Last night, I honoured my former English teacher, colleague, and mentor upon his retirement. I created a video tribute and spent hours writing and re-writing a speech for the occasion. His influence on me changed the course of my life.
In the past week, I’ve either attended or coordinated three retirements and dozens of other celebrations are upcoming in the next few weeks.
Retirements have the same ritualistic feel to me as funerals do: the looking back on photos and old letters, the “best of” stories, and fond remembrance and celebration of friendships. And in the same way as when I listen to a eulogy at a Funeral (is it just me?), I think about what would words people would use to speak about my life. In this case, what would my colleagues say about my teaching career and more importantly, what would my former students say?
Consider this poster we had made for a dear friend and colleague upon here retirement last week.
5,000 students! Even if the figure is half that–how awesomely terrifying.
I know that I have been both negatively and positively impacted by a teacher in my life: the teacher who told my parents that I should go into a special class (because English wasn’t my first language) and basically inferred that I wouldn’t amount to much, as well as the teachers who inspired me in word and deed and told me I could be and do great things.
I am a decade away from retirement, and yet, attending all of these parties has compelled me to pause and think about the impact I am making to students and teachers.
These are the questions I am asking myself:
- Am I taking the time to truly listen to the needs of the teachers and students whom I have the privilege to serve?
- Am I doing my best to support ideas and build leadership capacity?
- Am I conscious of the fact that everything we do at the District level has a direct impact on student learning?
I also can’t help but consider my classroom practice. As a teacher…
- Did I get to know my students; their strengths, needs, passions?
- Did I demonstrate flexibility and empathy towards my students when they were in need of an extension or in crisis?
- Did I remember that I was teaching students, not English?
- Did I evaluate fairly, allowing my students a variety of opportunities to demonstrate their learning?
John Hattie says, “Know Thy Impact.” To me, this time of year isn’t just a time to celebrate great teachers who have made an impact on the lives of students, but a time to find those letters from students and old photos, to compile a list of influencers and mentors who have had an impact on me, and to be reflective of my own practice. What is the legacy I would like to leave and how will I measure “success”?
I have made a note in my calendar to write a “Retirement Speech” every June until I actually retire. Join me?