I love super hero movies! I absolutely love them. From Marvel comics to DC (or others), I cannot wait to read it, listen to it, or even watch it. I use to think I was a super hero,….well I kind of still do (laugh)! Yet, it intrigues me most to learn about the super hero that had no idea he/she had powers at all! It took them a while to tap in to them and realize the substantial, significant power(s) they possessed. However, when they found them, the impact of their existence became overwhelmingly substantial. Have you ever seen the movie Unbreakable featuring Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis? In this movie, Bruce Willis is a middle-aged man, who realizes he is different, but does not quite know or understand how. Well, he was lifting weights one evening after work. He continues to add weight and it does become more difficult to lift, but he realizes he has the strength to do it. Eventually, he has every weight he owns on this bar and realizes he has the POWER to lift it. Once he recognizes his power, he begins lifting it with ease.
This makes me think of the different points of entry individuals have within America’s education system that have immeasurable impact that is not often recognized. The first one is that of the teacher. In the state of Kentucky alone, there are approximately 42,000 public school teachers in a state with 173 districts. Each district only has 1 superintendent. Each building only has 1-3 administrators. The dominance of the teacher within a school setting is completely overwhelming. This is not about intimidation or gaining power. It is about understanding your voice. One thing I truly admired about the building I was fortunate to be a principal in was that the teachers took the time to teach each other first. They modeled best practices for one another. They discussed researched methods that propelled success, which made the singular role of the administrator that much easier. I know what you are probably thinking (if you are an educator). “Well that is why we have a teachers’ union!” Although I have been an advocate for teachers unions both financially and in action, this has nothing to do with the needs of adults (which are what teachers unions focus on). This is about the needs of children. We have to stop saying “What if?” and be the “What if”. We can make a point to get outside of our four walls of instruction, and discuss our successes with the peer next to us. Teachers have the capacity to help other teachers. We have to stop waiting on a teacher who truly loves teaching but has areas he/she struggles in to be put on a corrective action plan, and start mentoring that teacher as a support to students. Research done by Adam Gamoran and Geoffrey Borman (Wisconsin Center for Educational Research, 2006) showed that if low-income minority students could be assured of having teachers who fell in the top 25 percent of effective teachers four years in a row (after having a subpar instructor), those students could close the achievement gap altogether. So what if a student was not in the GAP and consistently had quality teachers continuously motivated by other quality teachers? That impact could change a nation. If a teacher shares his/her successes with other teachers, and other teachers are humble enough to take that information and continually add to their toolkit, the power of (all of) those super heroes in education could be devastating. This is just on a district level. Now, with the use of technology and discussions around peer mentoring, this could be done on a state level. Teachers could mentor each other and share information for the best interest of the students they serve. I know it sounds all kumbuyah-ish, but it is exciting to think about the power and/or impact of teachers when they take the time to strengthen each other.
The quiet super hero who truly does not recognize their own power is the parents. There are over 680,000 students in the state of Kentucky alone, which means there are at least 1.3 million parents (not including grandparents or other family advocates) within the state of Kentucky alone! That means if parents know there are things they should be concerned with on a building level, a district level, or even a state level, with one polite voice in the best interest of their children, they can make an impact. There are 26 states with a higher population than Kentucky. So this power is even stronger in other states. You might be wondering how you can make an impact. Become a part of the school’s PTA or Site-Base Decision Making (SBDM) Council. Volunteer within the school building. Become a lunch monitor to help with behavior. Ask if you can become a reading pal for struggling students. MAKE A WAY. Being a part of these organizations will allow you to have input on your school’s improvement plan, curriculum development, after-school activities, and even the direction of their budget. SBDM councils even discuss what type of teachers the school will need and the hiring of a school principal. The impact you could have as a parent in the life of your child and many, many other children cannot be overlooked.
Now, the question is what type of super-hero are you? There are good guys and bad guys. Are you a Superman or a Doctor Doom? If you spend more time creating dissension instead of proposing solutions, you are a villain. If you refuse to accept change, even if it is in the best interest of the child and his/her learning environment, you are a villain. If your actions are based on what you as a parent or you as a teacher would rather have, and not what is best for the children within that school and/or district, you are a villain that is probably doing so much more harm than good. A true super hero is willing to listen. He/she is willing to give change a chance. He/she is patient enough to give others a chance to grow and not judge them too soon. People and systems deserve a chance to succeed or fail, but if failure is the product, a super hero should rise up to help find a solution. Because super heroes always have their hands in the action, they shouldn’t have to come from too far of a distance to make a difference. So, are you that hero? You may not be able to totally save the day, but you definitely have the power to make a difference. The choice is yours.