Thorpe-TOCweb1I have been blessed in my second career to have worked for three great principals.  As Tony and I have presented outside of our district we are constantly hearing stories from other teachers about terrible principals; we just smile and nod because we have nothing to add to the conversation.  There is almost a sense of guilt that occurs because we have been so blessed.  Crystal is the third principal of my teaching career and I have already discussed Roger Norris and Brian Cronk.  In many ways Crystal’s arrival hit me at the right time in my teaching career.  It might surprise folks that know me, but there is a part of me that is really opinionated about what works in the classroom.  It might be telling that in my book that I have only cited only one other author or article.

For many years my educational circle was very small; made up of just 4 or 5 people that I would talk with about the craft of teaching.  Crystal expanded my circle by one.  She knows the craft and she especially understands reading and writing.  Our passions overlap in this area.  I find myself seeking guidance instead of affirmation; this is something that does not come easy and it only happens with people that I trust completely.

As a leader, Crystal gets it completely.  She understands the difference between leadership and management as evident from the way she conducts herself on the job.  She sets direction, first and foremost, on what is best for kids.  Now this seems an obvious thing to most people, but education can be about grandstanding and making yourself look good for your next job.  I have seen these people come and go in both my careers.  Crystal has a blue-collar mentality of goals, hard work, and self-evaluation; this is perfect in a building filled with like minded teachers.  She stays current professionally and enriches versus force-feeding new ideas.  She made a great impression on a building that lost a beloved principal by listening and observing for a year before she started to put her stamp on the building.

Crystal has been so supportive of me at a professional level.  For example, last school year’s success with the FHS We-the-People team inspired me to want to start a middle school team and compete at the state-level.  To do this was no easy task.  First off, I would need to teach an 8th grade class; however, there was no way that I would jeopardize the strong team dynamic that exists at the 7th grade level and with our district in a budget crunch there was no chance of teaching during my prep.  So in order for this to happen, I would need to put my 6 classes of future Globetrotters into 5 classes and then have one class of 8th graders.  Crystal never hesitated and she supported every change to make it happen.  Why?  She saw a way to improve the educational opportunities for our kids.

I count every year that Crystal comes back as principal a blessing.   So thank you Crystal for being a great principal.