WARNING: This is a feel good post!
It's about time I wrote something simple and positive. No whining, complaining, or sarcasm. I begin with a question as I always do, are you somebody's hero? I am motivated to write about this topic because I recently found my name on a My Space website by a former student where he lists me as one of his heroes. I was shocked. I never think of myself as anyone's hero. I don't think any teachers do, but we should. Not in the self-gratifying, "aren't we great" way, but in the "holy cow, we do make a difference" way. Teachers do make a difference and what we do does matter, and yes, each and every one of us is somebody's hero.
I grew up with only my father as a male role model in my family. My grandfathers had both past, and my uncle lived in another state. So I looked to the male teachers in my life for inspiration and guidance; it's no wonder I ended up a teacher myself. But it wasn't just the male teachers I had growing up, but the female teachers as well who were my heroes. Anyone who supported me as an individual, gave me an opportunity to shine, and taught me anything became my hero. And there were plenty.
I've written a little about my Drama teachers. But they alone did not fulfill the hero role for me. From kindergarten to graduate school, all along the way, teachers gave me inspiration to work towards success. I hope that my students now feel that way about me. I don't feel like I'm always a positive force in the classroom; I have plenty of bad days. Sometimes I'm distracted, or tired, or just plain sick of kids and teaching. Sometimes I am crabby and short-tempered. What do you know? I'm human just like you. We are all human beings even when we're not being treated that way.
Actually I think teachers are more than human, we are super-human super-heroes. Every day teachers come to work ready to save the world, or at least the students in our classrooms. Every day teachers endure the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" as we navigate the seas of adolescent and pre-adolescent insanity. Yet we keep fighting on. It happens in small ways. The polite positive comment. The (metaphorical) pat on the back, or "atta boy." The confidence we instill in our students that they are valuable and worthy of our time and attention leaves everlasting marks on the kids' psyche making them feel like they too can take on the world and succeed.
Of course, there are some Lex Luthors, Green Goblins, and Jokers in our company. Sad that our current system protects the villains as well as the heroes (oops, I promised to stay positive.)
You can't go out and just ask your students if you are their hero, but you don't need to either. If you are being successful in the classroom, if you can see your students engaged in active learning, growing and blossoming into the people they were made to be, then you know that your efforts are neither in vain, or ill-spent. You can rest assured that one day soon your students will reflect on the time spent in your classroom, in your presence, and be thankful that somebody took the time to get to know who they were, to give them opportunities to succeed, to patiently wait on them while they struggled to survive, and think of you as their hero.
Teachers are heroes just like firefighters, police officers, and elected officials (ok, maybe not all elected officials). We are public servants who walk around disguised as Clark Kent, Peter Parker, and Bruce Wayne. Fortunately we don't need a mask and spandex suit to complete our good deeds, we make ourselves openly available to our tasks and complete them honestly and with a sense of gratitude most non-teachers don't understand. But people who don't teach miss out on those moments when the students' eyes brighten up, their lights shine on, and their brains shout out, "A-ha!" Those moments are payment enough for us, your friendly neighborhood teachers.
So keep your chin up, you are a hero. Be proud of the good work that you do everyday for the betterment of other people and our world as a whole. Teachers are givers, not takers. We give of our time, our resources, and our hearts. That counts for a lot in a world full of takers. Teachers by nature put others first, and that is heroic behavior by any standard. The kids know it, that's why they smile at you every morning, or at the beginning of every class. They know that you are different from the others out there who want nothing more than to take their money, their youth, and their innocence away from them. Kids just grow up too fast these days. But not because of teachers. Teachers are the reason kids can survive childhood. Sure parents are critically important here, but whom do most kids spend most of their days with? Teachers.
If you've never looked at yourself as somebody's hero, take a moment now and think about it. Sure, you're not perfect, but you don't have to be. You're just doing the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons. Doesn't seem like it only takes that much to be a hero, but it's really just that simple. We live in a broken world where too many people put themselves first. Teachers don't have that luxury, and that's good for us, good for our students, and good for the world. The big secret is that serving others is the key to happiness. So in our heroic efforts to make this world a better place, we are making ourselves happier, healthier individuals. Feels pretty good to be a hero huh?
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