George Lucas Educational Foundation
Social & Emotional Learning (SEL)

Life as a Teacher: Living the Hero’s Journey

February 13, 2008

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?

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