Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Build Your Legacy-Message to the Faculty and Staff on the Eve of the 2017-2018 School Year

I thought a You Tube video would be a great way to provide insight into the busy hiring season we have had in the district. Perhaps a fun way to shed light on the rigorous selection process our then ‘candidates’ for teaching positions had to go through in order to earn their spot on this faculty. A satirist video for sure, but nevertheless I know that you will inspire, engage and prepare the students you will see in a few short days for experiences decades in the future. For those of you sitting out there right now, you are called to this vocation of teaching and your legacy will be built on the foundation of the work you do in your classrooms. 

Wow! By my count, that is 10 new teachers, representing 16% of our faculty. What is exciting about that is 4 of those teachers are taking positions that were added new this year.  Please take a few moments and introduce yourself to your new colleagues and offer them a helping hand. What an exciting time for all of our new faculty and staff! It has been my joy to work in collaboration with our teacher leadership team and administrators this past week welcoming these new and eager employees to our district. While much of our time together was spent showing them how to run the copy machine, we also painted for them a picture of what it means to be a Hudson Pirate. We have shared with them what we already have come to know and believe: “It’s great to be a Pirate”. Undeniably, this past week has caused me to reflect on my first days as a teacher and what my induction and mentoring process looked like: “Here are your keys. Your room is down the hall, first door on the left. I think there are some books on the shelf, I don’t know a lot about music, but let me know if you have any questions”.

Yesterday I shared with our new faculty that they represent the future of the educational landscape at Hudson. However, at the same time, we honor the skill, experience, and commitment our veteran staff bring to our schools. Each of you; no matter if you are in your first year or thirtieth contribute a special talent and skill to our district. I promise we wouldn’t be who we are without you. So as we lean into tomorrow and prepare for the start of new year, consider where we have come—where you all have come from, the change you have witnessed, and the journey that lies ahead.

But don’t just consider the physical changes in our schools which are readily apparent, but the educational changes that are much more subtle. For sure, education has evolved a lot in the intervening decades I was handed a set of keys and pointed down the hall. In the infancy of my career, and many of you sitting out there [now] can remember; we didn’t have email, the internet, smartphones, or even telephones in our classrooms. Although we did have one computer that we shared in our wing among six different teachers. Can you imagine? You would think that there was constant fighting over who got to use it. The fact is there wasn’t: no one could really figure out an effective way to use one computer to impact instruction for twenty plus students—so it basically sat in the hallway collecting dust.

The advances we have seen in technology, instructional practice, and even the organizational structure of schools is quite remarkable. Now, as I have taken this nostalgic trip with you down [my own personal] memory lane it is worth noting that I do still consider myself a young man! However mortality is a touchy subject, and it is within that context I admit that as I reflect on my career thus far as an educator it has become painfully obvious that I have "fewer days ahead of me as I do behind me" (Bill Clinton, DNC, July 26, 2016). Mind you, I still have a lot of days in front of me, but nevertheless, life events and experiences have caused me to spend time pondering over the last couple of months on this idea of ‘legacy’. I do so not because of vanity, but merely out of speculation. Perhaps you too have considered the question, “How will I be remembered?”

My long walks in these empty halls over the course of the summer certainly give pause for reflection, and frankly, this summer has been quite a remarkable time in our district as the renovation of our early childhood wing has taken shape. Admittedly for a long time, I thought that I would be remembered at Hudson as ‘the guy who built the parking lots’. While those were worthwhile and much-needed improvements, I do hope that is not the legacy I leave behind. In fact, I am not even certain the accomplishments of this summer are the significant building blocks of one’s legacy.

But what of your legacy?

For a moment, think about your body of work and what lasting impression you will have on the lives of those you touch. I have said before, you may not always remember the names of the students in your classroom, but they will always remember you. Why is that? Was it because you were the one who taught them to read? Or could it be during a particularly rough day, you smiled and greeted them? Truthfully you may never know until one day decades from now. Or you may never know. I have shared many of my personal stories of some of these former students with you. I encourage you to reflect on your own stories. Share them with your colleagues, especially those more junior than you. I promise, at some point this year they will need to hear about how you made a difference for a child. Because you did. You do. You will. Hopefully, we are all remembered for the impact we have had on the children that we serve.

But let’s talk for a bit about the summer we are wrapping up and how special it was!

You may recall me talking with you about our new friend, Richard. At 101 years of age, he is what remains of the Hudson High School class of 1933. We had the honor of hosting Richard during the annual Hudson Days celebration a few weeks back where he participated as an honorary grand marshal of the parade. There are undoubtedly many unique and interesting details about Richard’s long life including his 70+ year marriage to his wife, his service in the US Navy, or his ties to our school district. But what I think is most interesting is his career as a 7th and 8th-grade teacher in Ohio.

If you take a look at the enclosed photo, notice the lady standing to Richard’s right. Her name is Sherri and she was a student of Richard’s. Now retired herself, she still lives in Ohio. By the way, Richard lives in Dallas, Texas. Sherri acts as Richard’s power of attorney and handles many of his daily affairs. She drove Richard to Hudson so he could participate in the parade. In fact, she makes the trip to Dallas every two or three months to personally visit with him, and speaks with him on the phone every day.

Sherri likes to tell stories of what Richard was like as a teacher. It is pretty obvious he had an enormous impact on her life. What a special relationship they must have! I have a hard time grasping a point in my senior years where a former student becomes my caregiver. I think Richard’s legacy is cemented!

That singular event was truly a highlight of the summer. However, I suppose there was one other thing that you may be wondering about and it has to do with that little project in the elementary school.

The administrators came up with an idea of burying a time capsule, which was both a way to mark the accomplishment of this project and contemplate what our school district will look like in the future. Truthfully it is also when we began to ponder this idea of ‘legacy’. As you walk that hallway, please take notice of the ‘X’ on the floor which is directly above the buried capsule. We placed that ‘X’ as a nod to our mascot, the Pirate. When people ask you, tell them that we are Pirates, and as such we bury our treasure where ‘X’ marks the spot. As to the contents of that time capsule, we’ll never tell. I have written a letter to my successor, the contents of which is also a secret but here is a small snapshot:

“Dear Superintendent,

Just moments ago we buried this time capsule. Obviously, we are Pirates, and as such, ‘X’ marks the spot! If it is at least May 1, 2067, you should be preparing to open it at this time! The two students in the enclosed photo are siblings, Taylor and Lane Rogers. They should be in their early 60s. I do hope you are able to look them up for this special occasion. The fact is, they do not know what is contained in the time capsule. The contents of this capsule have been a closely guarded secret for the last 50 years! Also included in this letter is an inventory of the contents. I do hope you are able to make this a school event where all the children can participate. It was our intention to have the capsule opened while school was still in session. We have taken great pains to prepare the capsule in a way to preserve the items inside. Hopefully, everything is in good shape! As for me, if I am still alive I am approaching 96. Enjoy!....”

As for the remainder of the letter, I guess you will have to come back in 2067 to find out!

The beginning of a new school year is always an exciting time. New teachers nervous for the excitement that will come the first time they stand in front of a group of students alone. Veteran teachers looking forward to a fresh start with a new group of students eager to learn and take the next step on their educational journey. Students looking forward to returning to the routine of school—seeing friends they may not have seen all summer long, and for some of these students returning to the only ‘normal’ part of their lives.

So as you prepare to start the school day in just a few short days remember, you are preparing your students for life and your reach is far into the future—it will, in fact, be decades in the making. What you do within these walls will cement your legacy and occur at the intersection of where ‘X’ marks the spot.

Have a great start to the school year and continue to build on your legacy. And always remember, it’s great to be a Pirate!

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