Recently, I spoke at a Christian educator’s conference. The audience included Kindergarten through 12th grade teachers. Being a former high school teacher, turned college prof myself, I wanted help reaching the elementary audience. So I enlisted the aid of my wife Robin who currently teaches second grade. Robin gave some great ideas for classroom teaching. The audience resonated most with a few power point slides I entitled “Robin’s Rules.” Robin’s rules for her classroom are simple: respect others, be responsible for things. Over and over again, I received multiple requests for Robin’s simple rules. One email subject line said it best: “Your wife is a rock star!”
Why is Robin a rock star? Why are teachers in general, specific educators in particular, so special? Here is my answer: Legacy is not what you leave behind; legacy is who you leave behind. In our culture all the focus goes to people on stage: football players, Hollywood actors, or social celebrities. What do these folks leave behind? Well, athletes give us thrills with their athletic skills. Actors sometimes turn in great performances. Celebrities, well, I guess it depends on what they are famous for to answer that question. Our culture also focuses on the physical: doctors, lawyers, or business people. What do these folks leave behind? Well, doctors take care of our physical needs, lawyers protect us against fraud, and businessmen produce goods and services we use. However, how do you think athletes or actors learned their craft? How do you think doctors or lawyers became trained in their specialties? How do you think business people became skilled with finance? All the groups I mentioned had to learn what they know. Learning depends on education. Education depends on teachers. Teachers operate in the realm of ideas. Ideas, unless they make money, are not well regarded in our culture. Teachers are not paid well because our culture does not honor that which they cannot see. But I’ll say it again: a legacy is not what you leave behind, but who you leave behind. A teacher’s legacy is her students.
My wife Robin is a big hit when I speak, even though she is not in attendance. I talk about her exceptional skills, policies, and love for her students as a second grade teacher. But what I find fascinating is the exhibit of her long arm of influence. One of Robin’s second grade students from a couple of decades ago now teaches with her. One of Robin’s legacies walks in the same building with her every school day. In this life, our last will and testament is not written on paper. What we leave behind is written in the lives of others.
For Moody Radio, this is Dr. Mark Eckel, personally seeking truth wherever it’s found.
Broadcast on Moody Radio, 13 February, 2012.