A: I'm telling the truth the way it is ... I mean it was for me. I was the only woman administrator, I was saying, in our district. There were nine administrators, I mean principals, besides the assistant superintendent and those things. And, I wrote the management contract. I did the negotiating for the management team. The men didn't. Why did I do it then? I wanted to have a good retirement, and the only way I was going to have a really good retirement was to get raises.
A: So I did all the talking with the school board. That took time. But I never took any of my school day time for that. I did a lot of ... One year, my school had 789 kids because they were building the San Anofres School, and they bused all those children who lived in those areas down to my school. Um ... And, so, that was the year that I learned a really great trick ... It takes twenty, it took twenty five minutes from my house out to the school, so I took my tape recorder everywhere I went. It was always in the front seat of my car in my briefcase; and I dictated letters on my way to school, and I dictated them on the way back. Any driving that I had ... If I had to drive to San Diego to a meeting, I dictated all my ... a lot of my answers to my mail and everything to my secretary on tapes.
A: And then I just brought the tapes back to her, and I was through driving. I saved a lot of time.
Q: That was smart.
A: Otherwise, I was up to all hours because, with that many children and that many teachers, it was a mess. I had a kindergarten ... The kindergarten was in the old 17 area nursery school. I had seven kindergartens, and so that was three miles away. So, I'd get in the car and drive over there and check them out for a morning and then drive back to my other school.
Q: "On the road ... "
A: "On the road again ... "
Q: Um, as far as I know, that you had said something in comparison to a base school and an off school, off base school; but do you feel there were any responsibilities that you faced being a principal on a base school that your wouldn't have faced if your school was off the base?
A: Well, you know, I have a friend, a woman principal, who still has the Santa Margarita School. And ... it would ... she probably be better to ask ... See, she's still active, and she never grew up in it. She was a principal; she went to UCLA. She was a principal in ... um . . around Los Angeles before she moved down here to Oceanside, and then they moved to San Marcus; and then she became principal in Oceanside. So it would be very interesting to hear her answer to that. Um, to me, that's all I ... My whole career was one school, 35 years, you know, practically, in one school; and it was always military. I do know this--I visited lots of civilian schools. I belonged to this management leadership organization in the county; and one of the things that, besides having two meetings a year with the whole group of administration of the whole county, we had little ... What did they call them? Not steering groups--pilot groups, that went to different schools and observed different programs. And, I do know this ... What I was ... I may be very opinionated about this, but it was true in my view ... Education in my school was so far above what education was in civilian schools. I couldn't believe what they were not learning in the other schools. So ... And that sounds like I'm bragging; but it isn't, it isn't. We ... We had the philosophy that these kids in our school could be transferred anywhere in the world at any time, and we wanted them to be ahead or at least up with anybody in comparison with their age level, anywhere in the world. And we'd get letters back. Oh, the parents would start to come. They'd come from the East Coast. "Oh, we're going to be coming to a California school, and our kids are going to be so far behind." ... and all this ... and where they'd be getting A's on the East Coast, they were struggling in our school to catch up. I didn't want that to happen to our children. But that was an unusual school. In Oceanside ... If I had a kid transfer from an Oceanside school into my school ... They were a year behind us. So, I could see why they were crying on the East Coast that they didn't want any kids from California.
Q: They'd be far behind.
A: They were but you ... you have that experience. You went to California schools. Were you way behind when you went somewhere?
Q: We went to Catholic schools most of the time, so at least . .
A: They were sort of ... exactly ... I felt like my school was sort of a private school, really. We had standards that they didn't have out in town.
Q: What, um, being a principal in the same school in which you were a teacher ... O.K., What, of course there were many advantages that you probably ... Maybe you want to give me the most important advantages, and then you might go into any disadvantages.
A: I thought most of it was disadvantages, although I didn't know it when I became the principal. It never, ever ... I'd never even thought about it. There were teachers, 55 and 60 and ... You know ... There must have been more than half the staff that was older than I was; and I became the principal. And I never even thought about it until I went in the office, and I got these snide remarks from some of the older gals. I had to prove myself to them, again. I was somewhat of a loner as a teacher, I tell you, and the reason I was is because I loved being with my kids. I spent all my time in the classroom. I was never in the lounge. I wasn't a "lounge bug". There are those, you know.
A: And all they do is sit in the lounge and smoke. First time there is a break--away they go. I was never that. I never had the time for that. I was so busy in my classroom and ... I even had a chess club and that sort of thing after school. My kids ... My sixth graders would stay after school, and we'd do all kinds of art projects and stuff we didn't have time for in school. They lived close enough to walk. But I never ... So, they, the teachers at school really didn't know me, even though I had been there for years. I was a senior teacher. They didn't know me nearly as well as they got to know me when I became the principal. Um ... That was the disadvantage. They didn't really want to accept me as the principal. I was O.K. as a teacher, but I wasn't ... They had all these more years of experience ... And that was true. They did. So I had to ... I really had to work harder to be accepted by them than I would, I think, if I had come in from the outside or if I had been a man too. I really think woman teachers ... I don't care what they say about women's rights and all that other stuff. I think women teachers accept men principals much more quickly than they accept a woman principal. I mean they did. You have to realize that I went into it 20 years ago, but I still see that ... that, um ... I think a woman principal has to be more talented, not necessarily more intelligent because I don't think that ... I don't think I'll say that on the tape.
A: But I do think they have to try harder to be accepted. And yet not ... You don't have to get down with the girls and the boys, not that kind of trying harder but trying to do the things in a very professional way to be the real leader. This is not easy if people are not ready to accept you. It takes time. That's another thing that I learned that I try to tell another ... to tell this young man who was coming in to replace me. I said to him, "You will see lots of things you want to change to go your way. But don't do it right away. If you start changing things right away, your life's going to be hell. If you just make gradual changes with the agreement of your staff, at your staff meetings,
Q: As far as ... Well, I know, being a military child, that we moved a lot. So I'm sure that the kids, they were in and then stayed a couple years and would get out.
Q: What about your teachers? Was there much of a transition with the teachers?
A: Nope, no. I had ... The only time I ever hired ... You see, when I was a teacher, it was when teachers really had it made. If you wanted to see the world, you could go anywhere and find a job right away. Right?
A: Then, after 20 years ... (telephone interruption) ... After 20 years, I ... There became a shortage of teachers; and so, if you wanted to have any kind of security, you didn't dare move across country all over the place ... What was the question?
Q: The turnover rate of the teachers ...
A: Oh--not very, very much at all, when I was principal; but, before that, there were a lot of young teachers. They'd come ... For instance, they'd come from the East Coast. We had two from Boston. They came and spent two years just to live and try out the West Coast and see everything there was to see. Then they went to Hawaii and got a job. And then they went to Japan, until they finally met the men they were going to marry, marry you know, and then they got married. Teachers can. do that anymore.
A: Although, I understand there is going to be a shortage. Maybe it'll start that way again. It was a wonderful life.
Q: ... to just go and hop to wherever you wanted and pick up a job.
A: Yea. That's what they did.
Q: Um, was there a screening process that the teachers went through, as far as the hiring, before they came and would be interviewed by you for a teaching position?
A: Yes, yes. We had a district screening committee. All applications went into the district office. All applicants went to the district office and filled out an application, and they had all their papers sent; and once they had their papers sent, there was a file there ... a file was put up in their name. And if you, like for instance, if I as a principal needed a new teacher, I would go over and read through lots of papers. I would pick ... These were papers that had already gone through the district screening committee. Then I would pick papers of one ... Say I had a position open. When the school was growing, I had three positions open one year. I'd go through, looking for primary teachers. I needed a first grade teacher, and I'd pick out seven or eight. And then I would take them over and my, my school interview committee would ... I never let them read the papers. But I would talk to them about the different things, and I would tell them how many we were setting up. I'd take those seven, and we'd interview all seven.
Q: Who made up the interview committee?
A: Whoever wanted to be on it in my room, in my school. If it was ... If it was going to be a fourth, fifth, or sixth grade teacher, then the intermediate teachers came in, men and women, both. They'd come in ... If they didn't want to be on the interview team, then they didn't come.
Q: Did most feel comfortable being a part of an interview team?
A: Oh, yes. It was fun. It really was. It was fun because, if they didn't ... couldn't think of any questions they wanted to ask, I was always there with my loud mouth, with my ... no.
Q: ... with all your questions.
A: With all my questions, yes. So, ... And if I was to ask a question, then it would probably set off someone else's. They'd think of something they needed ...
Q: ... that they needed to get information for?
Q: What qualities would you look for when hiring a teacher?
A: Oh, it's hard to say. I looked at their physical aspect first. I'll tell you some of my little ... my little idiosyncrasies. As they were talking to me, I would look at their mouth. If the corners of their mouth turned down, that was a dead set point against them right away. If they ... If, when they were sitting relaxed and just looking at me and their mouth would go down, ... I would put that down on my paper. I never told my teachers this, so this is something that you're learning that is just an "Ettaism". Um, I looked at their hands ...
Q: I'm wondering about my mouth and my hands ...
A: ... the physical demeanor ... yea. I'm telling you because you may want to do this sometime. If you ... If you look at their hands, and they don't know what to do with them ... That's fine the first, you know, ... That's normal the first few minutes. But if it continues, and if they are continuously shuffling and changing their feet, they are a hyper, rather nervous person and not, also to me, not good for kids. I also look at their body language. You see ... Your body language is very good because you've decided that you're really going to listen to me. So you are leaned toward me. All your nonverbal things look very positive.
Q: Good ... Except that the tape wasn't running when it was suppose to be ...
A: Oh well ...
Q: Oh well ...
A: But if you ... But you see, if you were like this even ...
Q: Turned sideways ...
A: Everything ... If I were sitting like this, being interviewed by you, everything in my body is turned away from you. Then, I don't ... I wouldn't ... I'd put another point against you. Those are just physical things. I have other ... I had other things too I looked at, but those were the main ones. I liked to know whether they believed ... One of the things I made positive ... I already knew that they had all the potential for being a good teacher by reading ... I mean for being a teacher ... by reading their qualifications in the pages and the recommendations. Now I want to know what their personal philosophies are, and you don't ever say to a young teacher, "What's your philosophy of education?" because she'll speel off or he'll speel off some kind of junk that they've memorized 'cause college told them to.
Q: I never knew how to answer that one. It was like too general.
A: It is too general. I remember when I would try to find out if they believed that, if they were on yard duty, that every child was their responsibility. But I wouldn't ask it that way. I would say, "Alright, say I'm a teacher and you're a teacher and one of your children ... one of my children ... two of my children get in an argument and a fight, and they're scuffling around outside your back door. What would you do?" If they say, "Well, I'd just go get you." or "I'd just take them to the principal." I would say, "Oh no, this teacher does not understand what my philosophy is." My philosophy is--all the problems are ours, you know ... If I'm on yard duty, and they're having an argument, I listen to the problem. I don't take it to someone else. I try to solve it. That ... That's one ... (How's the tape doing?)
Q: It's doing just fine.
A: Yeah, we've got ten more minutes.
Q: On this side.
A: You were afraid you were not going to get me to talk, right?
Q: Oh, no. I knew that I could ... I'm a great listener.
A: So am I.
Q: But it's your turn to do all the talking ...
A: Maybe you'd like to tell me about yourself.
Q: Off tape ...
A: Um, anyway, that's ... I would present problems and my teachers learned to present Potential situations in order to find out what their philosophy really was, and you don't do it by just one question. I had a ... It's too bad I didn't keep some of my stuff. I had a wonderful interview sheet that over the years I had ... had made up. Just brief things to remind me to ... to ask, and it soon turned out that, if I asked it a couple times, pretty soon I never had to ask it anymore, my ten ... my team was asking the same kind of questions because we all sort of operated under the same philosophy. It's terrible to get a ... to get a ... to have a school ... to have a school group ... Like I had an intermediate group that had their own meetings, and their own philosophies about things; and then I had a primary group, and I had a kindergarten group. And they met. I had senior teachers who were called grade level chairmen; and the senior teacher would conduct these meetings about three or four times a year, or if there was a problem in their group and make up a new rule or something. We were always having trouble with four square, for instance.
A: So, if you're out on yard duty and some new teacher had made up some ... gone alone with some new rules for four square ... You got all these kids crying if they're primary, all the kids fighting if they're intermediate ... just over four square.
Q: Once it was a little game ...
A: But, if all the teachers get ... ban together as one group and say, "Alright, on our playground ... (because these playgrounds are all separate in my school. I was lucky.) ... This is the rule for four square and this ... we're not going to let any kids make up any other rules besides these ... no double dips, no other stuff." If you all agreed and kept the same philosophy, then the playground was pretty peaceful.
Q: It was when you have the different rules ...
Q: What techniques did you use to make your teachers feel that they were important?
A: Well, you can see what techniques I used.
Q: As far as, well, breaking down the responsibilities ...
A: Yes, that's right. They were given ... Like, they were even allowed to make ... All I was, was the final O.K. on things. They made up their yard duty schedules, within their group. They made up the playground rules, within their group. They recorded ... This all happens at pre-school. I mean ... You know the pre-school meetings?
A: I had a big green book, a loose-leaf green book with everything about the school in it. O.K.? And if they wanted to change things, they came and reported that at the final meeting when we were all together. Um ... I was only the ... I was the guide not the boss. It was like I was the guide ... I could ... I would tell them very strongly if I didn't believe in something. They pretty much knew what I believed in when I interviewed them; and so ... and I got the same kind of people ... They were the same kind of philosophy I had.
Q: Did they feel, um, open to discuss anything with you?
A: Yea. Well, I don't know about anything. I don't think we talked about sex too much.
Q: School related?
A: Yes. I do know ... I do know that my door was never open, and I was never too busy. I mean it was never closed. Pardon me!
Q: I knew what you were ...
A: It was never closed. As a matter of fact, I had two doors, one outside door and one right to the central office. Those were always open. Even when in the dead of winter, they were open. The only time that door was ever closed is if the FBI or the NIS or the MPs were in there on some kind of really, really personal discussion that could not go ... I didn't even let my secretary hear some things, you know ...
A: Otherwise, my secretary heard everything, and teachers came and went anytime they felt like it. Even if another teacher was in there, they'd come to the door and say, "Etta, are you going to have ten minutes a little later?" And I'd say, "Sure, as soon as we're through here, come on in." So ...
A: And they could ... They'd tell me when they were unhappy with something ... with something that we were doing in the school which I had instigated, you know ... If you think that you're always right, just because you're the principal, then you're in deep mud.
Q: Gotta be open for change.
A: Yes, but you also have to be very strong in your own opinions and make sure the change ... you know ... not change just for change sake, but change for the better. I ... I really believed in change, and we changed a lot of things; but I didn't believe in just change. I'm one of those ... one of those old gals who'll tell you, "O.K., twenty years ago we were using this, this phrase; and then it went into disuse, and now all of a sudden, twenty years later here we are, all doing the same thing again in education." Tape One, Side Two
Q: We were talking about the teachers. How about your evaluating process of the teachers. I don't know what it is in the San Diego schools, I do know what it is in the Fairfax County Schools in Virginia. But, what does the principal do as far as evaluating teachers?
A: I did it many different ways. Um ... I'm trying to think ... One year, I ... O.K. ... I observed all the time. You know teachers say, "Oh, she never formally observed me." I always made appointments with a teacher. I told them when I was coming. And it was always twice. It might be for twenty minutes. It might be for an hour and twenty minutes, depending on who the teacher was, and how many complaints I had from the parents or how may compliments I had from the parents or how I could see things were going ... Like ... It's amazing. You won't believe this ... and, I wouldn't have believed it when I was just a teacher, but I can observe so much walking by your room many times, just going by. All my classrooms were ... My school was a terraced school, if you remember.
A: It had all the windows facing one way, and there'd be six classrooms in one building, and then you'd go up to the next terrace; and there'd be six more classrooms. So, you could just walk by and see what was going on if you wanted to. Or you could ... I'd be on my way to do something, and I could be seeing things that were going on ... But I always had two where I sat down formally ...
A: As I took notes, as I was observing ... And I would keep that paper, and I would tell them ... They knew that I wanted to see them, that afternoon, right after school was over, right after the buses had gone and so forth. So they would come in, and I would show them everything I had written on that observation sheet. So they would ... It wasn't any big secret. It was all there, and I'd put it in their file until I went and observed them the next time. After I had observed them twice formally ... or any informally I'd put notes into it ... They always saw that file. Then I would take those things and write a formal evaluation to present to the school board, with those. One year, I had no new teachers, and I told my teachers ... teachers that . . um ... So ... So I had ... um ... So when they came in for ... What a minute; I got ahead of myself. After I wrote this formal obs ... uh ... evaluation, then I would sit down with them and go over everything there on that typed sheet.
A: And they ... There was a place on the bottom that said that they had agreed with what I had said, or they didn't agree, or they'd like to have this reviewed by someone else, or they'd like to be observed by someone else; and then they'd sign it. It didn't say they agreed with it, but they did have to sign that we had our ... Because in the contract it said we had to have ... The labor contract ... It said we had to have a face to face discussion about this, which I think is really perfectly normal. It should be.
Q: Annually ... Each year?
A: Twice a year if you were nontenured; once a year if you were tenured, or more than ... Because that means ... that meant the principal was starting ... was starting paperwork to try to get rid of you. And you needed a lot of paperwork to get rid of somebody. Um ... One year, I was going to tell you, I had no new teachers; and we had known each other I think ... I think it had been two years since I had had a new teacher. So I wrote ... I still did all the observations and everything and wrote all the papers, and then at the staff meeting ... I had a staff meeting every single Tuesday morning, before school.
A: We'd meet at seven o'clock, and it'd be over at quarter to eight; and I learned that because, when I was a teacher, I hated teacher meetings. I hated staff meetings because our ... my principal would go, drone on and on and on, and he'd have them in the afternoon, and we couldn't get ... We never go away from there. So I determined I was never going to bore my teachers to death. If I had them in the mornings before school, then we had to quit at quarter to eight when yard duty had to start.
A: It was all organized. They all had an agenda, and we got it over with. I said to 'em, "You are going to write your own evaluations this year." OOOHHHH!
A: Talk about panic.
Q: Oh my gosh.
A: You are not kidding. It was total panic. I thought they were going to die. I said, "Then we...ii have our talk, and I'll tell whether or not I agree with what you write, you know. Don't you think it's fair? You've been saying, 'Why do we have to have these evaluations?' Let's have you do 'em." OOOHHHH ... But they did them, and then they made me promise they'd never have to do them again.
Q: Self-evaluation is ...
A: It was hard for 'em. And they ... Some of them were harder on themselves than I had ever been.
Q: Mm ... Did you provide them with the same type of form that you would have used?
A: Yes. I gave them their folder ...
A: ... when I made the observations, and then they told me what they thought about what kind of teacher they were. It was awfully hard on them. I never did it again.
A: But I just decided, you know ...
Q: Did you find ...
A: The school board thought it was great.
Q: As far as your side of it, too, when they came to you ...
A: No, I signed whether I agreed with it or not.
Q: Did you ever have to fire a teacher?
A: Oh ... yes ... yes. Um ... I fired, um, let me see ... It was three? ... four? I think ..m the only ... I was the only principal in the district who did. I fired one woman, two women ... well, and one man. One was ... Do you want to hear about 'em?
Q: If you want to tell me about them.
A: One was a black lady. She taught fourth grade, and she had come in in the middle of the year. She had never ... She had subbed ... She'd come in in the middle of the year as a substitute because one of my, one of my teachers had been ... Her home had been broken into, and she had been attacked and was hospitalized; and she wasn't going to be able to teach for the rest, the rest of that year. So this gal had been a long term substitute, beautifully educated, one of the most beautifully dressed women you've ever met in your life, and ... she ... I'd ... We asked her to take over the fourth grade to the end of the year. And she applied for a regular job the next year. She did beautifully for that, for those six weeks; so we hired her because that teacher was never going to be able to come back. Alright, the first ... She had ... She's black, right?
A: She had four little black children in her room. It was the fourth grade. When the first report cards came our ... My teachers have a master sheet that they made out for me ...
A: ... with all the grades of every kid in their room and how they think they're going to do because the first and third quarters they also conferenced with the parents with the report card ...
A: And I wanted to be sure that I knew, if the parents came to me and said, "You know this is not true and ... " that I had a record of what grade they'd been given and all this other ... all these other things.
A: Well, the first quarter came ... I can't make this long ... This is ... I can't make this a short story. (pause) I'll tell you one ... one I got rid of.
A: This ... This black one ... She ... She had ... I knew ... I already know, knew who the children were that were really below average in IQ.
A: I knew who were the little average kids, and I knew who were the gifted, and all this other things ... Every kid in my ... in my school. I knew this. So she had these little black children who were just average. They had about 101, 107 IQ ... just nice little average kids, and they were sweet. They were not only average; they were enlisted children. And ... (pause) ... She gave Ds and Fs straight across the report card to all three of these little black kids. No other D or F in her whole class. And I thought, "This was kind of strange ... In third grade, these little ... these children were pretty neat, you know, they were ... they were getting Cs, sometimes a B-. They tried; they struggled." So I ... "That's strange." Conference time came ... comes, and into my office, storming mad, six foot five, this great big black man. He is so mad; he is ready to kill somebody--HER! Not me. But he wants me to get her first before he can kill her. He said, "She is the most unfair, prejudiced, bigoted woman I have ever met." He said, "I know my kid's no genius. But my kid tries, and my kid works and does his work. I see it at home. And he's a good average little kid, and she's failing him." And I said, "You are absolutely right. It is no true." I knew the kid. "Try to calm down." "I'm not going to calm down, Mrs. Karn. Will you do something about that?" And I said, "Yes." I no sooner ... He no sooner left ... I had him for about 45 minutes. This is a short version of what he said. He left and in storms another black father. You see, the fathers and mothers in the service ... That's what I think is neat ... They usually both come ...
A: ... to conferences. He came in, and he said, "Who does this blankety, blank ... (He's swearing all over my office.) ... bitch think she is?" And I said, "Who?" you know ... My doors were open and in he comes ... "Who?"
A: (father) "Mrs. R ... ", you know ... And he told me what she had done. Well. I opened up the master sheet. I hadn't had time to compare, and here she had done that to all three. And I said, "Would you give me a chance to take, to ... " I said, "I ... I have never heard of this, but it does look like she's prejudice." She's a black prejudice against blacks. So, he said, "O.K., but I ... Those grades are not going to stand." He said, "My kid is not an F." So he left. So I called her in ... the next day. You know they had conferences all the way to five o'clock, so I wasn't going to call her in till the next morning. I went ... I went into the lounge, and I said I wanted to talk to her in my office. I asked her about it. "They are failures." "No" I said, "No, they're not." "They are too." And I said, "No!" I said, "You are the most prejudice person I've ever saw in my life, and you don't deserve to deal with children, and I will have you before the board of the NCAAP. Here you are ... a black woman." "Well! I'm so much better than they are!" She was highly educated; she couldn't stand black people. I said, "I want you to change all those grades. I'm not asking you to give them Bs and As and that sort of thing, but I'm not asking ... I know they don't deserve Fs. You show me their papers." "Well, I don't have any of 'em." I said, "You change those grades." That's the only teacher I ever made change grades, and I said, "Don't you ever ... Don't you think you're going to be rehired in this district. You are done." I fired her. I said, "Cause me trouble if you want to." She didn't. I said, "I want your resignation." I got her resignation and got a substitute in there. I made her resign right then. I was so mad at her. And I had never heard of black people being prejudice against blacks before. Had you?
A: And I'm in my forties, maybe my fifties by then. I can't remember.
A: So that's one of the ones I did.
Q: Um, what are your feelings on merit pay?
A: Well, I think I'd be against it, and I'll tell you why. I don't think it's right the way all teachers get the same pay now, by any means. But you could never run a peaceful school ... and uh ... with any ... it would all be a matter of opinion, and my idea of what's outstanding and your idea of what's outstanding ... uh ... would be world's apart. So, say I'm a principal one year, and I give you merit pay; and the next year I go to another school, and another principal comes in and says, "Well, you know, you're not . . Think of what the feelings would be like. I don't agree with the way people are paid now because I, you know ... Some of them do not deserve what they get. Just because they've been there another year, they get a ... they get the same thing as a ... young teacher who's twice as good as they are. Sometimes, a teacher that comes in her first or second or third ... or his too ... I had some outstanding men teachers, outstanding teachers; and they are making one third or maybe a fourth of what a useless teacher who's been there twenty years ... you know. It's not fair, but I don't know ... I don't think merit pay is the idea. If they wouldn't call it merit pay maybe ...
Q: The media back in Virginia has labeled it merit pay.
A: Well, it was ... It was called merit pay here too. But I don't ... There ought a be a way ...
Q: There ought a be a way to evaluate ...
A: There ought a be a way ... yes ... to give, to compensate outstanding teachers.
A: But it's like ... One human judging another human is O.K. when they're kids, in our society; but it's not O.K. when it's ... when I say you will be on the C-level because a C's a dirty word, really, with adults.
Q: Mm ... We want to be the A or the B, mostly A ...
A: That's right ... even B's a dirty word for some people, but C is really a dirty word with college graduate people who have children in your school. But, yea, there ought a be a way. I should've ... I should've thought of a way before because there should be a way. Everybody is paid the same.
Q: With respect ... You have told me a little bit about the discipline part of your involvement with your students, um, and that, um ... The amount of contact that you had with the kids ... I already have a picture of you up and around as much as you can ...
A: A lot--out on the playground ... in the cafeteria . . .
Q: Would you just pop into any classroom any time and just . .
A: No, no, not in the classrooms. Uh, I always ... um ... hated that when I was a teacher, and I know I was an outstanding teacher. It wasn't that I feared ... It was just that I felt like I had to accommodate.
A: Now, if a parent wanted to pop in, that was fine; but I was the boss, and that's a little bit har ... different. No, I always let the teachers know when I was coming.
A: Always. I think it's only fair. I never was one of those administrators that believed that they ought a turn the intercom on and listen into classrooms. I never did that. I never believed in it. I thought it was ridiculous that somebody had to do that, but I believed in letting my teachers know I was coming.
A: Even if it was just that morning. I'd say, "Hey, you mind if I come in and sit during reading for awhile?" or "What do you want ... What do you think about me coming in and ... teaching an art lesson with your kids?"
A: I liked to do that.
Q: Oh great, yea. Um ... What changes did you see, um, with respect to education throughout your years, in ... in your school in particular or just in education in general?
A: I think we probably tried everything. We went through a phase where we tried ... well ... we had the modern math for one thing, and that was really a panic to parents. And we tried team teaching. We tried core teaching. And we always went back to self contained.
Q: Core teaching ... Where one individual did all the math and ... ?
A: That's right.
Q: Did the teachers rotate or did the kids rotate?
A: The kids rotated. Yea, uh ... and we always went back to self contained. We... But we tried them.
A: Sometimes we only tried them for a semester. Our intermediate was just dying to try team teaching, you know. They thought it'd be the greatest thing since sliced bread. So I said, "Fine. Organize it. Let me see how it's going to work ... And let me watch it."
A: "And we'll see how happy you are with it." The teachers hated it!
A: Isn't that crazy? The kids didn't like it too well either, you know. It was really very strange.
A: The one thing that I did that I thought, uh ... uh ... When I became principal, I decided that I never wanted to really get away from the kids, so one of the things I did was very ... was unique. I always let the teacher have their birthday off ...
Q: What if it was in the summer?
A: ... and I taught the class. Then they got to pick the day.
Q: Oh ... That's neat!
A: Yea, and then I taught their class that day. That was my day where I never had any assignments, and I'd go in and I'd ... the night before ... and I'd look at their lesson plans; and they'd tell me what each group is doing, and then I'd say, "Have a happy birthday." And ... so ... the ones that were in the summer really had the best, or in Christmas vacation or Easter vacation ... They always had the best deal 'cause they'd choose a Friday or a Monday, so they would have a three day weekend.
Q: I'd like to suggest this to my current principal.
A: I got that ... uh ... I kept my finger in on teaching too that way, you know, and all the different kinds of things. Then, we had another thing that you might think is an interesting practice that I thought was really good. It was 'Teacher Trade Day' ... 'Teacher Appreciation Trade Day'. The kids thought this was hysterical. All the intermediate teachers ... I'd put their names in a hat, at a staff meeting.
A: And they'd draw a primary teacher's name. And that's the class that they were going to teach on 'Teacher Trade Day'.
A: Then all the primary teachers would draw an intermediate teacher's name and they'd ... that was ... It was the same day ...
A: And the kids all knew it was going to be 'Teacher Trade Day'. On this ... I ... It was hysterical. I had a six foot four fifth grade teacher, and he drew kindergarten.
A: Oh, and he was an extremely talented teacher. (Oooohh, watch that wire ... The cats are streaking.) He decided it was going to be a blast; so he goes over to Diane, and he finds out what he's going to do. And he comes running ... Kindergarten was from 9 to 11:30, the morning session ...
A: He was all excited. He comes running in, and he was ... He came running into my office at 10:30, and sweat was just pouring down his face; and he said to me, "Etta, what do I do now?" And I said, "Why?" And he said, "I'm all through!"
A: "I'm all through, and it's ... "
Q: ... a half hour?
A: " ... isn't 11:30 yet!" ... no.
Q: ... an hour more ... Oh, my goodness!
A: And he said, "They're feeling me all over!" It was good for them because they learned to appreciate what the other teachers had to put up with.
Q: The teacher did provide a lesson plan for the teacher coming in?
A: Oh, yes. Oh, yea. They wanted to ... We wanted to continue the way ... except they were dealing with a different kind of personality.
A: It was fun.
Q: Oh ... That sounds like fun! Um, what role did you play in public/community relations?
A: Uh, our school, since it was in the middle of the housing area, was the comm ... was the only community center the community had.
A: So, we had all the boy scout and cub scout meetings there. We had uh ... uh ... a after school program for sports. We had a summer program for sports. We had ... uh ... now, what I did ... I don't know ... What did I do for the community? I did a lot of things for the community, but I ... I guess I provided the education. That's it. But any group that wanted to have a classroom or an auditorium ... You see, we had this beautiful auditorium in our school. All they had to do is ask ...
Q: I remember that.
A: Yea. They could use it. That's what I provided for the community.
Q: Were there special programs? Because, I know in my present school, my current administrator is really trying to beef up PR because the previous one just ... the rapport with the community was really poor ... . Were there special programs that, um, Mary Fay had that were, um, special to entice the parents to come and see the school or anything ... ?
A: No. We had ... Well, we had, um, volunteer, a volunteer parent organization ...
A: ... that I encouraged. They came and helped in the classrooms. Almost every primary teacher had at least three.
A: And they'd help during the mornings, and ... and, uh ... So I never had a problem with that. You see ... You'd go over into the town ... We had a good reputation.
A: We had a wonderful reputation. People still come from the East Coast, and they've heard about Mary Fay and they ... the only reason they want to live on the base is so they can go to that school ...
Q: ... to go to Mary Fay.
A: ... because it had such a good reputation. Yeah, but ... you'd go ... The PTA, the auditorium would be filled with parents coming to PTA. Go over to town to Mae Ellis or the Fallbrook Street School, and they might have ten parents at their PTA meeting. It's unbelievable. But that's why I loved it.
Q: Mm Do you feel that the central office policies prevented you from doing, um, accomplishing any of the goals that you had wanted to accomplish within Mary Fay?
A: No, but they were starting to ... to infringe on many of the things that I was doing during my last years. I think that's one of the reasons I retired early.
A: They wanted every school to be a stamped out pattern, and I did not. I do not see education that way. I see the principal as the educational leader of the school. I still do; and, if I'm not doing a good job, and I'm not ... and the children are not learning under my leadership and my philosophy; then I ought a be replaced.
A: And I don't see that the central office should have to come and give directives down to principals about ... Unless it's certain federal laws, you know, that are O.K. ... This ... These are things that everybody is going to have to ... We're going to have to fill out a PL8-74 form for every kid, of course; that's how we get our money ...
A: ... but, uh ... to say to me that, alright ... Every fifth grade is going to be ... is going to be lock-step this way ... I might have three fifth grades in my school, and each is different, and each is learning in its own way; but they're doing great things.
A: Am I going to stop that? That's what ... um ... That's what I see centralized education and centralized gardening and all this other centralized stuff ... 1 believe in decentralization; you can tell.
Q: There wouldn't be any personality to the schools if they were all ...
A: That's right, and I don't ... I just don't believe in that. I would rather go back to the classroom.
Q: Mm ... Um ...
A: ... 'cause I can be my own boss when I close the door.
Q: That's what I like. I was in ...
A: You think very carefully about whether or not you want to be an administrator.
Q: We have been told that after this course and a couple other courses that we'll decide whether or not the administration role is really the role that you want to take on or if you just want to stay right in the classroom.
A: You don't necessarily have to be a principal ...
A: ... just because you get an administrative credential. Some ... Some ... Some administrative credential jobs would be very interesting these days. 331
A: Right? If you love to write ... write projects to get grants for you school ... My goodness, you could ... You can get $500,000 in grants alone in this state.
A: If you have ... Someone is hired in this district--one woman, and that ... that's all she does.
A: That'd be fun 'cause she visits all the different schools ... see the different ideas ...
A: You getting tired of sitting? I'm getting tired of talking.
Q: (laugh) I have a few more ... I was worried last night that I wasn't going to have enough and here ... part of it's not even on the tape. Um ... Did the Civil Rights Movement impact at all during the course of your term?
Q: I didn't know if it would have out on the West Coast. Let's see ... What advice would you give to an individual considering entering a principalship?
A: A principalship?
A: Well, I already gave you some--Never try to make changes right away. Never!
A: Uh ... In fact, I think maybe the very first year, I would leave everything exactly the way it was.
Q: ... and just watch ...
A: Unless something is so flagrantly bad that you just can't stand it.
A: But, I would be an observer ...
A: ... a real observer, and a listener the first year.
A: If you know what you want ... I mean, you might not be able ... You say that you've never been able to state your philosophy, but you know what you want in a school. You know what you want in your classroom. If you have that kind ... the kind of philosophy that, uh ... you really want to see children learn, that'll happen in your school too; but you can't do that right, you know, the first year. You'll find out you have ... duds; you have average teachers, just like kids, and you have, if you're lucky, one or two outstanding.
A: ... if you're lucky. There're some really good teachers, and there are some real bums. And if you're a good teacher ... The thing that floored me that ... I'll tell you ... My first year as principal ... I still remember it. It was going in and observing and seeing how poorly they did.
A: I couldn't believe it, you know.
A: Like they weren't feeling any vibes from their kids about who was learning and who wasn't ... to go to the kids to help or anything ... And I've always said, too, since I've ... If ... When you ... If you decide to be a principal, learn right away who the exposers are and who the real teachers are. There are teachers, and then there are exposers. Let me qualify it ... go into that a little bit ... "Alright, this is how you do this ... " And then there are the assigners. There are three of them really. Tape Two, Side One 001 There are the assigners who just say, "Alright ... " They'll either say or they'll list it on the board: "This is for reading; this is ... pages 70-78; read pages 70-78; do workbook page 32, 34; um, Language--Do this, write a story on this subject right here." And then they go sit on their fat haunches and don't do anything. The kids are just suppose to go through this whole ... They've learned nothing.
A: They've read a story, and they've done the workbook; and, um, if they can ... and the teacher has just sat there and collected the papers. That's an assigner. Hate those! You don't want those. Then there's the exposers--l call 'em. They will explain something, but they won't say ... find out if anybody ... everybody understands it.
A: They'll say ... They'll say, "Now, this is a verb. This is a adverb. This is a noun. This is ... " in language ... "That's what they are. That's what they do. Now do these pages ... "
A: And that's an exposer. You've had those in you're life too.
A: Then, there's the real teacher. A real teacher teaches something a step at a time and then finds out a way to walk around to each child before they do anything with themselves and ... to see if they understood it. You don't say, "Are there any questions?" because some children ... "If there are any questions, raise you hand." ... you know, they don't know what to ask.
A: They don't understand it so much that they don't know what to ask, so they don't raise their hand. So you think everybody understands. Don't do that. Make 'em do something on paper to show you as they go ... "O.K. ... You understand what an adverb is now? Now, let me see ... " or "Do you want me to do it again?" "Do you want me to explain it again?" "I'll explain it again." "You didn't understand it? Will somebody in the classroom please tell him what I just said?" 'cause kids can explain many times better than you can ...
A: ... what you just said. Have people keep saying it until everybody gets it. Then you can give them an assignment, and then they have a chance at success. That's a teacher.
Q: That's a teacher. O.K., um ... Two more questions, I think, and then we...ii be done. Um, with respect to your retirement ...
Q: This is like a combination question. If you could tell me, um ... the hap ... the happiest thing that you were to be leaving as far as ... You're looking forward to your retirement, of course, and ... uh ... maybe there was something that you were glad that you were leaving ...
Q: Paperwork ... and then what, um ...
A: Yes, I ... And ... In ... It's my ... It's my belief that children have changed, you know ... Children changed during the last three or four years, or five years, I should say, that I was still principal. During my, let's say golden years when I taught and when I was ... The first ... The first few years I was principal, the kids had one mamma and one daddy ... and a home. And they traveled together, and the rules were always the same. In the last five years that I was principal, a kid might have six mothers, have had six mothers, or two fathers or three fathers, or two grandmothers or friends, uncles ... things that I've never ... that you've never heard of before. And you'd get these little confused kids who've spent all their time watching television, who've never had time to really be children. They left ... uh ... the diapers, and they'd go from diapers to adulthood practically because of videogames and television and ... you name it, things that ... It's difficult to see how children can even read any more.
A: Where reading use to be a delight; and it still is to me as an adult, and I ... I ... hate to see that leaving. While I think there are some, a lot of good things on television now ... I still think that children have changed. Their lives have changed. They have too many different mamas and daddies, too many different rules, and they close in or else they just go crazy. It's so much harder on 'em. So I was ... That's one of the things I was glad to leave ... was the problems these children have because they didn't know who was boss ...
A: ... who was head of the family, if they had any family at all.
A: It's sad. So I was glad to leave that, besides the paperwork.
Q: What were you most reluctant to leave?
A: I wasn't reluctant to leave anything. That's the honest truth. I had waited, and I have loved kids all my life. I still love kids. But I waited until I was tired of it.
A: And I ... you know ...
Q: You were ready to go.
A: I retired early. I retired at 58, but I had 35 years of it, 20 as principal. And, um, I was just ready to quit listening.
A: I was ready to quit trying to solve everybody's problems. I was tired. I was just tired of it. So ...
Q: Last question.
A: Oh, good!
Q: What have I not asked you that I should have asked you?
A: (laugh) Oh ... I don't know ...
Q: Anything that you want to share with me ...
A: Well, I did. I ... I interjected several things to share with you that I ... like special things that I did. That's a good question to ask principals, "Did you do anything, uh, different with a staff?" because those things that you do differently with them are the things that stand out in their minds. Those are the things teachers remember me for.
Q: Mm If I ever become principal, there's a couple little tricks that I'm going to try now.
Q: Well, thank you very much.
A: That's alright, dearheart.
Q: I really appreciate it. I really do.
| Back to "K" Interviews | Index of Interviews | Protocol | Home |