I have always known that my fellow teachers are superheroes. This year, our principals emphasized that by making “Superheroes and Superpowers” our theme. A few weeks ago, during our Spirit Week, a series of events forced all of us to tap into our superpowers and find our capes. One of our colleague’s children, also a student of ours, lost his battle with cancer that Wednesday. On Thursday, we found out that another colleague was taking her daughter, a former student of ours, to have a brain tumor removed. That Friday, we found out that our Assistant Principal had to move schools. The following week, a colleague lost her husband suddenly.
Folks, we are still standing. Here are five ways that we, like other teachers across the world who deal with enormous challenges, get our superhero on each day.
1. Teachers are superheroes because we can maintain the status quo no matter what.
The day we lost our student to cancer was the Spirit Week day we were all to dress as movie characters. One group of colleagues and their own personal children dressed like the cast of Inside Out, complete with Sadness and Joy. As little girls in princess gowns and boys in ninja costumes cried and asked questions, our counselors and teachers worked valiantly to try help little hearts heal. Joy came with a smile, and Sadness wiped tears. We cried with our kids and held our classes close, even as our own hearts were breaking.
2. We support each other.
Teachers are always trying to make someone else’s day better. We smile, share a hug, or tell a crazy story to make a colleague laugh.
My son’s Kindergarten teacher often hauls him down to my room so he can share an accomplishment with me during the day. It’s like she knows when I need a lift, and she instinctively takes a minute from her incredibly busy day to make mine 100% awesome. K teachers are superheroes to all their parents.
3. We build up our kids.
The Friday before the high-stakes testing week starts, our principal invites the high school football team to pump our kids up at a school-wide assembly. These huge guys then lead our 3-5 graders on a parade through the halls. Our Pre-K through second graders line the walls cheering us on as we all march around the school. We believe every kid deserves a parade, so we throw them one!
Teachers keep up with their students from kindergarten through fifth grade. Students visit their former teachers often in our school, but sometimes we turn those visits into mentorship opportunities. Kids who struggle with self-regulation monitor their behaviors daily on a chart with their current teacher. These children visit their favorite former teacher at the beginning of the day for a pep talk, and at the end of the day to review their behavior progress charts. Having a mentor has helped so many of our kids be successful.
We know it’s tough for kids to sit still. One of our teachers has written multiple grants this year for alternative seating such as balance balls and wobble stools. Active chairs have helped students focus, stay engaged, and be more successful in class.
Another teacher has written grants for math games that kids can take home in lieu of homework to play with their families. This same educator found money to buy coding tools to provide after-school classes to get girls excited about technology.
Additionally, our teachers found a grant to buy exercise mats for kids so we could have yoga classes as enrichment.
One more colleague found sponsorship so she could form a marathon relay team with some young runners. The sponsor not only paid the team’s entry fees, but the business also made matching shirts for the kids. Teachers are superheroes because they help their kids find their own superpowers.
5. We have a growth mindset.
I heard a colleague ask a struggling student to tap into her “yet” brain the other day. The child was feeling bad about not being able to complete a task, but the teacher wouldn’t allow her to give up. She employed some Carol Dweck Growth Mindset philosophy and told the child that while she might not have it yet, the struggle is worth it. The child persevered.
Superheroes don’t always wear capes—sometimes they merely put on their teacher badge every day. It’s June, and I think I can fairly say that the superheroes I work with are a little whipped right now. I know I am. We have a few weeks of summer to recharge until we pull out our superpower ID card lanyards and get back out there. Trust me, though—we might appear to be passed out in a beach chair this summer, but I can assure you we’re conjuring up some new ideas for next year! So stay tuned…