Every Child Needs a Hero
Comic books and superhero films have been around for decades, but it seems lately they’ve been particularly pervasive. Every few months, children and adults alike have their pick of the latest film featuring Marvel and DC characters saving the world. During the droughts between their favorite movie franchise, fans can binge watch both old and new television series featuring their beloved superheroes. Batman, Superman, the Avengers, X-Men, and countless others provide audiences with a wide array of complex characters trying to decide between doing what is right and doing what is easy. Many are excellent role models for young viewers, teaching them to embrace what makes them different and use their talents for good. While imaginative fiction is a great way for viewers to escape into a fantasy world, children also need heroes a little closer to the ground.
Role models provide children with a real life person–complete with real stories, flaws, and emotions–in whom they can see themselves. Real heroes are not superhuman, and they show children that a person doesn’t need to have super strength, endless wealth, or mutant abilities to make an impact on the world. Finding moments to celebrate real people who influence the lives of others, provides an outlet for teaching character education.
Every year as part of the seventh-grade character education curriculum, our middle school holds a “Hero Assembly” to celebrate everyday role models and change makers. We choose one member of the community to honor as a real-life hero. This person is often a relative of one of the students or connected to the school in some visible way. Students also write essays celebrating grandparents, siblings, coaches, teachers, and friends who have made an impact on their lives. Their heroes range from firefighters and doctors who work to save lives, to beloved family members who have recently passed away, to friends or siblings who have disabilities. All demonstrate strength, positivity, resilience, and integrity, but most importantly, all these heroes are real people, directly influencing the lives of others. Heroes not only inspire children, but they motivate them to become citizens of the highest character. The Hero Assembly gives students an opportunity to stand up in front of an audience–for many, an extremely nerve wracking task–and honor people with whom they already have much in common. The ritual of going on stage, sharing their experiences, and delivering an honest, heart-felt speech, provides a lesson in itself. Not only does this day honor heroes, but also it celebrates the students who recognize and show gratitude to the people who have shaped their lives.
Last year, our high school library hosted a Comic Con showcasing all things fantasy and science fiction. The event was a tremendous success and brought like-minded individuals together in celebration of their favorite superheroes and fictional characters. At the end of the day, books were put back on shelves, costumes were folded and put away, and everyone returned to the real world–the realm of real heroes. Events like the Hero Assembly are equally as important because they celebrate the everyday. The middle schoolers who participate in this project do not get on stage to talk about Captain America, although there’s no one stopping them from doing so. They choose instead to talk about family members, people in their communities and schools, and people with whom they’ve shared many experiences. The heroes are both reflections of themselves and the possibility of what they may become. These do not need a cape, spandex, or a divine hammer. Their origin story may not be much different than that of the children they inspire. They heroes may not save the world, but they don’t need to because they are the world to one individual.
These are the heroes every child needs.