I frame the classes I teach in terms of an overarching "essential question" ... in other words, a question with no clear-cut answer intended to get my students thinking. The literature we read, writing assignments we undertake, and pretty much everything that we explore in class can be tied back to that question, leading to higher order thinking on the part of students that is often just completely mind-blowing.
The essential question for my English 10 class is, "What does it mean to be a hero?" and, while it seems simple on the surface, the kids have already proven that it's possible to take it to intense philosophical depths.
The class had a seminar discussion focused on their initial understandings shortly after school started then had to write a reflection based on our whole-class conversation.
One of my students, an incredibly deep thinker who forces me to think in directions that are way beyond "out of the box" on a regular basis, asked for extended time as he grappled with articulating his thoughts on paper. I was happy to accommodate his request as his ideas are always so original and thought-provoking.
This paper was no exception.
I was so impressed, in fact, that I talked to him about "publication" so that his contemplation on what it means to be a hero could be shared with a wider audience. He was very excited about the idea, so I am posting his paper here in its entirety in the hopes that you will comment extensively on his points and an online discussion can transpire. People from all over the world could potentially read, think about, and respond to his thoughts and reflections ... for this student, this would be unspeakably exciting.
And selfishly, I'm very curious to see what others think about it ... I know that it certainly raised my own concept of heroism to a new plateau.
The following was written by a sophomore in high school; while I've fixed spelling and grammar errors, the content is 100% his. Please weigh in, as this is a kid who thrives on thinking ... being the impetus for an in-depth conversation beyond the classroom would be exciting and extremely valuable for him.
Thank you in advance :-)
The discussion really opened my eyes up to what the rest of the world sees as heroes. Some people think of heroes as an idiot who dresses up in tights and flies around the city, other minds go straight to military personnel as well as policemen and firefighters. Perhaps the most common definition of a hero is someone you look up to.
I used to disagree with the thought of heroes, and this is why. There are a few things that everyone knows.
1. As a person, we always want to be better.
2. No one is perfect.
So it seemed to make sense that heroes are just a way to get let down, and why would I set my sights at anything less than perfect? If "perfect" is where I wanted to be ... I figured following a hero is just the blind leading the blind, thinking they're not lost.
As I thought more, I decided I was right, no doubts, but I couldn't leave it at that. If I wasn't going to look up to a person, what was I going to do?
Some people use religion. They follow their God, much like a hero (e.g., "What would Jesus do?"), and this can act as their motivation and be used to set goals as a replacement to a hero.
I thought about this, too, and this didn't seem to work, either. It seems as a way to label the world is out of my control. Even if this is striving for perfection, I know I can only be as big as I will let myself be.
So still with no ideas what or who to look up to, who I wanted to be like, et cetera, I kept thinking, and I came across a thought. A BIG thought. I was looking in the wrong spot. I shouldn't be looking up, I should be looking in.
As wrong and unorthodox as it seems, with this idea everything seemed to make sense. I'll be my own hero. Instead of looking up to another person, I look up to the person I can (and will) become instead of saying, "I want to grow up and be like him." I say, when I grow up, I just want to be me, the best me I can be.
This idea just works for me. It uses no labels and no limits. It gives room for infinite potential, and I know I won't have to worry about being too like anybody else.
In the end, if you think you need a hero, you're dead wrong, and if you still think heroes fly around in tights, I feel bad for you.
Honestly, I don't care what anybody thinks after reading this because I found my hero, and it's ...
* my imagination
* my inner self
* and my future
rolled into one good thought.