Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Who is still standing after everything that could go wrong does?"

A student wrote that question in a recent Ning discussion about her personal hero. The thread is part of a Pearson-sponsored Ning collaboration among my senior students and seniors at a school in California. In writing about their personal heroes, many of these students have become my heroes as they have written about the math teacher who offered encouragement, children who have persevered through the challenge of their mothers' drug abuse, parents serving in Iraq, siblings and friends who give companionship, athletes such as the skier Tom Wallisch, grandparents who mentor through memories, and many others

One of my favorite posts comes from a female student who writes about her father's heroic qualities: "He has taught me...how to blow a goose call, catch a fish, and even skin a coyote." I love this reminder about how important time is to young people.

Still another student reminds us that it's the small things that often go unnoticed that define heroism:

I believe that my hero would be the stranger on the road willing to tow your car in a rain storm or the figure that help you when you were lost in a foreign place. I truly think that the random meeting of a stranger who shows virtues and dignity is worthy of being called a hero....When you help the unfamiliar face in the poorest condition, then you have earnestly reached in the bottom of your heart to pull out the little inch of kindness that person may need.

Each day in classrooms across the country teachers at every grade level reach into their hearts and earnestly offer kindness, inspiration, and hope to students. They do this, arguably, in the most difficult, disrespectful political climate our profession has known. Some days it's difficult to find our idealism. On those days, I think about my student heroes and the things they do and the words they write that embody random heroic acts. Here's one that could be from any student to any teacher; I dedicate it to those teachers who may need a hero today:

Thank you for teaching me how to write out my feelings. It has helped a lot, so has reading. You got me hooked on reading. I don't know if you will read this or not, but thank you to when you do, and I pray for you. I don't have a hero, I hope one day I will.

When I'm having difficulty finding a hero, I look no further than the desks in my room. In the world of education, I'm confident that it's the teacher and the student heroes who will remain "standing after everything that could go wrong does."