“I believe everyone has a superhero inside them waiting to be discovered.” – Unknown
Throughout my childhood, I was enamored with reading comic books, watching superhero cartoons, collecting superhero action figures and dressing up to save the world from destruction. The ideas and story lines of possessing extraordinary powers to rescue others, overcoming adversity and defeating evil was a concept I relished in. My love and passion for art originated from the depths of the amazingly drawn imaginary realms of fearless vigilantes, villainous aliens, and unstoppable mutants, which I desperately tried to recreate in my sketchbooks, loose pieces of paper, or class notes.
As my interest in art grew, I began to participate in every art class I could in school, which opened my eyes to a whole new world of materials, techniques, inspiration, and history. During the beginning of my high school career, I experienced a teacher who immediately captured my attention and challenged my effort, commitment, and motivation as an artist and a learner. My art teacher, Ms. Leorch, was a consistent balance of kindness, passion and grit. For the first time in school, I had found a place I felt accepted, cared for, uplifted, and driven beyond my own complacency. Ms. Loerch provided constant encouragement and opportunities, which went well beyond my own beliefs in the abilities I possessed. For the next four years, I took every art class available and Ms. Learch persistently pushed me to create beyond my own comfort and mindset. The classroom was an environment to explore and experiment without strict direction. We were allowed to make mistakes without consequences, which provided the confidence to try again without fear of losing credit. Each day, due to the relationship she established, I wanted to gain her approval with every task and be the best version of myself.
Although my experience in the art class room was transformational, the rest of my educational career created trepidation, frustration, and uncertainty as a learner. As an adult entertaining the idea of becoming an educator, I was apprehensive and doubtful of my impact on a large educational system, which I viewed as broken and futile. My immediate question and charge was:
How can the learning experience be changed for students to positively impact their desire, exploration, and acquisition of knowledge?
Looking at the many aspects of education in its entirety was overwhelming. I quickly had to change my lens and simplify the solution to a single model of teaching. In reviewing my experience in Ms. Leorch’s class, I began to understand the power of going beyond the curriculum, standards, and grades to focus on student’s characteristics, emotions, and passions. When I viewed education in a large scope, the opportunity to see the immediate chance to positively affect those around me was lost. One teacher cannot save each student’s experience as a whole. However, if each teacher continues to use their power to focus on the needs of their students, we would create a methodology and practice of love, compassion, hope, and acceptance. Similar to the superheroes in the comic books, these three qualities are needed to enhance the learning experience.
“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself” – Joseph Campbell
1. Never give up
Throughout the year, students will test our limits to determine how invested we are in them. This practice may be small or large but each student wants to know: Can I trust you? Do you believe in me? Will you ever give up on me? It is our daily duty to continue to show our students we will never give up on them or their learning. Even on the toughest of days, we must uplift, listen, and be present to build trust and strengthen our relationships. If our students know and believe we are committed to their needs, their emotional and academic growth will occur exponentially.
2. Strength comes from character
Our students are consistently seeking a model for their own behavior. In each task, interaction or conversation, we are creating a template of our expectations, beliefs and character. To produce strength in our students, consistency and intentionality are needed in our actions. Qualities, such as respect, patience, and servanthood, are presented to a captive audience, who are subconsciously digesting our every move. What we do each day is much more powerful than what we say each day.
3. Encouraging like a champion
Every student needs someone to provide motivation, inspiration, and encouragement in times of difficulty. In situations when students fail and struggle to try again, it is important to deliver support to coach resiliency and grit. As a student, when I didn’t believe in myself, Ms. Leorch made me feel like a champion and she encouraged me to take chances, apply my effort, and to have confidence in my abilities. Doubt is a powerful foe for our students and we must continue to battle the negative concepts with hope, joy, and love.
Our students are longing for much more than knowledge and grades. As educators, we have extraordinary powers to rescue others, overcome adversity and defeat the hardships of our students. Students don’t need teachers to wear a mask or a cape but they do need your super-powers everyday!