Dear Jasper and Kestrel,
I have gotten to tell you about many of my lovely friends here in Salinas. Today I had dinner at Gino’s Italian Restaurant with one of them, my former colleague and former Principal, Anne Crawford.
I met Anne about 20 years ago (without all my school yearbooks, I can’t be sure) when she was a new teacher at University Park. She was teaching what was then called Primary Introduction to English, or something like that. It was a class specifically designed to teach newly arrived students English. She struck me as having great empathy and understanding for her students and a desire to broaden their horizons.
Having always taught at University Park, when it was a mostly middle class population, I had never thought of using school to provide what I thought of as normal “kid” experiences. But Anne’s students had never been to the ocean, never gone to a play, never talked about the news. Anne was determined to give them those experiences. I watched and learned, and I’m glad I did.
As our school’s population changed to more lower income students, I began to see the wisdom in Anne’s approach. Not all of our new students had yards to play in, family vacations to remember, or books in their home. I remember the first time a student told me they hadn’t done their homework because they didn’t have a pencil at home, I thought it was the silliest excuse I had ever heard. But they didn’t. And I had to re-think homework.
A few years after I met her, Anne got her Administrative credential and moved to a different school to be their Principal. A few years after that, she returned to University Park as our Principal. What a homecoming!
Now Anne was leading our merry band of teachers, and school went from being good to being great. If you have never been a teacher, it is hard to explain how a Principal who knows exactly what it is like to be in a classroom all day is a golden gift. They understand the importance of little things, like pencil sharpeners that really work, and how important it is for students to see the Principal RIGHT AWAY when there is a problem.
Anne brought her concern and wisdom to all our students, and was a fine Principal, even in the hard times of tight budgets and increasing micro-managing by the District Office. But after her many years of working in the public schools, Anne hit a wall with parents who wouldn’t parent and kids who had no limits. She retired.
Of course, as we now understand, retiring is just the beginning of a whole new life. Anne had new grandkids to look after, dinners to hostess, and beaches to walk on. And, like today, friends to buy dinner for. AND, she’s coming to my retirement party on Friday!