We all need role models. We all likely have a handful of people in our lives that we can point to and say that we admired them. Perhaps for different reasons, often quite personal, but we all need heroes.
In our lives in schools and education, we also know that children need healthy adult role models. After graduation, many students will talk or the one or two teachers who made a difference in their lives. To them, these are people who made a difference. Yes, adults matter and kids watch very closely.
In society, we know this fact and we not only recognize but we also sculpt and create heroes. These are often high profile public figures like athletes, musicians, singers, or actors. These often end up being the very embodiment of the values to which we aspire.
So it was with great sadness that I continued this week to watch Lance Armstrong’s plummet from a place of admiration and heroism to a black hole so deep I don’t know where it ends. Given what I read, I wasn’t sad for Lance, I was sad for all those who admired him, wore the bracelets symbolic of fighting for cancer only to find that here again is another “hero” in whom our admiration was clearly misplaced.
What do our children think when they are let down so much by adults? For athletes who are put on pedestals, our children have watched them teeter and collapse oh so many times. I thought of making a list but then thought better of it as the list is very long.
Which leads me to my main point which is that we don’t really need to look far for heroes. For children in our schools, their lives will touch many heroes locally. They may not make a billion dollars playing sports, they may not be a recognizable TV face or name, but they do things heroically all the same.
We celebrate the adults who care and take that extra time, the community members and parents who volunteer countless hours in service of their school and community, the children who stop, open a door and welcome you to their school, the 9000 employees in our district who play a role, each of whom has a chance to make a difference.
The purpose of public education is not to “just” educate children. We are building hope, optimism, creativity and wonderment for the world to come. We are creating critical thinkers a healthy democracy and those who can speak and advocate for what is right. We do this through relationships on a one to one basis. I know from experience that each of us can play a role. We don’t need another hero’s picture on the Wheaties box to find an adult who cares. Too often that distant hero ends up letting us down. For many of our children looking for a role model, they don’t have to reach too far. In our own communities, the next heroes may be just around the corner. S/he might not hold an Olympic medal, world record or dazzling trophies, but to be a true hero is simply to make a difference in the life of another. The need is great, the possibilities endless, and opportunity awaits. The choice of whether or not to play a role is all yours. So reach out, make a difference. It is possible to be your own local hero. To be of service to others and, in particular, to children is a reward far greater than all the TV coverage in the world.