Leaving More than Just Footprints

As the end of my 3rd year and completion of contract came into view, I wanted to leave behind something more than just my footprints. I’m not referring to an ego-driven legacy commemorated with an engraved plaque. But rather something of lasting value to my students and my host community.

At my previous school a few of us departing teachers pitched in to purchase and install some much needed software for the elementary library computers. At the school before that, 3 of us had an 8-seat custom bench built and installed on the elementary playground. As for the school I’m now leaving, well … I’ll keep my plan to myself and not spoil the surprise since I know my admin are ISR members!

For me, departing this school and not leaving something of value would color the experience of the past 3 years with an overtone of it having taken place in a vacuum. It would be as if I closed the book on a vibrant chapter of my life and that was that. Contributing lends itself to a sense of connectedness and continuity I can carry with me far into the future.

I love this school and my students here. My desire, while young, to see the world is what motivates me to experience new countries and schools. My desire to contribute to the greater good motivates me to leave behind more than just footprints.

What sort of things have YOU and your colleagues done to leave your schools and/or host communities better than when you came in?

Comments? Please scroll to participate in this ISR Discussion

10 thoughts on “Leaving More than Just Footprints

  1. “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” (1 Timothy 6:7)
    Do your best while you’re there and go out with grace and dignity. You cannot control what happens next, so let it go. Be happy that you did well and were appreciated.


  2. I’m leaving a complete curriculum for three courses. It has taken hundreds of hours and it’s very good.

    Probably get tossed aside by the next person though. Such is life. Nothing lasts its all about now.


  3. Understanding how the international circuit for-profit schools work doesn’t motivate educators in spending a cent towards equipment and other educational resources the school is responsible for.

    Legacy is such an ego-centric word. It is a jargon that annoyingly wriggled its way in interviews. What do good practicing teachers leave behind?

    – Students and parents who value education.
    – Students who are principled and know what the term international-mindedness really mean.
    – Children (and parents) who understand that wanting a C or 4 and above require hard work, thinking skills, commitment and motivation.
    – Events, trips and conversations that contributed towards laughter, resilience and being a good human being.


  4. This is personal to everyone, of course. I leave behind the memories of my integrity and ability to be a human with courage in situations where the admin behaved with a lack of it (integrity). I leave behind memories of profound learning in my classes and after school work and that’s enough for me, because what I’ve learned is that once you’re gone your work will be dismantled and forgotten – and in just a few short years and as little as a year or two. I don’t try to leave an imprint that can go beyond my time in a school except in the hearts and minds of my own students. Once you’re gone, everything changes. I model for my students how to live and let go in the face of adversity. I leave behind all that I built in terms of curriculum and rituals or routines in the program that my successor may wish to keep. That decision is out of my hands. It is usually an exercise in control by admin to justify the program in the present and most teachers teach what they want to teach when they start in a new school. It’s not what you taught. Mostly. I leave and my caring about this school will cease there because experience tells me there’s little point in being sentimental about the goodbye. No one cares about you once you’re gone…except the ones who worked with you, and they have to adapt to changing circumstances and new teachers. You will be remembered for awhile but not for long.


  5. leaving behind students who score six and sevens in your IB subject and get less gifted students to get fours and fives. What better gift?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As I had planned the school I was at to be the last in my career (though that hasn’t turned out to be the case!) I donated heaps of resources to the faculty – text books, science equipment, fossils – whatever I could cram into my suitcase on my annual trips home. It was a pleasure to imagine how these would continue to be of sustained educational benefit, and not get thrown into a hopper when I die in a decade or two!

    You have a continuous, professional, transactional relationship with your school. I am in the habit of keeping very good administrative records, and ensured my successors had copies of all my anchoring powerpoints, worksheets, assessment tasks and mark schemes that I had developed during my tenure. Sure, my successor is going to change many of these things, but there is so much work in transitioning to a new school or system, it would support the succession of the staff. When developing systems to set up a faculty or school, of course you will keep backups for your next adventure for yourself. After all, you will have donated days and days of your weekends and evenings to develop these.

    As for buying things like benches for students, I’m less sure. I think that should be the school’s responsibility, you don’t want it to become an expectation of for-profit selfish operators that teachers do even more! I would be more keen to see the acquisition of playground equipment (etc) to be part student-initiated service to improve the facilities for their (school) community. Remember, the population of students is as transient as you are, they will only be associated with the school for 4-6 years of their lives. However, if they have contributed to the planning and development of their community in some way, they, like you, will always reflect on what an exciting and rewarding process that was.


    1. I agree with you. I leave meticulous records. If I have designed curriculum, I leave it for others to use (or not). It is so frustrating to show up for a new job and find that there is no record (or poor records) of what has been done previously and how the students have performed throughout the previous year aside from final marks. Better to leave it all and let others toss what they deem irrelevant.


  7. I am deeply offended by the idea that I, as a teacher, am in a position of such superiority that I should “leave” some sort of a thing I determine has value to a host nation or a school that is hosting me. Who exactly am I to determine what to leave? Also, what if my “gift” or legacy is an embarassment to the school or to the families or the community by implying they are lacking something. No one likes to have their shortcomings highlighted. This notion echoes colonialism and the faulty idea that because I was fortunate enough to be born in a developed country that has resource perhaps I am somehow superior to the locals? Utter hogwash! I served my time at the school to the best of my abilities and poured out my heart and soul for my students and my colleagues. That is more than enough and it is my honorable legacy.


    1. I am not offended, because who cares??? But I agree with you. My legacy are my relationships that I make with my students and colleagues.


  8. Sure will answer. I got kicked out, filed a case against the school. When they couldnt win the case, the chairperson (a lawyer herself) set up false witnesses to speak against me. So I eventually lost my case. However, the former chairperson of the school is counting bars in the state prison for the last 1.5+ years.

    What did I leave behind? I taught my students to be courageous in times of adversity and to uphold honesty and to put your trust in God, even when you are intimidated by the high and mighty. That is probably something worthwhile which they will carry with them.

    Liked by 1 person

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