For several years two colleagues and I included a project in our Senior English classes called "The Legacy Project." This was a wonderful project which required senior students to work together in groups of their choice to conceive, create, and execute a legacy of some kind - that is, they were to leave something of significance behind for the school or greater community. It was a complex procedure that utilized a variety of skills useful in the workplace and culminated in things such as a stained glass window, memorials of a tree and a marker for a fellow classmate who had died, a new club at school such as SADD, etc. This idea of leaving a legacy was important to them and to us.
Also in the Senior curriculum we would read "Death of a Salesman" by Arthur Miller. In it, Willy Loman hopes to live a prosperous life as a salesman and then die the death of a salesman. That is to say, he hopes that his life has touched so many people and clients, that when he dies the church will be overflowing with mourners who speak fondly of him and how "well-liked" he was. (Those of you who know the play, also know the ending - I won't spoil it for the rest of you!)
Now, as I find myself one month away from leaving my school community of 17 years, I've begun wondering what my legacy to the community and the school is. While I don't have such grandiose hopes as Willy Loman I will say this: without going into detail, I have begun to realize that my mere presence actually DOES make a difference to all of the teachers and students there. I have learned this because by leaving it, I see the changes that are happening (some are fine and some are very disappointing). So, in a very odd way, I'm finding that I must have left a legacy.
What would I LIKE my legacy to be? I'd like to think that my passion, love, sweat and tears (I know it is cliche, but it is also true), that somehow these things have impacted the 2000+ students who I have encountered there over the years. To be sure, academic lessons have been a focus, but I hope that life lessons and work-related skills will be my legacy, as well. To my colleagues, I hope I have touched their lives with my optimism and energy, my passion for teaching and the IB. To those teachers I have mentored over the years, I hope their own teaching and perspectives have been influenced positively by me somehow. To the curriculum, I hope to leave behind a value for authentic learning (like portfolio assessment, goal setting, and reflection). I'd like my legacy to be that the school culture and community has changed for the better because I have walked the halls there.
Even more importantly than these things is the legacy left to me by those at my school. How have I been touched? I've come to value my faith as it interacts with my vocation. I've come to see how important searching for TRUTH is. I've come to see how important it is to give away some of the control to my students so they can grab it, run with it, take risks, be creative, and GROW. I've grown in my teaching practice, my leadership, my joy, my ability to appreciate all kinds of people, my understanding of different cultures and times and places. Mostly, I value the people and the place that has been my school family for the past 17 years. More than ever, I realize life is not about stuff but relationship. This is what I shall take with me to Korea.
I'm young yet, and hopefully have many more years to live. But when all is said and done, I hope my legacy reaches beyond the classroom and the walls of any PLACE. Perhaps my hopes are like that of Willy Loman, to have been "well-liked" AND to have made a difference.