Appreciating the Legacy of a Teacher

Posted by Mary Hendra on November 27, 2013

We know, when we go into teaching, that the consequences of our work may not be entirely appreciated in the moment, that we are "planting seeds" as a teacher of mine told me when I was becoming a teacher. Yes, there are some days when we leave the classroom KNOWING that we made a difference. We saw the light bulb go on. We heard or watched as a student responded in a new way. But honestly, we do not always know the students who will be truly moved by our work or who will come back years later to tell us how the seed we planted eventually blossomed.

CrystalEarlier this school year, we lost a young teacher who had been a friend and colleague of mine. She was known here on this blog site as well, since she opened her classroom to all of us in the days after the Boston bombing. Many were struggling with what to do, how to provide for the conversations students needed to have and how to guide students from fear or anger to positive action. Crystal Greene gave us a window to her classroom, and through that a way for many to think about their own next steps.

It was a shock to lose Crystal so young. She was an amazing, compassionate and inspiring person and a wonderful teacher. I will miss her.

At the same time, I treasure what I saw in her students as they, too, processed the passing of their beloved teacher. It shows the legacy of a great teacher.

  • Students who had been taught by Crystal in years past have shared how they inspired her to look closely at their own community. Every year she had them do a community project where they considered an issue significant in the community and important to them. They learned. They shared it with others. And, they considers the potential for their own action.
  • At the school memorial service for Crystal, students consistently used the word "upstander" to describe what she had taught them, Crystal used the case study of the Holocaust for students to explore human behavior. They looked at the choices of individuals - to be bystanders, upstanders, or perpetrators. They used what they learned to reflect on their own choices. This was an opportunity reinforced throughout their school culture in school assemblies, advisory classes, and later grade levels.
  • I also saw something learned, though perhaps not explicitly "taught" as a lesson. Students shared openly and honestly. Students listened with sincerity and care for each other. Students expressed themselves clearly and humbly. Students took pride in presenting themselves well - and they were beautifully poised and articulate. All of these are the way Crystal was as well. Her students had learned from her example.

I will miss Crystal, but am so grateful for the legacy she leaves that lives in her school, her students, and her friends.

Topics: Student Work, Judgement and Legacy, A View from the Classroom

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