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#Didn't Quit Teaching: Kim Rhodes, the social studies teacher


This is a transcript of the mini-podcast episode of A Different EduPodcast, #DidntQuitTeaching: Kim the Social Studies Teacher. You can hear the audio podcast from our podcast page https://adifferentedupodcast.podbean.com, Apple podcasts, or most major podcast distribution services.


Kim:

So so I turned around. By then I was saying I'm done with this district. I am done. This is ridiculous.

Bill:

Teaching is hard, yet there is power and great teaching and learning that keeps teachers going.

Kim:

..the woman was on my case the entire year. You know, and it wasn't my first rodeo of teaching. I had been teaching like three years. So I had years under my belt and you know, every time I turn around I was being called in by the principal and all this kind of stuff 'cause this woman was all upset.

Bill:

This is Kim Rhodes. At this time she was a fifth grade teacher in a suburban school district.

Kim:

I always did a lot of hands on activity with the kids. I wanted to get in 42 minutes, I wanted to be able to hit all of them one way or the other So when I taught history, yes, there would be lectures, but also, for instance the battle of Lexington and Concord: we talked about the Redcoats and how they marched through the night. So I had all kids get out into the hallway and we stack together like three or four in a row. I taught them the goose step. They had to goose step like a red coat all around the building, down the stairs, synchronized and everything. Yeah, I remember one girl getting coming back and she said, "Oh my gosh, Mrs. Rhodes, that's wonderful for a thigh workout."

Bill:

The criticism Kim was receiving had nothing to do with what was actually happening in her classroom.

Kim:

Something that you might even want to do is when you have to test them on certain things, let them come in and have an input on their project. You know I have a series of questions to ask them, and if they could answer them right off the top of their heads and things like that, I would say, marvelous now, what grade do you think? Or what percentage do you think you deserve? And they would tell me, and they always graded themselves low. And I would say, well, I disagree. And then they look and I would say I think instead of it being an 88 like you said, I think it's a 95. So let's compromise. And then you know, there you go.

Bill:

Kim was allowing students to have ownership of their learning in a way that many of them had never experienced before.

Kim:

A lot of them said that they've never, other than me, had a teacher allow them to have input into their own work.

Bill:

Kim was teaching not only what she knew, but also what she had experienced.

Kim:

The secret Bill, was I taught not only from the book, but I taught from personal experience. Particularly as when we got into closer, serious issues after the foundation of the United States and I taught it from the view of a woman. So it was a very well-rounded education.


Bill:

And while Kim had strong confidence in her teaching, she was also humble enough to know that she didn't always have all of the answers.

Kim:

And I had a professor who said: Be honest, don't go in there and try to think that you are the master of everything because you're here. You don't know, and it's okay to tell kids, I don't know. Even in my own subject that I taught for thirty years, American history, there were things I didn't know when kids would ask. And I would listen and go. Wow, ah, I don't know the answer to that. I will research that tonight and we'll discuss it tomorrow. I mean, it's okay and I think when sometimes I said that to the kids, they were startled.

Bill:

Kim guided her students in hands-on, interactive deep learning. Students were growing in the academic subjects that Kim taught, as well as growing as independent, strong thinkers. This was not why she was being called to the principal's office.


It had nothing to do with her teaching or with her teaching philosophy.


Kim:

There was a mother opening day, you know, in elementary how the teachers stand at the door and those kind of stuff and welcome the kids. This one walked up to me and said, "Oh no, my child will not have a black teacher."

Bill:

The opposition to Kim's teaching had nothing to do with her philosophy, her approach, or her quality of teaching. Kim was a great teacher, but she found herself in a terrible teaching situation because of racist views of parents and an administration that was not willing to confront these views.

Kim:

Well finally her daughter left and went to the fifth grade. And I can remember that it must have been a week into the new school year. Principal called me in and said that the woman had gone to the Board of Education and launched a complaint that I wasn't qualified to teach in their schools more. This kind of stuff and the Superintendent was meeting and everything else. And I said, wait a minute, you all are meeting on me and my constitutional rights are being violated right now. Well, their eyes got big 'cause they didn't realize that my uncle was the federal judge that made the disaggregation decision for Columbus Public Schools, Judge Duncan.

Bill:

Robert Martin Duncan was the first African American to serve as a federal judge in Ohio. He decided the case that led to the desegregation of one of the largest school districts in the state. Columbus City Schools. In addition to ruling on the case, Robert Duncan also directly oversaw the implementation of the desegregation plan.

Robert Martin Duncan, the first African-American federal court judge in Ohio

Kim:

I went into the nurses office 'cause of course this was in 79-80 when there was no cell phone so I went and got on the nurses phone 'cause she wasn't there that day and I called my dad dad called Uncle Bobby off the bench. Uncle Uncle Bobby took the call and said you tell them right now you're giving them twenty-four hours to solve this issue, or you're taking it to channel four, six, and ten and your gonna blow [the school district] out of the water and tell them that this is advice from your council. And I walked right back into [the principal's] office and I told him word for word for word what my uncle Bob had said. Honest to God within twenty-four hours I had a letter that said the issue was dead.

Bill:

The legal battle had been won, but that did not change the fact that there were parents and others in the district that were judging Kim, not by the quality of her teaching, but by the color of her skin. There was still a moral battle that Kim would have to deal with.

Kim:

So so I turned around. By then I was saying I'm done with this district. I am done. This is ridiculous.


Bill:

Somehow Kim continued and not just continued, but thrived. The ideological change in the school community did not come from a legal decision, but from the power of great teaching and learning. Parents saw how their students were able to grow and soon the script was flipped. Parents were begging to have Kim teach their children.

Kim:

I'll never forget my last day that I before I retired and stepped out of [the school], there was a mother that walked up and said you've had three of my four children. Could you stay one more year so that my last child could have you?

Bill:

There is tremendous power and great teaching and learning. In Kim's case, it was the power to educate and change a community. For many teachers, the power of great teaching and learning is what keeps them teaching, even when they feel like quitting.


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