Pause and reflect…


Who are heroes?

I read somewhere that heroes are ordinary people who do extradinary things. Harry Emerson Fosdick said, “Democracy is based upon the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people.”

My son is a hero to me: he could give up after his tragic motorcyle accident, but he doesn’t. He continues to live his life — his style is shorter (from a wheelchair), but everything he strives to do now, he accomplishes.

My husband is a hero. On his way out of town he noticed smoke, and stopped to grab a neighbor and hoses to help contain the fire until firefighters arrived, saving two homes.

All over the world ordinary people have stepped up to help in floods, storms, and earthquakes. 

When the need arises ordinary people do extraordinary things. We carry the possibilities to bring our communities together when nature pulls them apart.

In our lives we have many communities: family, friends, church, work, play. And in each of these communities, we pull together, and in small ways are heroes to each other when the need arises. For stories of heroes from communities around the world, see the Giraffe Heroes Project.

In the US, all of us have a community in our classrooms and schools. In each classroom are heroes, including the teachers who are not just instructing, but often are mentors, counselors, referees, coaches, nurses, mediators, cheerleaders, tutors, etc. to those children in their care who come to us not as objects to be filled but as whole persons with ideas, dreams, issues, problems, hopes, needs. Despite the requirement to teach the curriculum, it is the child that is to be taught, to be understood, to be encouraged, and to be engaged. Without this consideration of the whole child, the child will probably not engage willingly with learning. Imagine guiding a classroom full of students, each of whom you are to inspire. Look at their faces in your mind. To do this, is to be a hero; it often takes extraordinary skill to guide each child in one’s care.

Yes, guide. Look at the root of educate (Dictionary.com): 



1580–90;  < Latin ??duc??tus  brought up, taught (past participle of ??duc??re ), equivalent to ??- e-  + -duc-  lead + -??tus -ate

So, to educate is to lead.  Teachers lead students towards each one’s learning, and help bridge the gap from individual to community.



Play to Learn…

If we want our hereos to jump in for our many communities, then our common community, our schools, must be allowed to lead to learning that which is most important: forming and supporting a learning community. That takes time, conversation, and more than the basics. It’s why project-based learning is so powerful: solving a problem to complete a project together is engaging, inspiring, and energizing. How else could we guide students to see their possibilities? 

What Does Successful Project-Based Learning Look Like? By Bob Lenz explains that project-based learning includes, among others, these:

  • Lasting learning of a deeper learning skill, idea, or way of thinking that is relevant to students’ lives, their futures, and transforms who they are as human beings.
  • Mirrors real-world work of professionals in craft, process, or skill (e.g. historians, writers, mathematicians, artists).
  • Moves beyond classroom in purpose, audience, or contribution to community.

I’d like to thank the heroes of reform today who keep voicing the need to develop schools for learning rather than for testing — no test can assess the kind of learning we need to lead students to learning within a community, so the students too will be heroes in their communities.

So even though I teach in a test-prep school, I will also conduct that preparation within the confines of both district requirements and engaging projects– and to find “extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people.” Our democracy depends on this, don’t you think?


What about you? Who are your heroes? What are your communities? How will you best lead students to a sense of community and learning? How is it that educators lead us to find “extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people?”



Photo Credits:

Missour River and Jake by Sheri Edwards