How Will You Be Remembered?

Grant Smith, Editor-In-Chief

A while ago, one of my friends, Gabe Tisdale, wrote a letter to Dr. Jamey VanZandt regarding his mother Gennifer Tisdale. In this letter, Gabe tells the story that his mother recalls from her high school years. According to Gabe, his mother is logical, and, as he puts it – “black and white,” and, “set in stone.” Gennifer took one of Dr. VanZandt’s writing classes, even though she was not an “English person.” One day, Dr. VanZandt choose one of her essays to read in front of the class. This deeply touched Gennifer and she still, according to Gabe, tells the story.

Upon hearing about this, it starting to turn the gears in my mind. My first impulse was to write a rather harsh column to teachers urging them to reconsider how they will be remembered, because so many teachers are remembered years later. Some, unfortunately, are not remembered well. But, why should this question be limited to just teachers?

Think about this: How will you be remembered? Students, after you have left high school, and you are long gone – pursuing all of your dreams, what will your teachers remember you by? Will they recall your smiling face and upbeat attitude? Or something different? Will your peers think of you and smile? Or, will they not? We all know someone that we remember with happy thoughts. These are the people we still keep in contact with over the years. These are the people whose necks we hug when we see them unexpectedly. Do we not all want to be one of these people? I know I do.

Teachers: I have news for you – every single one of your students will remember you. And, they will either remember you with good memories, or, they will remember you with bad ones. It is up to you how you will be remembered. Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Anytime I run into an old teacher they are usually extremely cordial and nice. However, that doesn’t matter to me. What matters is how they made me feel. Emphasis on the past tense form of the verb. If my memory recalls good feelings, then that is how I remember them. But, if it recalls bad ones, then, more than likely, that is how I will always remember that person. For example, a few weeks ago, I was able to catch up with a teacher I had in grade school. They smiled and laughed and told me they were proud of me. But, years ago when I was in their class, I felt belittled, sad, and far from happy. So, even as they embraced me now, my guard was up.

In the film The Bucket List, Edward (Jack Nicholson) is asked two questions by Carter (Morgan Freeman). Carter tells us that the ancient Egyptians believed that after death, whether or not one got into heaven was decided on two questions. The questions are: Have you found joy in your life? And, has your life brought joy to others?  

Whether you are a teacher, student, boss, employee, volunteer, writer, athlete, lover, fighter, or anything in between, I ask that we all think about how we will be remembered.