Success or Legacy?

As the first days of school  are soon started…my mind has been pondering a thing.   What makes a teacher successful? How do we measure our success?

Let me back up a bit.  At my district, seniors at the high schools are allowed to invite a special guest to their graduation.  The special guests lead the graduates onto the football fields in the procession.  Special guests could be anyone however most of the times happen to be a former teacher.  One of my colleagues (Teacher C) went around bragging to our staff that he got 9 invites (Some of my colleagues are super competitive about these invitations.)  As Teacher C was talking incessantly on about these invitations, my mind started to wonder.  Is this how teachers think they are successful?

Then there’s the time honored tradition of “Teacher of the Year.”  At some schools/districts teachers vote for their own colleagues for this award.  (I only speak of my experience in my district.  It might differ in yours).  This can become a popularity contest instead of truly honoring the work represented in our classrooms and with students.  This metric can get political and ugly and doesn’t really measure a teacher’s worth.  I sometimes wonder how other districts choose their Teacher of the Year….especially teachers who go on to be district Teacher of the Year.

What about test scores?  If we use the students’ test scores in math or language arts is that a good metric?  To be fair—what about those teachers who teach art, science, social studies, or a language?  They aren’t judged by test scores from the state.  The CAASPP test scores are just a measure of a students’ knowledge on one certain day.  This too can be flawed  as test scores disregard the humanity of our students.  They are judged on just a few clicks of a button….and not on the growth that they may have reached in front of a teacher.

Success might be the wrong word for what I’m trying to convey.  Maybe LEGACY is a better fit for what I’m trying to describe.  How do we measure a teacher’s legacy?  What metric do we use?  Can a teacher’s legacy be quantified (Like test scores, years taught, or number of students taught)?

It’s not easy to measure a teacher’s impact on any child.  We are the gardeners of the hearts and minds.  We try to plant seeds along their journeys, but we don’t know when those seeds will take root or if they will take root.  If the seeds do grow, it may take years or maybe decades.   Students are not going to remember what you taught them, but they’ll remember how you made them feel.   (See my favorite note below)

“Thanks for making my 6th grade experience great. I always had trouble with math but you pushed that aside and made me know math better.”

So as we start this new school year….keep dispersing those seeds of wisdom and let’s hope some of them take root.   And as for  me –how I want to be remembered in my legacy/success?  

Funny, downright gorgeous (much sarcasm there), and heart-felt.  

Until next time,



  1. Awe, I love this! I am a teacher that truly believes that building positive relationships with your students is the key to any child’s success. We, as teachers, need to invest not only in the educational foundation of a child, but also the physical and emotional well-being of a child as well. Once this happens, the growing and learning begins.

    Have a blessed day,

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