Chris – Principled Principal
Chris – Principled Principal

Chris – Principled Principal

Chris Earnest, or just “Earnest” as she’s affectionately called by thousands of her former students and colleagues, knows a thing or two after being an educator for over 30 years. Recently retiring as a high school principal, she’s no stranger to the good, the bad, and the ugly situations found in the lives of both students and faculty that she has had stewardship over throughout the years.

For Earnest, some of these experiences have been heartbreaking, but many, many more have created the profound joy and satisfaction that comes from seeing students transform their insecurities into confidence and enthusiasm as they create their place in the world. She credits these experiences and all the inspirational people she’s encountered over the years for shaping the values and the principles that she lives by.

“Education is teaching us to self-think, put our thoughts into actions, actually do something, and realizing along the way that we are going to fail but we have to be willing to take that risk to progress.”

In talking with Earnest you will find someone who genuinely cares about helping people be better and not just feel better. That’s a challenging line to walk when most teenagers (and many adults) just want to feel better and often mistake the most valuable advice as offensive. She’s learned to take that in stride and recognizes that’s just another development hurdle to help others overcome and one she’s always willing to help students, parents, and colleagues with.

In relation to the Only Us Initiative, Earnest is a believer in the cause and is fully committed to doing her part to create our classrooms, our schools, and our communities where there is no “them”, there’s only us. Earnest shared an example in her early career when she was a coach and teacher being confronted by an overbearing parent. Her initial response was to avoid them and she literally found herself doing that crouched under a desk one day. This experience drove some self-reflection, thoughtfulness, and a new commitment to create mutually beneficial objectives, and a willingness to have all the conversations (regardless of how difficult) necessary to achieve them. 

When asked about her thoughts on ways we can get youth being more proactive in their own development, Earnest shared some thoughts on allowing teachers to have more autonomy in the classrooms where they have the ability to best support each individual student.

“Education is teaching us to self-think, put our thoughts into actions, actually do something, and realizing along the way that we are going to fail but we have to be willing to take that risk to progress,” she shared. Thoughtfulness, objectives, grit, and good communication are all traits that Earnest believes are key to students being successful not only at school but in life.   

We talked about the reality that things won’t always go our way. Systems will often go in a direction that leaves us out, others will have different ideas than us, and people will generally expect you to conform. But in bravely developing our own values and principles, we also know when it’s time for us to go in a different direction than the crowd and find those that share our ideas. Operating in an Only Us way doesn’t mean we all walk the same path and never disagree, rather it normalizes the fact that there isn’t one “right” way to conform to, but as many “right” ways as there are individuals willing to create them in win-win ways.  

Earnest’s actions show the principles and values she lives by and the standards she holds herself to. She knows how to get back up when life knocks her down and she’s willing to show you and I how to too.

Listen to the full interview to learn more about this remarkable person and gain from the wisdom her unique experiences have provided her with that she is now sharing with us.