We Could Be Heroes

Audrey Boklage
2 min read

There has been no shortage of education in the news since March of this year. Recent news stories have cited educators as heroes for everything from the way they organize their socially distant classrooms to assisting in the distribution of food for their students. Are teachers heroes? Absolutely! Is this recent heralding of educators as heroes problematic? Maybe. Why? Because they’ve always been heroic and now it’s our turn to support them. 


To Hero or Not to Hero 

Previously, I have used Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey as a theoretical framework for studying faculty journey’s towards more student-centered pedagogy. What does that mean? I ask people to tell me a story and I try to frame that story into the journey of a hero. While there are many steps in a hero’s journey, it might be helpful to think of this journey as the Star Wars storyline (explanation here). 


Let’s start at the beginning of the journey, our hero encounters a ‘call to adventure or action’ – something that disrupts the comfort of their ordinary world. Our hero might ‘refuse this call’ or demonstrate some hesitation; thus, giving us, the audience a sort of bond with the hero, because we would probably refuse the call as well. These first phases of the journey are an instance in which we can rethink this framing of educators as heroes. During the pandemic, many of us have felt the disruption from our ordinary world; however, for some educators, they did not have the option to ‘refuse the call’ and decide to pursue the adventure ahead.  


Skipping ahead in the monomyth, our hero encounters a ‘road of trials,’ challenges, or obstacles. Prior to COVID-19, teachers encountered many trials on their path including (but not limited to!) technology/software issues, large class sizes, changes in campus/district leadership, new standards,objectives and assessments. While these challenges have not disappeared, they have been layered with an international pandemic and different social emotional needs of themselves, their students, and families. Sticking with the journey framework, as a result of these trials our hero might encounter an individual or an event and experience a ‘revelation.’ 


(let’s pause) 


Heroic Shift

This is where I believe we can shift this verbiage and notion of educators as heroes to society as a hero. 

  • WHAT IF we, as a society can be the heroes for those that have been heroes for us the entire time? This pandemic didn’t make our teachers heroes, they’ve always been heroes! It’s our turn to step up.
  • WHAT IF we can use this pandemic as our revelation to create our new attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors? 
  • WHAT IF we can turn this into our purpose of building new meaning and systems?
  •  WHAT IF we not only value educators with words, but elect politicians and support policies that adequately fund, pay, and support our educators and the buildings they work in and the students they serve?
  •  WHAT IF despite enduring the horrific road of trials of COVID-19, we use this as an opportunity for us all to be heroes?


I asked a few of my educator friends who recently went back to the classroom how they felt about being called heroes. The most poignant response was from a high school science teacher who has been in the classroom 16 years, she shared, “LOL, No one asked to be called that. Respect would be better.”

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Audrey Boklage


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