Student Well-Being Opinion

Creating Your Educational Legacy: What Matters Most to You?

By Starr Sackstein — April 04, 2017 3 min read
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Although we may not talk about it much, it’s most educators’ aspiration to leave behind a legacy of some kind. Our job from day to day is often a grind and the focus gets drilled down to success criteria and skill-building along the way, but ultimately, the relationships we develop and the larger picture outcomes are a part of that experience too.

This past weekend, the #ECET2 team challenged participants of the chat to think about their educational legacy, both intended and perhaps unintended as well. And as I lingered on my own responses in that chat, it was time to dig a little deeper.

Why I think it’s important to have big-picture goals

As a high school English teacher and instructional coach, my days are often dictated by the responsibilities of the classroom. What will I be teaching? Who will I be teaching it? What do I hope students learn from it? And how can I continually adjust to ensure that as many of them as possible are doing their best?

Starting with a plan is essential, but abandoning the plan equally so if the plan isn’t working. I know when the plan isn’t working because of the behaviors and responses as well as other formative check-ins from my students. After all, the students are why I do it all.

Despite the necessity of having these short-term goals, there is a larger goal in place as well. And for me, this larger goal is all about assessment and the way students view themselves as learners.

For as long as I can remember, the system judges and labels students largely on their abilty to comply and play the game of school and less so on the valuable skill acquisition we are tasked with inspiring kids to learn. Once this realization became evident to me (which wasn’t right away), I couldn’t sit idly by and continue to do the same old, just because it was expected. The same way I wouldn’t expect students to do things that didn’t matter to them or make sense to them just because it was required.

So I invested my time in exploring alternative ways to make the learning environment better for my students. These new goals that extended way beyond my classroom have shaped the last few years of my teaching and changed the entire trajectory of my career.

Once you know your passion, you must explore it.

My passion reinvigorated my teaching and got me connected to other educators. It thrust me outside my comfort zone and forced me to invest in, and take risks around, making changes that weren’t wide-spread in my current system. These choices have been pervasive in everything I’ve done since then and the consistency in which I promote these beliefs models for my students (and my son) and my colleagues what it can look like when you really put your heart and soul into what you do.

The relationships I have made around these beliefs have strengthened my core as an educator and my ability to affect change with my students. I know that I inspire them because they tell me I do. This kind of passion is infectuous and when the students feel inspired and empowered, they do great things too.

My legacy

It is my greatest hope to have a some lasting impact in the way we assess and communicate learning. I started talking about these ideas after reading a bunch of books that challenged my beliefs. Then I got involved in Twitter, began to network and then started blogging. Sharing my ideas on the blog offered an opportunity to blog here for a larger audience and then I was offered the honor of sharing my ideas in books (that people actually read!).

It is through my advocacy to change grading systems and empower students that I hope to leave a lasting legacy that will potentially do more than just impact the students or teachers in my community. The more people read the books, the more I push myself to get out there and have broader conversations with other educators from around the world.

In addition to being a part of the change, my hope is that my students remember me as the teacher who preached what she practiced and inspired them to do the same. Being responsibly fearless is so much of the battle.

What will your educational legacy be? How are you cultivating it now? Please share

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