Harnessing the Real Power in the Classroom to Leave a Legacy

Issue 4 and Volume 39.

“T          he credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena: whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood: who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
—Theodore Roosevelt
The most powerful tool in the classroom isn’t the newest technology, the best facility, or even the best science of teaching—the most powerful tool is the educator. 
But it’s not just any educator, it’s one who is: a dreamer, inspirational, authentic, courageous, visionary and passionate. 
Educators must live in the arena that Teddy Roosevelt spoke of when he talked of a man who “spends himself in a worthy cause.”  Great educators realize it’s far riskier to fail without “daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” 
It’s not hard to find a few of these qualities in an educator, but to find all of them is something to really celebrate. Ronnie Patterson, a proud Tennessean, was a role model of all these qualities and represents a small group of educators who have inspired the rest of us to begin to see ourselves—and our profession—differently. 
Great educators must:
Dream. Every generation has its dreamers—great men and women who defy the rules and regulations that encourage the status quo. How different our world would be if Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t share his dream. 
Inspire. Our lives will be defined by what we do, not what we say. Educators must inspire the people around them with their actions, which in turn become their voice. Unfortunately, many educators fail to lead by example: Their lives aren’t inspiring, their teaching not unique. 
Be authentic. Many people lack clarity because they lack authenticity. They don’t share their real feelings and aren’t true to themselves and those around them. This leaves most educators lost; their lives and their teaching are filled with contradiction. Nathaniel Hawthorn recognized this when he wrote, “No man for any considerable period can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude without finally getting bewildered as to which may be true.” 
Have courage. The purest courage is born defending a friend, speaking up for a patient or being a student advocate. Too many educators simply remain silent so they don’t lose their acceptance in a social group. They’re afraid their standing in the organization may be compromised, or simply fearful they may be next to be persecuted. True courage 
is understanding that life is filled with moments that test our resolve and 
our principles. 
Lead with vision. Proverbs states that people without vision will perish. It’s through true vision that we see the world not as what it is, but what it can become. We are better for the vision of Mother Teresa, Cesar Chavez, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, just to name a few. Their visions galvanized mankind to address social issues that rekindled the human spirit and created a future of great possibilities. 
Be passionate. Where educators find their passion they will find their purpose in life. We must unburden our creativity by removing the weight of our own egos. We must create a servant’s heart in ourselves and in our students—then, and only then, will our passion for life burn brightly and a legacy begin to take shape. 
Ronnie Patterson was all of these things that make a great educator. Our hearts broke when he passed away on Christmas Day 2013. We’re comforted knowing he resides in heaven with the other members of our loving EMS and Fire family who have gone before him.