“Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.” ~Mark Twain
A long time ago, when I was still teaching lifespan human development to future teachers, I would start the semester with Death and Dying rather than the traditional Prenatal Development. My students’ first assignment–given the first day of class and due at the next class meeting–was to write their own eulogy and epitaph. To say that the “tourists” would drop out in a hurry would be an understatement (“tourist” is the nickname I gave to the students who were just planning on coming to the first few classes to see if they wanted to stay in it or not…they were usually looking to see if they could get an easy “A”). My students thought I was a bit nuts and I can’t say that I blame them.
At the second class meeting, I would explain why we were starting with Death and Dying and why they had to complete that first assignment. You see, I wanted them to think about how they wanted their students to remember them. Once they started to figure that out, then they could start deciding what kind of teacher they wanted to be. You might say that their eulogy contained their “learning objectives” for their professional lives.
When my father passed away almost 15 years ago, his former students lined up to describe how “Doc” had helped them turn their lives around. Many of them pointed out that they had become pastors or teachers because of him. I know my next younger sister, Jan, changed careers and became a teacher as a result of the impact our father had on these former students’ lives. (Click here to read a Los Angeles Times interview with him about his impending retirement in 1990).
Me? I want to be remembered as someone who cared deeply for others and made a difference in people’s lives. It is why I do what I do at the university and why I write my blogs. Based on the feedback I’ve received, I think I’m on the right path.
How do you want to be remembered?
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