A student once gave me a mug that said I’m A Teacher, What’s Your Superpower? It was a timely present considering the popularity of many recent Marvel movies. The statement behind this wasn’t necessarily a novel idea. Teachers being superheroes has been repeated constantly when trying to motivate and inspire teachers and even used as a defense of the profession. I wonder, how accurate is that statement? Are teachers really superheroes?
We don’t wear capes, tights, or spandex, but teachers do reach down to the depths of their souls to find powers in order to be effective, successful, and impactful. This may come easily to some and may take time for others. While we may not be battling Loki or Hydra, as teachers, we muster up the courage to fight for what’s important. However, this comes with a devastating realization.
We can’t all be Iron Man.
It’s a shame, but we won’t be as devilishly charming, exceedingly rich, or intricately smart as Tony Stark. We won’t have the opportunity to don a suit of technological armor that can go toe to toe with enemies bent on destroying us. We will not have the strength of Hulk or the agility of Black Widow. Captain America’s endurance and Thor’s flight are not in our reach. I know. It’s disappointing. I personally have been looking forward to donning Captain America’s suit. Though this may be a bitter blow, there is hope, after all, and what is a good superhero story without hope? The hope is this.
We can all be an Avenger.
Only as a team do we have the capability of harnessing our greatest strengths and overcoming our weaknesses to succeed in tests of strength, will, and courage. Each day when walk into our classrooms, we must find the motivation to teach and inspire our students. We can not do this alone. This success of a superhero doesn’t lie in his or her ability to fight evil when threatened on our own, but to work with others for good. How we can achieve these goals and make our own team of superheroes?
Know Your Superhero Limits
Our limits can hinder us from being as powerful as we’d like. There are times when Captain America knew that his shield could only take him so far. As teachers, none of us are solely responsible for our students’ education and well-being. We need to be mindful that we have our strengths, yes, but we need to know how far our strengths can take us. We are only human after all, and therefore, need to commit to ongoing learning. The Avengers regrouped, grew, and evolved as a team. So can we.
Collaborate With Your Superhero Teammates
There are moments when Iron Man’s pride got in the way of teamwork, but when push came to shove he worked with his fellow Avengers. This seems like an easy lesson. We’ve all heard that we have to collaborate and that teaching needs to go beyond our own classrooms, but how is it done effectively? Talk to each other. Be open with each other and focus on a shared goal. For the most part, The Avengers always know the villain. We can debate what’s out there that harms teachers, but we are greatest when we work together.
Trust Other Superheroes
Once we start collaborating, we need to trust our team. Hawkeye knew that even though he had his bow and arrows, he needed the strength of Hulk and the cunning of Black Widow to help him. Our team, whether it be our grade level, department, or fellow teachers in our school, has strength together that we can not possess individually. This can take time but by trusting in other teachers, we can reach the common goal.
What does all this lead to? The Avengers work together to protect humanity and save the planet - so what are we as teachers empowered to do? We too must come together to be heroes and champions for children.
One of the greatest aspects of teaching is seeing students’ innocent wonder and sincere trust. Our students don’t know we aren’t Iron Man. They are oblivious to the fact that we don’t possess Thor’s hammer. However, we can be heroes in their eyes. We need to be passionate champions for children. They need to know and realize they have many superheroes behind them for every step they take and every villain they fight.
Many outside of education don’t realize how hard being a teacher actually is. It’s tough work, but there are people who understand and empathize with us. These are our teammates. We just need to take off the mask once in awhile to find them.
So maybe the cliche that teachers are superheroes is not entirely inaccurate, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Teachers as a team are superheroes. We just need our team to help us realize our full strength and together we’ll really be the superheroes our students see in us.
This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.