Dr. Kirk Crawley uses his law background into his classroom at Franklin Square Elem/Middle School

Posted at 8:38 AM, Jun 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-10 18:54:04-04

Dr. Kirk Crawley spent 30 years arguing cases in a courtroom. Now he's listening to his students argue cases in his classroom.

On the docket during this particular day in Crawley's class, a murder case involving Jack, the Giant and the beanstalk. The prosecution and defense make their opening arguments while the jurors listen intently.  

"They're competitive, each wants to win the case," said Crawley.

The courtroom is Crawley's classroom at Franklin Square Elementary and Middle School in Baltimore. The lawyers, witnesses and jurors are all middle school students in his STAR program.

"Its where they become self regulating, focus on team building, academic achievement and resilience," said Crawley.

When Crawley traded the courtroom for the classroom years ago, he realized he didn't have to give up his skills as a lawyer. Instead, he implemented them into his curriculum.  And he doesn't take the typical approach to teaching. His students make the classroom rules, enforce the rules and dole out rewards for following the rules.

"Everything means much more to them because they are hands on," he said. "They feel vested in everything that goes on in here."

When he's not teaching, Crawley is coaching the school's winning lacrosse team, or giving a tour of city hall to his students, or organizing community clean ups. Sleep is not a top priority.

"If it comes to mind, I act on it because I know it gives every student an opportunity, something that fits each one or each group of my students," he said.

Those sleepless nights are worth watching his kids engage in their communities and learn about different career options. And his students appreciate the extra mile he goes to help them.

"He's helped me do amazing things and become more articulate and have great structure in writing," said Christina Foster.

"He has been working with me and really developing me. He has really helped me grow to be the person that I am today," said Corey Bowden.

Terry Patton, the principal at Franklin Square, says Crawley is the kind of teacher every principal wants to have in their school.

"He is a teacher that is involved and one that brings out the best in his scholars. He is always looking for excellence in whatever he does," she said.

When asked which is better, the courtroom or the classroom, Crawley says the answer is simple.

"The difference is you see that light in their eyes.  When you can sit there and you see the light go on because they've done something they never imagined they could do, that just makes everything come together."

Follow Megan Knight on Twitter @Knightfromabc2and Facebook @MeganKnightNews.

Download the ABC2 News app for the iPhone, Kindle and Android