“If they never remember your name… would you still teach? Would you still strive to create dynamic, engaging, student-centered learning experiences in your classroom? Would you still go out of your way to find your student in the cafeteria to give him a pat on the back for his improved behavior and insightful inquiry during class that day?”
“If they never give you credit…Would you still seek to connect with, encourage and rejuvenate your colleagues and peers?”
“If they never really respect your title or position…Would you still sit down with a frustrated new teacher to help them get through their first year?…”
The last couple of weeks, these questions have risen to the forefront of my mind, swirling around and around as I ruminate on dual roles as both teacher and instructional coach in the coming school year. The answer to these internal inquiries is a definite Yes. However, the reason behind the Yes is best given by a friend of mine who recently tweeted “Your gifts and talents are as unique as your fingerprints. Leave your mark.” That’s it, I thought! That perfectly explains the Why behind the Yes. It’s about imparting a legacy of life on to other lives. It’s about bestowing your impression, your likeness, a piece of who you are on the world so that it becomes woven into our collective history. We were designed for this. We were made to extend our reach, to touch a hand, to move a heart, to shape a mind…to uplift a soul.
I had the chance to visit the Sistine Chapel during my high school chorus trip and our tour through Italy. It was my first plane flight and a trip I’ll never forget. Books, encyclopedias, the history channel could never have prepared me for what I saw with my own eyes looking up at the ceiling and Michelangelo’s magnificent masterpiece.In every brushstroke, in every shadow, in every contrast of color, in every defined detail, the chapel is littered with the artists’ fingerprints. Every crevice cries out, “I have a gift for you! Look around. I’ve left something just for you. Take it in…all of it. Let it inspire you, shape you, stir you, and remind you to leave your mark so it can keep going. Share the best that you have, the best of you. Be the ceiling someone needs to look up to and see with their own eyes.”
I am so struck by this notion, even as I write. I am called to do many things: be a wife, a mother, a witness, a friend. I am also called to share who I am with others outside of my circle of comfort. It may be gladly received and reciprocated, and it may not.
It is said that Michelangelo did not want to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. He was more of a sculptor than a painter, and at the time desired to finish Pope Julius II’s marble tomb (which is ironically quite unknown). He dedicated four years of his life in an awkward, contorted standing position to paint what we travel many miles to admire and revere. As teachers and educators, our task is often to plow under harsh conditions…to prepare and sow into the young, be it intellectually, socially, psychologically, emotionally or otherwise. While we do our work with expectancy, we are aware that the crops yielded from our toil–as it seems at times–may not be easily visibly overnight (or many nights). And still… We take another step. We awaken the next day and do it again. We are a precious and unique breed of people.
We see potential in our students…masterpieces in the making. We spur them on to higher heights and unconquered territories, for at the core of every true teacher, we believe our students can achieve more than what they know. We press them to “go the distance”. We show them by our at-the-door greeting, through our firm but fair classroom rules, through our relentless assessing and re-assessing of each and every student, and by our continual care that each voice is to be heard and respected. We repeat over and over again: “You are worth so much! You have so much to give…so much to share.” However, we often only see our students without really seeing and appreciating what lies below the surface of ourselves: our gifts, our skills, our talented DNA designed to be inherited by those within our grasp. We sometimes brush these aside, preferring to remain quiet and content in our comfortable cloaks that fit us just right.
This is not a “toot my own horn” teacher talk. No. Teachers shape the teachers and thinkers of tomorrow. Our task can be daunting. Periodic discouragement will come. An attitude of learning and humility are prerequisites of the job description. But I challenge you to listen and absorb the words of hope and inspiration you daily give to the ceiling-watchers in your care. Leave your mark. Imprint the hallways, walkways, desks and chairs with the essence of what made you choose and be drawn to such a noble calling in the first place. Mark up the conferences, lecture halls, meeting rooms and seminars with your wisdom, creativity, techniques, passion and skills.
Share your insight.
Invent new ideas.
Interact with new friends.
Enhance the community.
Sing. Write. Dance. Draw. Laugh. Grow. Run. Mold. Learn. Read. Teach.
Whatever you do, Leave Your Mark.
(Thanks to Val Brown for giving me the why behind my answer unbeknownst to her.)