An Interview with Marc Crail: From Student to Teacher to Principal to Superintendent to Published Author.

Aug 9, 2021 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy

  1. Marc, let’s start at the beginning- when did you first think about becoming a teacher?

When I was in high school I was planning to go into the ministry. In college I majored in Secondary Education because I thought

I might teach social studies and coach.

In one class we were assigned to do “field experience” in a nearby public school. I was really disappointed when I learned that would be doing my field experience

at an elementary school. I tried to get that changed but couldn’t.

As it turned out, I really enjoyed working with those elementary kids and decided to change my major to Elementary Education. I’ve never regretted that decision

and I think that being assigned to an elementary school was a fortunate opportunity in disguise.

  1. Some reflections- what were YOUR grade school and high school years like?

As a kid I always enjoyed going to school because that’s where my friends were. I was pretty social but not a good student.

Back then I don’t think that learning disabilities were diagnosed.

I really struggled with learning to read and particularly with spelling. My parents were patient and tried mightily by working with me on lists of spelling words that swam around in my head.

I really struggled with reading and writing but I enjoyed history, science and P.E.

I was a pretty average high school student too. If I liked a subject, I excelled but I nearly failed Latin and risked not graduating. I barely escaped.

Being highly verbal I enjoyed being on the speech/debate team, in plays, and on the student newspaper staff along with athletics.

By then, I think I was beginning to learn how to compensate for my learning problems.

  1. During your college years at Kent State, I recall what occurred- but for those millennials, what transpired and how did it impact you?

I didn’t attend Kent State and I’m actually four years younger than my character in the Tales books. Years later, I became Superintendent of Schools in Kent

for almost fourteen years but growing up I lived about twenty miles away in the Massillon, Ohio area. I was also an adjunct professor at K.S.U.

Living in Kent decades after the shootings I could see the divisions caused by the riots and demonstrations were still in effect.

The events at Kent State had a major impact on me. I was a senior about to graduate from high school on May 4, 1970. I had planned to go to Kent State in the fall ,

but my parents decided that we need to find another inexpensive, nearby university that would accept a solid “C” student. I went to The University of Akron instead.

The Viet Nam war, the student shootings and resulting demonstrations played a prevalent role in my college years (1970-74). My interest in social justice

and my abhorrence of violence were sharpened as a result of the social movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

It was a time of great cultural and political divides not unlike we’re experiencing today.

  1. First teaching job- biggest concerns?

My first teaching job was in Wooster, Ohio working with sixth graders. I taught for five years, never teaching the same grade two years in a row.

I do remember how petrified I was when the kids came in that first morning. When I was interviewing, I probably had exaggerated my experience and expertise.

When the rubber hit the road,I felt unprepared and desperate not to let my students down.

My teaching partner was an older, experienced woman and any parents with any pull wanted their children to be in her class.

I got the kids whose parents didn’t protest. Fortunately, we meshed very well, and our merry band of misfits managed to have a successful run.

My students responded to my honesty about my writing and spelling difficulties and they supported me as their rookie year teacher.

  1. Your books chronicle your transition from student to teacher to principal- but also reflect on what was transpiring in your life. Was this intentional?

Even though the books are novels they are accurate in that I taught for five years before becoming an elementary school principal. It was as a principal that I hit my stride.

My little country school was recognized in several ways for excellence and we were even invited to the Governor’s mansion in recognition of our success.

I married my high school sweetheart, Jayn after my first year of teaching. We have two boys. My older son Jon was just a couple weeks old when I was selected to be a new principal.

I took him with me in his baby carrier one day when I was repainting my office and he peed all over me as well as my desk while I changed his diaper. Maybe it was a sign of things to come!

I was 36 when I got my doctorate and became a superintendent two years later. I served in two school districts as a superintendent for over 17 years. I caught a lot of breaks and worked with incredible people.

Throughout my career my family, friends and colleagues have made all of the difference for me. I’m a people person and it’s the thousands of relationships that I value so much.

  1. Most of your teaching years were in the 70’s and 80’s- somewhat before all those initials- L.D., B.D., E.D., ADD, OHI, and the like. Your thoughts on how things have changed?

This is a great question. In the third book of the Tales series that I’m working on right now I talk about some of the things that have been game changers in education during my years in the field.

Title IX was one of the best things that happened. My last couple of years as superintendent we had more girls playing on sports teams than boys.

What a positive thing and better yet, those athletes did better in school in comparison with their non-athlete classmates.

Special education has been another monumental advancement. Both of my sons followed in their father’s footsteps by having learning disabilities.

Thanks to tutors, compassion and understanding they hung in there and are doing great things as adults. Isn’t that every parent’s aspiration for their children?

Speaking of “all those initials”, I was doing some pond water testing with a middle school class recently. We were going to get the kids into hip waders and into

the pond to net for creepy crawly invertebrates. The teacher said; “Marc, I don’t know if these kids will like getting in the water. This is my A.C. class they might not want to do it”.

I was silently wondering what the heck A.C. stood for, what are their special needs? I must have had a dumb look on my face because the teacher started laughing.

“There are my A.C. kids, Air Conditioning kids. They spend all their time inside on their devices”. The good news was that they loved doing science and wading in swamp water after all.

  1. From teacher to principal- what were your biggest challenges?

I really missed having my very own classroom of kids. That personal connection that builds throughout the school year between a teacher and his/her students was tough to give up.

The other challenge was that I was 26 years old when I got the job as principal and turned 27 before school started. I was in a brand-new school district

and my highly experienced teachers didn’t know me from Adam.

I recall that during our opening faculty meeting, one teacher, Millie Z. looked at me over the tops of her half-lensed glasses and asked; “How old are you anyway”. I told her that I was twenty-seven. “

So”, she said, “I’ve been teaching for three years longer than you’ve been alive.” Somehow, we got over our age difference.

Millie Z. knew more about teaching first grade than I ever would, and I was smart enough to understand that. My job was to provide Millie

and the rest of my faculty and staff with the tools and support they needed in order to work their magic.

  1. Lastly, as superintendent, your responsibilities were quite different. What did you see as your leadership role?

The transitions got easier after the initial move from teacher to principal. I became a Curriculum Director and then Assistant Superintendent.

I changed districts again to become a first time Superintendent at age thirty-seven. If I have an area of strength, it’s getting people to pull together

and building coalitions is the essence of a Superintendent’s job. Finding and hiring the very best people and then letting them do their work has always been my recipe for success.

It worked out well for me.

  1. What have I neglected to ask?

Thanks for the opportunity Michael. If you have any follow up questions, feel free to ask.

  1. Where can interested readers get a copy of your 4 book series?

Sea Hill Press in the publisher of my book. They have released the first two of what will be a four book set.

Book three of the series will be ready later this calendar year and book four should be coming in 2022. Books can be ordered by visiting www.Crailtales.com

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