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Non-Mutant Heroes

March 29, 2012

Photo by Laura Slotkoff

By Laura Slotkoff, Corps Member Proudly Serving at Reed Elementary School

What is a hero? This is the question I posed to my students after we read their essay prompt on identifying a real hero in their lives.

“A hero is a mutant, duh!” came the immediate response.  “A hero can fly!” said another, “A hero is someone who saves someone’s life, like when a bad guy tries to take your purse they swoop in and beat him up and give it back to you,” a student helpfully added.

“You’re getting closer,” I told them. I explained that not all heroes are flying mutants with superpowers. I wanted them to know that a hero can be someone they know in real life that they admire or look up to, like an older sibling or a teacher. Someone who does something brave, or makes them want to strive for greatness, can be a hero.

It took a bit of work to convince them that these so-called “heroes” can potentially exist outside of comic books. They stared at me skeptically for a while, trying to correct my faulty perception by explaining why Superman and Spiderman are cooler than everyone they know. Isaiah, a quiet, clever little boy with a quizzical look on his face, said, “I guess my dad could be my hero, cause he buys me video games and that makes my life better. But it’s so boring. What am I going to say? ‘One dark stormy night Dad swooped in and saved me from boredom?’”

I smiled. After some more discussion on the topic, their concept of a hero broadened. Shana wrote about her uncle who had been killed the year before, how he was always there for her and got her “outta a whoopin’ from Ma.” Lana piped in with a gravity beyond her 9 years, “I want to write about God, cause he’s gotten me through some tough times in my life.” Another girl, Mae, decided to write about a classmate who defended her when some boys were teasing her about being overweight. “She’s smart, kind, and respectful. If I say help she always comes,” she said. And Isaiah, the boy previously mentioned, decided it was heroic when his dad helped him with his homework and pushed him to succeed.

To my surprise, one of my students decided to write about why I was her hero. I would like to share a part of the essay she wrote:

My hero is Ms. Laura because she helps me through my anger. She is fun, cool, nice. She also helps me with my schoolwork.

Ms. Laura is cool because she helps the teacher and me learn new things in my life. She’s nice because she helps me stay helpful to other classmates and she says to me to stay a leader not a follower.

If I can’t write good Ms. Laura says you can do it. Thanks for everything you did for me!

Truthfully, they are all my heroes for their persistent hard work and positive attitudes in spite of all the obstacles they face. I admire and learn from their creative ideas and perspectives every single day. Without a doubt, my students have made me want “to strive for greatness,” as I told them heroes do. I am  grateful that as an individual I am able to do the same for them, and that as an organization City Year has such a positive impact on students’ lives.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 30, 2012 9:31 pm

    You are an inspiring person Laura and I know the students probably thinking, “I want to be like Ms. Laura when I grow up!”

    I wish I get to meet your students!

  2. April 2, 2012 9:32 am

    Wow! The perspective of our students never ceases to amaze me. Thank you for being a super hero to them during your year of service.

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