Over the past few years, I have attended a number of retirement parties for teachers, administrators, and support staff members. Within these gatherings, I have interpreted a common theme from the comments and speeches centered around what type of legacy has been left by the retiree. As I listened to the various comments in recent weeks, I couldn't help but think about what I would like people to remember about me when my time in education has come to a close.
We have all been in a composition or early journalism class where we were given an assignment to write our own eulogy. I first completed this task in high school and wrote something ridiculous about being a millionaire Major League Baseball player or something along those lines. I started thinking about this exercise much more seriously after I first read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by one of my heroes, the late Stephen Covey. After reading Covey's work in 2007, I realized that my daily practices and actions are creating my legacy, and I stared asking myself, "How do I want to be remembered?"
Educators have extremely difficult jobs with a tremendous amount of responsibility, pressure to improve while providing the best to all students, families, and community stakeholders. It is easy to get sucked into the negative rhetoric that exists in the national media and lose sight of what's really important in our positions. Small moments and daily decisions slowly define how others perceive us while shaping the legacy that will be left behind.
When I am pushing through a difficult day, experiencing a great deal of frustration, or dealing with a crisis, I think about how I want to be remembered when it is all said and done. Three characteristics stick out and keep me focused on the right actions each day:
Epworth and Farley Elementary Schools are amazing, great places for kids because we have incredibly talented people who have dedicated their lives to this profession. As I walk through classrooms, I am learning just as much as our students. Our staff members are energetic, knowledgable, dynamic, caring, collaborative, and fun. I hope that our teams know how much they are appreciated by me.
Feelings Behind the Numbers
Anyone who has worked with me knows that I have a strong interest in data and utilizing various sets to make the best possible decisions. Like any educational leader, I use all kinds of data each day; however, I do realize that there are beating hearts, smiling faces, and enthusiastic people behind these numbers. We are in a people business, and the positive relationships that we establish lay the foundation for success. I will never forget that people are the most valuable resource that we have in this profession, and they must be taken care of daily.
I don't have all the answers; sometimes I don't have any. My focus is on getting a little bit better each day. I tell our teachers and staff members that I do not expect perfection, but I do expect growth. We are either getting better or getting worse, no one stays the same.
When I've called it a career, I'm hopeful that some of these things will stick with the people that I have had the luxury of serving. We are in a great profession with an opportunity to have a tremendous, intentional impact on people. What legacy will you leave behind?