Good Work: Leave a Legacy, Teach

Teaching, is not just a job.  It is a human service, and it must be thought of as a mission”  -Dr. Ralph Tyler
After a fast first year as Superintendent, it was finally summer vacation.  Two days of hassled travel and finally we were on the beach with a pile of books. I picked up A Road Less Traveled M. Scott Peck’s classic.  It opens with the under statement of the century, “Life is difficult”.  I laughed, put the book down, and played with my kids.
A couple chapters later Peck points out that love is extending yourself to serve another person’s growth.  In this sense, teaching is the essence of love. To teach is to leave a legacy of expanded human potential. It is a calling that every man, women and child has the opportunity to participate in – the highest calling of human existence and the greatest gift of the human spirit.
Inspired by Peck I wrote a journal entry about the power of teaching: 

Open the door, shed the light.
Engage, expect, encourage, expand.
Render attractive the difficult, make all things new.
Push and listen, learn and grow.
Extend, unfold, enlarge, unveil.
Be who they need you to be, stimulate life.
Practice community, invent the future.
Leave a legacy, teach.

As superintendent, I taught a few days each year at the elementary and secondary level.  It was  humbling. Growing diversity of every type, higher standards, and a decline in respect has made teaching more difficult than ever.  Our secondary teachers are on point with five or six groups of 25 or more student every day: asleep in first period, bouncing off the wall after a break, and itching to leave at the end of the day.  Some days it is hard to find time to go to the bathroom much less converse with your colleagues.  I could not do it everyday and marvel at how teachers do. I appreciate their work and rewards from a distance as I watch the future being invented.
Nearly every profession includes opportunities to teach and powerful places to serve.  Everyone has the ability to contribute to another person’s growth.  Leave a legacy, teach.
Good Work is a Sunday series about finding and doing mission-driven work.  It started as journal entries while serving as a public school superintendent.  Tell us your story about mission-driven work.  

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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1 Comment


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