Teach & Serve
No. 30 * March 9, 2016
Related Content from And There Came A Day:
Raise All Boats
When we are at the end of our tenures in our roles in our schools – we’re all going to come to the end of our tenures, sooner or later, I assure you – it is interesting to think about how we will be remembered
Take a moment, if you will, to consider the day after your retirement party. Your faculty and staff, the teachers with whom you’ve worked and struggled, with whom you’ve laughed and cried, have given you the sendoff, the card and the gold watch. They’ve said nice things about you at the retirement party, told great stories and jokes, shared their reminiscences. It’s all over but the cleanup and they head back to work the next day.
But not you.
You’re not back to work the next day; you’re retired, remember? You’ve moved on, but your colleagues have stayed behind.
For a moment, just consider: what are they saying about you? What are their memories, fond and otherwise? What did you leave behind?
When we are at the end of our tenures in our roles in our schools – we’re all going to come to the end of our tenures, sooner or later, I assure you – it is interesting to think about how we will be remembered. It’s an intellectual exercise we might want to take part in regularly.
Because, if we are successful in reviewing our time at our schools in its totality and our work with our students dispassionately, if we are successful in considering our interactions with our colleagues from a distance and our place in our institutions without bias, we might gain valuable insights about how we go about our work, where we put our energy and what we might leave behind.
I know that some of us would want to be remembered as challenging but fair – both as teachers and as administrators. Some of us would want equanimity to be our lasting impression. Some of us would hope for people to recall us as joyful.
Allow me to suggest we consider this question as we look back: did we raise all boats or did we scuttle some?
NFL quarterback Peyton Manning retired this week following an 18 year career during which he set almost every individual record a quarterback could ever hope to achieve. From touchdowns thrown to yards passed to wins accumulated, Manning holds almost every record imaginable. That’s an impressive feat, to be sure, and it deserves to be celebrated if you think that sports figures ought to be celebrated.
More impressive than these records to me, however (and this is coming from a dyed-orange-and-blue-in-the-wool Denver Broncos fan), is a concept that I have heard associated with Manning from the moment four years ago when he came to Denver. Former Bronco coach John Fox said, the day Manning was signed in Denver, that Manning was a player who raised all boats.
Raises all boats. Makes everyone better. Be the most valuable player who makes other players most valuable.
I really resonate with this idea. I like it. A lot.
Peyton Manning’s knowledge and skills made his teammates look better than they were. In his case, raising all boats meant making players around him who were good look great.
In the case of our work as educational professionals, raising all boats is a goal to strive for – a goal for which we ought to be known.
For too long, education has been viewed in terms of competition, competition for grades, for instructing the best classes, for getting the biggest promotion. All too often, we can look at those around us and think they are in our way. We can see those around us as obstacles to navigate and ships to scuttle.
If only these students tried harder, my job would be easier. If only my department wrote better curriculum, I would look better as a department chair. If only these teachers did what they were told, I would have a smoother time as an administrator.
Wouldn’t it be better if we saw ourselves as trying to raise all boats, trying to help everyone around us be better, trying to make others most valuable? Wouldn’t it be nice if we saw ourselves as servants of others and shifted the focus of all we do to that perspective?
Hey, it couldn’t hurt.
And, at the end of the day, what would people say about us if that’s the way we worked and taught and lead.
They might say we raised all boats.
There would be worse things to say about us, wouldn’t there?