The Hero Within
by Don Quimby
I was listening to the car radio the other day and I heard a man commenting on modern day heroes. Ever since the tragedy of September 11th, hearing about heroes and heroism (and appreciating and approving their efforts) has become a part of our daily lives. Prior to that date, we seemed to associate the concept of being a hero with some major act, with a person of status in the world (politics, military, athletics, business, etc.). That tragedy, however, in my view, showed us all who the real heroes of the world really are...they are everyday people just like you and I. They are people who, faced with a particular set of circumstances, are willing to step forward to do what they feel is right while showing little regard for any negative consequences that might happen to them.
We saw it the heroic acts of firemen, airplane passengers, individuals who volunteered to help where help was needed with no thought of recognition or reward, and on and on. All those people, and lots more, show the world everyday that all of us have a "hero within"...all that is needed is a set of circumstances that will allow our inherent traits to become observable actions.
But, I am not writing tonight to inspire people to run headlong into dangerous and life threatening situations. I am writing tonight because, as I listened to that man comment so eloquently about the acts of heroism he had observed, I found myself thinking of all of you...teachers. Before people can ever become heroes in real life, I believe that they had someone come into their life at some point to help them "see" the positive traits and characteristics they possess. They have had someone---their parent, a friend, a TEACHER---talk to them about the sacredness of human life, about how important it is to help others "just because it's the right thing to do," about the importance of respecting others, etc.
I feel that YOU, as a teacher, have lots of opportunities to help young people "see" their positive traits, characteristics and qualities. You, as a teacher, have special moments to help young people appreciate their world and all who live in that world. You, as a teacher, have special opportunities, through what you say and what you model, to help young people gain the perspective, the confidence and the courage to "stand up" to the challenges that life can throw their way. As a teacher, you can help young people prepare themselves for their "fifteen minutes of fame" simply by verifying through supportive and encouraging comments actions that they are, in fact, someone of importance.
No...I don't want you to encourage anyone to take foolish chances with their life as you seek to inspire them to reach out to their fellow man in times of crises or trouble. I am asking you, however, to encourage your students to seek to discover the "hero within" that I feel exists inside the heart and mind of EVERY student you have. Maybe one of them might become that fireman who rushes into a dangerous situation because he/she feels it their obligation to do so. Maybe one of them will become an airplane passenger who will risk his/her life by deciding to become involved in a life/death struggle rather than stand passively by. Maybe one of them will gain the courage to act appropriately in a "crossroad event" in their life.
My thought is simply this. Life does have some people who do some astounding things that cause them to be thrust into the national and world limelight, to be admired by all of us as heroes. That kind of attention and recognition happens to only a few individuals. But, I feel that life gives us all a ton of opportunities to become "heroes"- in our families, in our school, in our community, etc. Heroes, in my view, can be found in all kind of places, doing all kinds of things. Some things are big, some things are little. You, as a teacher, have a golden opportunity to help young people "see" how to become a hero in life. How do you go about doing that??? I have some thoughts on that matter:
H----Habits...Do everything you can to help your students develop positive habits. I feel that the habits a person establishes directly impacts and dictates the quality of the life they will live. I believe that habits influence a person's character...character influences actions...our actions direct us to our future. I believe that we are a product of our habits. Our habits influence our self concept and our self confidence. If you allow your students to think negatively about who and what they are, they develop what I call "handicap thinking"..."I can't do it", "I'm afraid to try", etc. Work toward helping every one of your students to see the positive traits and qualities they possess. Yes...some will have tons more potential than others. But...everyone has something to offer. Your "job" is to help each student find their potential, to find ways to help them "develop" that potential in ways that will allow them to have a chance at a positive future. Talk to them about why positive health habits are so critical. Talk to them about why it's important to be honest, to be humane. Talk to them about why it's alright sometimes to think with their heart as well as their head. Talk to the about why it's so important to maintain a sense of humor about life issues. Talk to them about hope.
E----Expectations...Just as I feel that we are products of our habits, I also believe that we are products of our expectations. Remember what I have told you? "Expect to get what you expect to get." One of the greatest things you can do for your students is to have reasonable, fair expectations for EACH ONE of them. Yes...some students really come from some tough, and even unfair, circumstances. But, if they are to ever have a chance at enjoying a satisfying and happy life, they must prepare themselves to meet expectations. Jobs won't be "handed" to them...they must prepare and work (which means giving meaningful and productive EFFORT) in order to be ready to positively meet the opportunities they wish to seek. You must help them see that education is something that they must value in the highest form. They must become, and remain, learners throughout their life. They must be shown the importance of enthusiasm and energy. You must help them "see" the connection between giving their personal best to everything they do and achieving their goals in life.
R----Relationships...I feel very strongly about the concept of relationships. I have met too many students who lack the courage to step forward, who lack the willingness to try something unfamiliar. As a result, many of them, who are fine young people, simply miss out on opportunities and situations that they could have done well with if they just would have had the courage to step forward. You, as a teacher, MUST find ways to help your students develop positive social skills like how to meet and greet people (and why!), how to handle rejection or momentary failure, etc. Although perhaps a legitimate argument could be made for the concept of "it's who you know that's important in life," I feel that "concept" can be overcome by each and every one of your students through the kinds of developmental experiences you provide for them in your classroom. Seek to do things that will give them confidence in themselves. Seek to give opportunities to demonstrate responsibility. Strive to help them find ways to develop a reputation of dependability. Help them develop the quality of respect (as well as a strong sense of self respect). Show them how to relate to others in positive ways. Give them lots and lots of opportunities to work in group relationships.
O----Optimism...I believe that every person on earth has two choices that they, and only they, can make every single day of their life. They can choose to be positive or they can choose to be negative. Can life provide some really negative experiences to some really good people? Unfortunately, I have found that such can happen. Life has a way of throwing some really major obstacles in the path of our daily living. Some of those obstacles can cause even the strongest of people to fall into the pit of total despair and negativity. Yes...your first function, as a teacher, is to help young people master academic skills. But, just as important, your job, as a teacher, is to help every young person that comes your way to learn about the wonderful aspects of life. W. Mitchell talked about the people he knew who "rode around in mental wheelchairs, crippled by their emotional experiences with life." Then, he profoundly stated: "It's not what happens to you. It's what you do about it." Like W. Mitchell, I believe that every one of us has what he called "phenomenal resources". I believe that those "resources" are best nurtured by not only a caring, dedicated, goal focused teacher, but by a teacher who strives to shine the light of optimism on each and every one of their students every single day, every single class period.
You, as a teacher, everyday in your classroom, have that special opportunity to help young people discover their special traits, characteristics and qualities. You, as a teacher, every day in your classroom have those special moments when you can help a young person find their hero qualities. My wish for you is that you never tire, you never give up striving to find ways to help your students discover their H.E.R.O. traits.
I envy the opportunities you have as a teacher of young people. From me to you...give that challenge your all every single day.
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