Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Designing your Legacy

I was listening to a recent Podcast from the Stanford University series of Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders and William McDonough was discussing the tombstone of Thomas Jefferson which was designed by Jefferson himself and included the following:

Author of the Declaration of Independence
of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom
and Father of the University of Virginia

So, what exactly is missing here? McDonough pointed out that there is no mention of the fact that he held down a day job as a two-term President of the United States and didn't even mention it. His point is that Jefferson's legacy had to do with the products that he left behind that were the fruit of his best thinking and designing talents and not the title that he held, important as that was.

So, I got to thinking about my career tombstone (not that I'm hoping to write it real quick). Will I be satisfied with something like, "Principal of Halecrest Elementary"? I'm thinking that I ought to be shooting for something along the lines of Thomas Jefferson...

Designer of a ground breaking school where learning by students and adults is celebrated daily, where expert literacy instructors and students of high character work together to expand their knowledge and become thoughtful members of their local community.

Author of a one-posting-a-month blog read by dozens (OK, it's actually only read by about 4, but why not dream big?)

The first one has some promise. I know I'll be thinking a lot this week about the school that I'm helping design and whether it's worthy of the students that come across our doors and the students that will be coming through our doors for generations to come. And you, what kind of lasting structure are you helping design today?


dcowart said...

I really liked this post for two reasons. The first is I liked the message and it made me reflect on my own legacy as an educator. How do I want to be remembered? The other has to do with Jefferson himself. He historically was more for state rights and the ideals of a republic of individual states working together. I think he was trying to make a point. He was prouder of his "state" accomplishments than he was for his "federal" accomplishments. I think this message can translate to principals and schools. Each school represents one part of the school district. As school leaders we need to celebrate our school accomplishments but we can't forget that we are still a part of a much bigger system or ideal. What we do in our schools impacts the school district, the city or county, the state and the concept of free public education for ALL children. This is something I try not to forget.

danw said...

That's a great perspective. Knowing that our meager efforts at one school can benefit schooling across the district, city, state, and country is not so far-fetched in this age of connected learners.