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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Life as a Teacher: Living the Hero's Journey

Stephen Hurley

Grade Eight Teacher, Group Moderator, Facilitator/teacher arts@newman

One of the main themes that has grounded and inspired this first year of the arts@newman program at Cardinal Newman School, in Toronto, has been "stories of home." Not only has this theme provided us with a powerful lens through which we can look at various aspects of our program; it has also allowed us to make use of a very powerful story structure -- one I encountered many years ago through the writings of Joseph Campbell (primarily, The Hero with a Thousand Faces) and, most recently, through Christopher Vogler's work The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers.

In a subsequent entry, I'll post some ideas about how we have used this perspective in our language arts program, but here, I want to pick up another thread and present a question to those of you involved in this journey we call teaching.

In myths, one of the first stages of the hero's journey is the call to adventure. Vogler describes this stage as the point at which "the hero is presented with a problem, challenge, or adventure to undertake. Once presented with a call to adventure, she can no longer remain indefinitely in the comfort of the ordinary world."

I had the opportunity to spend more than three years working with teacher candidates at the University of Toronto's Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Part of the coursework I did involved exploring the reasons people are drawn to teach. Many participants described a moment in their lives when they knew teaching was for them. For some, it happened very early in their own schooling; for others, it didn't happen until they were busy doing other things: raising a family, working in another profession, or going through a personal crisis.

Over the past several weeks, as I've delved more and more into the works of both Campbell and Vogler, I have found myself thinking about our teaching careers as a type of hero's journey. I thought that it might be interesting to hear from other teachers -- those new to the profession and those who have been around for awhile -- about this idea of a call to adventure.

My questions: What was it that caused you to embark on this journey? What drew you to this adventure? Did you initially refuse the call, or were you quick to answer it?

What's your story?

Stephen Hurley

Grade Eight Teacher, Group Moderator, Facilitator/teacher arts@newman
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Jannet's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi, my name is Jannet. I am a college student pursuing to become an elementary school teacher. Every since I was a young child I always knew I wanted to become a teacher. I remember always wanting to play school with my friends and family. I believe that the root of me wanting to become a teacher is my passion for wanting to help others. I want to be a good example for others and impact many peoples life. Working with children will give me that opportunity. I was really moved with the connection you used between a teacher and a hero's journey. A teacher is like a hero to their students. Many students will come with many challenges. Just like a hero's journey a teacher's journey won't always be easy, however there is nothing more fulfilling that defeating the challenges that are put in front of you. I have always been inspired to help children. I really can not see myself doing anything else because there is nothing more rewarding in life than helping others.

Melissa's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I was compelety drawn to this article. I was thinking to myself; "I could totally relate to this..." I've always struggled in school. I've always been that girl who study's and study's and receives a "C" at the end of the day.
Due to my hard work, I've always wanted to be a Teacher to help students, and understand the same struggles I went through. I want children to say, "Wow, I've never met a Teacher like this... I've never met a Teacher who actually wants to help me."
In my opinion, That's a Hero's Journey, I want to be a part of that. Wouldn't you?

Jeff Beckford's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am too am in college wnating to become a teacher. I don't have any special reason why except for maybe a love of literature. I guess the one reason I can think of is I have enjoyed many of the books I've read and want to see others appreciating that same literature. Not only do I want others to enjoy and appreciate the literature, without knowledge they can not continue the arts of poetry and storytelling. So I'm probably less of a hero to the students and more of a hero to literature in general. All this talk about helping others is, in my opinion, a little bit trite- it should be an unspoken rule for anyone in any given society. I think this way because the things we do in public and private should somehow benifit others- why else are we here?

Jenny's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Teaching has always been a dream of mine, as a child I would gather paper and crayons and pretend to teach my stuffed animals. Yes it sounds silly but looking back I realize that it has always been a passion of mine to teach and inspire my students to try their best. Helping children learn is what gives me the drive to want to be a teacher. When I saw the heading of this post I was excited to read it because I know that I agree with the topic. Education is the field that helps shape what our future will become. To some students their teacher is their hero, they open their mind to such new and exciting things. I work in a preschool classroom and have been doing so for the past 3 years, and seeing those little faces when I tell them that we are going to be painting or playing blocks is what makes my day and inspires me to keep doing what I do.

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