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Not all superheroes wear a cape!

Not all Superheroes wear a cape!
Some of the most frequent questions I get asked in school by students are “Sir, do you want to be Superman?” or “Do you think you’re Superman?”. I’ve been somewhat typecast over the years by my love of superheroes particularly the Man of Steel.

Some of my colleagues would say “I bet you love that don’t you?”. I’ve always replied yes but not because I think I bare any resemblance or think I have super powers. It was because students knew it was something that made me, me and they were choosing to be positive. The fact they were choosing to build the relationship and that they were talking to me as a person and not just a teacher meant I’d connected with them. The power of connection can never be underestimated as championed by the late great Rita Pierson. This positive interaction didn’t make the students better learners but helped them develop as people. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with people that I class as the superheroes of the education system but I have come across some super villains too, and I’m not talking about the students.

The heroes are those who are relentless in their quest for what is best for everyone and this sometimes means putting others above themselves. These are the people who are the true role models for all students. Like all superheroes, they have different abilities and powers. Some are excellent classroom practitioners, some pastoral experts, and some are always just giving 100% for the cause. The thing they all have in common is that they care, and more importantly the students know it. These are staff that the students believe in and follow. The staff that even the most challenging students will listen to and are willing to comply with. They treat the students like people and understand that you should push yourself for the people in the school not the figures or the data.

Having said all of this, I do think there are two main superhero mindsets you can follow. The ‘Superman’ mindset is the one where you have endless optimism that everyone can be a force for good and that everyone is ‘saveable’. Sometimes the optimism can be perceived to be weakness and others don’t recognise the strength and resilience needed to adopt this attitude. Then there’s the ‘Batman’ mindset, this is when you need to be the ‘hero they need rather than the one they want’. This often means not shying away from the big issues and making tough decisions which could be seen as sometimes cold and lacking compassion. However, this mindset often requires the same amount of strength and resilience as the ‘Superman’ mindset. The important thing to remember is that they are still on the same team but as mentioned they contribute in their own way to the best possible outcome for all the students.

Now onto the Super villains, every hero will come up against a villain in some form. They are often blaming others, resent their current situation, want to have power over others, not follow the rules and ignore the value of others’ lives. This may sound a bit melodramatic but when you’ve seen a member of staff say to a student “I don’t care what happened out of school, it shouldn’t impact on you in my lesson” I think this teacher thoroughly deserved their villain status. A lack of empathy and compassion are often key traits of a ‘baddie’ and these are so destructive within the teaching profession. Maybe it’s my ‘Superman’ mindset but I still see many of these teachers as ‘saveable’. They just need support and coaching from those around them, but it has to be the a hero doing it.

To quote Marlon Brando as Jor-El (Superman’s dad) in the 1975 movie “They can be a great people, Kal-El, if they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you…”

Whether you are leading colleagues or students ask yourself the questions: Are you a hero or a villain? Are you the light leading the way? How do you know? Who have you saved recently?

Anyway must fly…….

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The author

James Yates has been teaching Science for almost ten years now. He is a self confessed Superhero geek and this led him into teaching which makes sense as he is passionate about helping people. James soon picked up Pastoral leadership responsibility in school and well as some teaching and learning roles. James is always looking to improve himself and those around him which is what he tries to promote to the young people he teaches .He is passionate about teaching the person not the student. He believes every child deserves a champion and has the right to an education. That education isn’t just subjects and qualifications but life lessons and how to socialise.

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