Pool: “Take my job and love it.” | Frank pool



My mom used to say, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”.

Most of the time, she said it resentfully, because people in relationships get the finer things in life by relying on what today we call “privilege.” It wasn’t until years later that I realized I should have challenged her by asking her what she was doing to help her children get to know the “right” people.

Although she had a circle of close friends, neither she nor my father was of the social type. We used to have family, sometimes for the weekend, but the people who got together to party were not part of their world. In fact, if she saw a bunch of cars outside a house, she assumed someone was dead.

Some recent events have reminded me of the people we know.

I returned to substitute teaching. I like it, I’m good at it, and the kids, the staff and I love each other. During the pandemic, the district dramatically increased wages, and that doesn’t hurt.

This fall, I had planned to start another Life Path, hoping to write a different, productive final chapter of my life story, but obstacles have blocked it, so I’m happy to return to the education.

As the start of the school year approached, I was called by the deputy coordinator, desperate to cover a physics class the teacher had left in the summer.

I said I had never even done physics and was not qualified. I was assured, in a desperate tone, that I was the most qualified unskilled person they could get while they looked for someone to teach the class.

So I said yes. The school teaches physics to second year students; most high schools wait until the last year. The children are very young and may have done algebra in grade one.

Fortunately for me, the first two chapters were conceptual rather than quantitative. Students have an electronic manual available online with hyperlinks and scientific calculators.

With the precious help of another physics teacher, I also obtained a set of textbooks for those who left their laptops at home. This teacher helped me with ideas and materials until I got a feel for what to do.

I would learn with the kids; it was actually an invigorating challenge. Due to the new rules of the Texas Education Agency, I was limited to 20 days for the mission anyway.

I kept asking them if they were interviewing for a permanent teacher. It’s hard in a place like Austin with all of its tech jobs to find someone willing to teach in high school.

This is the part where “it’s not what you know but who you know” came to the rescue.

I’ve known a man for six years, but in the last two we’ve become closer friends. I knew he was going through changes in his life and had quit his tech job.

One night I brainstormed and wrote her an email saying ‘take my job and love it’. I asked if he could be persuaded to teach physics in high school.

He thought about it for a few days and said he was indeed interested. So now he’s applied, goes through alternative certification processes and observes classes at school, including mine, and meets people he will be working with.

The fact that he had a PhD from Stanford did not detract from his candidacy. I hope he is happy and successful. Children deserve a competent teacher.

I think back on Mom’s word, and I realize that knowing the right people is important. I have the privilege of knowing so many good people.

– Frank Thomas Pool is a retired English writer and teacher in Austin. He grew up on Maple Street in Longview and graduated from Longview High School. His column appears Tuesday. Contact him at [email protected]


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