As principal, I often asked my teachers a simple question: How do you want to be remembered? Although simple, the question necessitated and required teachers to reflect on the relationships forged with students and parents and whether they would be remembered as a help or a hindrance. Recently one of my former teachers, Thomas Gumes, called me to express that almost 9 years after a student left our care, the student had written an essay for entry into Princeton University. He wrote about his 3rd grade experience and how this teacher helped him to quell his overwhelming fear of mathematics and consistently encouraged him to give his absolute best effort in all content areas. Mr Gumes stayed in contact with this student for years and attended football games and other school events to continue his mentorship. He immediately called me to share that he now knew why as principal I always asked that question and why I required teachers and all staff to treat our children as they would expect their own to be treated. He was also vulnerable in saying that it was such an emotional moment when he read the Princeton University essay because he had a tangible indicator of what impact, care, compassion and mentorship really meant. Life truly is a boomerang and the laws of reciprocity are real and inevitably experienced.
As we proceed with supporting our students, parents and teacher teams how will we be remembered? Did we breathe life into all who are in our care and help them reach their highest level of potential? Our impact will resonate with our students and teacher teams for decades to come. The picture attached is my mom, Johnnie Mae Abrams and an amazing tribute from one of her 1st grade students 50 plus years after being in her classroom. Her student vividly remembers her care and impact and references her in speeches he makes all over the state. My mother is 81 years young and still recalls her students by name and reaches out those she has contact information. Has your INFLUENCE on your constituency resulted in success evidenced by achievement and fond memories of caring culture of support and high expectations?
I challenge all dynamic leaders to ask yourself this simple question: How WILL you be remembered?
Emily A. Massey, Ed, D.
Dr. Emily Abrams Massey is a former Associate Superintendent in a metro-Atlanta school district, principal and leadership advocate, educational consultant and career educator.