Sunday, September 20, 2015

Kim Frencken: Thoughts on my time in Joplin Schools

(The author of this column, Kim Frencken, a Neosho resident and East Newton High School graduate, taught in the Joplin R-8 School District for 20 years. She is the author of the educational blog, Chocolate for the Teacher.) Her new book for younger readers, Five Spooky Tales of Suspense, is available at

I guess some would call me a victim of Joplin Schools, but I don’t choose to look at it like that.  Oh, I had trials and troubles, but a victim?  No, not me.  I stood up for what I believed to be right, I challenged the ‘powers-that-be’ and I lost. I wouldn’t even say I’m a loser. I had 20 years of great students, met some fabulous people, and had some awesome experiences.

Most of the principals I worked under earned my respect.  Men and women like Jim Kimbrough, Larry Shelley, Shirley Lynch, and Ron Mitchell.  I often was amazed that I was actually paid to teach!  I have so many wonderful memories and so much to be thankful for that I can’t even begin to think that I lost. To think that would make all those years a waste. And they were anything but that.

I actually had the audacity to tell Dr. Huff that he wasn’t my boss and neither was the board of education. My students and their parents were my boss.  I’m not sure that it was appreciated, but I believed it so I said it.  I still believe it and if I were asked, I’d say it again.  The students of Joplin and their parents were the driving force behind me. They were what kept me going and motivated me.

I can’t say I loved my job the last four years. New administration and changes in education made teaching almost impossible.  It is really hard to work for someone that you have no respect for and to work with people that are in education for one thing- to make a name for themselves. During those last four years, I let it all get me down.  By it, I mean all the praise and promotion of undeserving and unqualified folk who liked to get in good with the higher-ups, the constant changes in policies and procedures, the piling up of expectations, and the mass exodus of good teachers.  By the end of my last year, I was exhausted.  Worn out from ‘fighting the good fight’.

I once told Ron Mitchell that I would know when it was time for me to retire and the door wouldn’t hit me on the way out.  I knew and the door didn’t hit me.  In fact, I knew long before I told anyone. When we moved our things from the warehouse to the new building, I never unpacked my personal belongings. I didn’t have the heart to unpack.  It didn’t feel like home.  It didn’t feel like teaching anymore. I knew that the new form of grading (which is actually not grading) was not preparing students for the “real world” or even high school.  I knew that the lowered expectations of administration were actually hurting my kids. I couldn’t bear to see it anymore and be a part of it. The lack of administrative support and discipline made teaching feel a lot like babysitting some days. I hated that.

 The culture of fear, that has been established, needs to go.  Teachers should be treated as the professionals they are.  Change is in the air. I can feel it and my Joplin friends deserve it.
(Those who appreciated this column and would like to contribute to the author can contribute any amount they wish by using the PayPal button below. Be sure to mention Kim Frencken's name in the message. Those who prefer not to use PayPal or a credit card can send contributions to 2306 E. 8th, Joplin, MO 64801. Eighty percent of the money will go to the author, with the remaining 20 percent going to Inside Joplin/The Turner Report.)


Anonymous said...

This made me want to cry. I'm happy that Ms. Frencken was at the retirement stage so that she could escape the bullying that is so evident in R8 and at East. I wish I could join her in retirement. I love students and I love the theory of education, but the current environment is just not bearable. I keep hearing everyone say it's going to be an exciting year. When? So far it's the worst I've endured here, as there is more to do than anyone can get done, the pressure is on for improvement with nothing given to us to work with, and I'm more broke than ever. Happy retirement, Ms. Frencken, and I salute you for standing up for what is right. Perhaps if more people had, we would not have gotten into this miserable state of being.

Anonymous said...

She was an amazing teacher and is so correct in stating that the new grading system does not help our students but actually hurts them as a parent of a freshman at the highschool I see first hand how I believe that my son did not achieve what he need through the new grading system. I thought he was doing well in middle school according to the new system and now I find he is actually behind in high school. She was an awesome teacher and was joplin schools loss.

Anonymous said...

Well not a fan of this woman at all. She was ok with my daughter. However, she hated my son, even begged me to get him out of her class. But I do agree with her assessment of the last 4 years. Happy retirement.

All these teachers think they are Douglas McArthur said...

Gotta laugh at all these "teachers" who think that they get to decide curriculum or what they teach, as opposed to following school policy as set by the elected school board officials who are in turn answerable to the taxpayers and voters and parents of the local district.

Or "standing up" to CJ Huff, who was the superintendant set over her as a public employee by the duly elected school board. Disobeying your boss has consequences in the private sector, but these teachers all think that they get to do whatever they please with other people's children and public funds.

There is good reason for school authorities to detect rogue teachers who want to let themselves teach whatever they want to teach and cannot obey school board policy, and even those who, like Frencken, support those rogue teachers like Turner. There is no shortage of wannabe teachers coming out of college who will do as they are told because they want a paycheck. There is no need to keep these potential Turners acting as a viper to their own bosum.

The Armed Forces weed out potential McArthurs or Caesars or Billy Mitchells from their ranks during peacetime. In wartime these warriors rise to the top, and then are retired or driven out in peacetime. But they are never given the nuclear codes.

I'm glad that this teacher made retirement. She can say whatever she pleases now that she is no longer in any position of authority having undermined lawful authority by word, if not deed.

Anonymous said...

4:23 - Anson Burlingame or Anson Burlingame wannbe, you would've been perfect among Hitler's loyal followers.

Unknown said...

To 9:27 - I am a retired teacher and in my entire teaching career, I have never, ever worked with a teacher who "hated" a student, nor one who would have "begged" a teacher to move her child to another class. Kim Frencken is an admirable person and was (it makes sad to say "was") one of the most outstanding teachers in the R8 school district. I will say this about you, 9:27 parent, you are a coward to leave an anonymous comment about the teacher of your son who no doubt cared deeply about him and who also may have tried hard to help him beyond what she could and beyond what her school was willing to do. Shame on you for your sullying the reputation of this teacher.

Unknown said...

correction - *nor one who would have "begged" a parent