I am ——————, and I teach kindergarten at —————-. I have taught here for 7 years, and I love everything about this community. But right now I am literally wishing someone had a reason to fire me or I had a reason to quit. It is not the mask issue, it is not contact tracing, it is the fact that there are literally massive attendance problems - and I am talking teachers because there are no subs in KCS.
At the board meeting, many were saying the absences aren't that bad and teachers can handle it. I can assure you - this is not true.
I currently have a class of 20 five year olds, where 17 of them speak a different language at home, and 6 of those speak zero English at all. I say this because staff absences that are not covered by subs make a difference to these kids. They NEED their ESL hour. Before today, for two days one of our ESL teachers was out sick with no sub. We also have our kindergarten TA out sick with no sub. Our ONLY principal (no vice principal) is out the whole week as one of her family members is dying - no sub there either. Both of our custodians are out sick - we have one sub, who bless him, is trying but cannot do it alone understandably. A day ago, even worse, on top of that we had a first grade teacher and special areas teacher out with no sub.
With so many out and no coverage the result is this...
-I have cried everyday on my way to work and back home because I am in so much distress.
-I missed half of plan time covering and figuring out a plan for special areas class for a TA to implement.
-For 3 days, I had a 10-15 minute lunch because there was not enough staff to cover lunch duty.
-Yesterday, I bled through my clothes because I was unable to get someone in my room to cover a bathroom break on time.
-Our ELA coach and pre-k coach that are shared with other schools are now here (after I called one begging and crying to her to ask permission to help us) trying to be the principal and fill all positions with no subs.
-My classroom has not been vacuumed or swept or mopped in 3 days. The floors today were covered with food from previous days (and we already have mice and roaches here), moldy milk/rust black goo liquid stuff all over the floor from trashcans that aren't able to be taken out. Milk bucket filled with 2 day old smelly milk sitting in the hall still. - VERY unhealthy and nasty conditions
-During instruction today, I had to get the custodial mop and mop my floors and hope kids didn't slip because they were that disgusting. Other teachers borrowed the vacuum to clean their floors. The ONE sub custodian did everything he could, but it is not reasonable to give one man that expectation.
-I wore a LITERAL adult diaper to school today in case I couldn't get coverage in time for the bathroom because I didn't want to bleed through clothes again.
-Our angel of a school secretary is doing everything she can to fill needs, aka mop up spills in classrooms, change kids who had accidents, help with behavior students, find staff to help when no one responds on the walkie.
-Dismissal at the end of the day started late because we did not have enough staff to hold and open car doors for kids while also watching them in the school.
-Having NO time to learn and teach the new Benchmark series (which btw is making us teach parts of speech to 5 year olds and wants us to read articles instead of actual picture books), assess all of my kids on aimsweb (which btw is making 20 five year olds with no english take a whole group 15 question multiple choice test - took an hour), complete my 3 page required TIGER reflection/learn the new evaluation system, video every child's letters and sounds for the annual required and new kindergarten portfolio, make a canvas page (which apparently we need and have time to make), make a seating chart for my room and cafeteria, write a DCS report and call for a child in my class, contact every parent to get them to return their chromebook agreement, oh and just actually teach my kids and love them.
So all in all, I know this sounds like me venting and being annoying. But, to be honest, this is me sticking up for my kids. Because me being a custodian, a lunch monitor during my lunch, a specials teacher, and everything else, means my kids don't get a teacher that can be there for them and actually teach. It is not right. I don't care why they say they choose to do it, but KCS needs to take a week off and either find subs, let people get better, or make a plan because THIS, no teachers or subs (let alone students), is NOT OKAY. Or at the very least, they can send board members to help fill these positions, provide teacher bathroom breaks, and help at dismissal.
I hope you get this email - I know you are probably flooded with them. And I know there is nothing you personally can do on your own - but just knowing there is SOMEONE on the board who cares and is willing to listen and not DENY what is happening in schools helps me feel a little better. Because the last email I sent to the superintendent (which was short, sweet, and kind - asking if there was a plan because teachers can't be successful right now) was replied to by A higher up with a generated response and a call out for me to talk to my principal who she then CC'd on the email (I am assuming to make me feel like I would get in trouble, and that my principal should keep me in line - none of which is true and my principal is out with her dying loved one).
Anyways, thank you for caring. And you were right - I was literally teacher of the year at my school last year, and even I can't/don't want to do this anymore. Something needs to happen or change FAST.
And not that you would - but please do not CC my principal, she is busy with her family emergency and deserves that time. And please, keep my name anonymous if you share this email/my frustrations with anyone. I don't want to get in trouble, and I don't want anyone else to get in trouble because of me.”