I want every one of my students to become heroes. I want them to be noble human beings who care for others and do not allow their fear to keep them from doing extraordinary things.
The truth is, many of the students who walk into our classrooms already posses the qualities of a hero—from raising their siblings to standing up to bullies—but most need someone to shine a light on who they are.
This is the job of a teacher.
Teachers are the sidekicks of education. We have a role to support, encourage, and be there for our students so they can go on to be the heroes we know they can be. Let’s take a look at some of the greatest sidekicks out there. They actually offer up some great lessons we could apply to teaching.
1. A lesson from Huckleberry Finn
Huck Finn’s best friend was Tom Sawyer, a boy who sought adventure at every moment and was never short of schemes and big ideas. Huck was always there to support Tom in his adventures, and sometimes be the backbone when the stakes were high and Tom was faced with fear. Whether being hunted by Injun Joe or faking their own deaths, Huck was always there next to Tom.
Sometimes this is what students need from their teachers. Whether presenting in front of the class, at sporting events, dance recitals, or band concerts, students want their teachers there with them. Being a kid takes courage, and sometimes a teacher is the best person to instill that bravery.
Disclaimer: This does not endorse faking one’s death or playing in graveyards after dark.
2. A lesson from Dr. Watson
While supporting courage and adventure is great, a good sidekick also provides the voice of reason. Dr. Watson was this for Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock was very intelligent but socially immature, and in the excitement of solving a mystery, often had wild and crazy ideas that lead him into trouble. It was in these moments that Watson helped Sherlock make good decisions while also supporting his brilliance.
Is this not what teachers do 90% of the time?
Our students’ energy comes from a positive place, but often is the main culprit for why they get in trouble. From standing on desks, painting on walls, dropping soap in the fish tank, or getting in fights, teachers are the voices of reason to redirect and harness that energy for good.
“It’s elementary dear Watson” has taken on a whole new meaning.
3. A lesson from Hermione Granger
Sometimes heroes get all the credit. But it is often the sidekicks who help make them who they are. One could argue that Hermione was actually the best professor at Hogwarts, as she sacrificed so much time and energy to teach Harry magic. Through direct instruction and hands-on learning, Hermione’s brilliance as a sidekick was often that she was a great teacher.
Like Hermione, teachers have a lot of knowledge and wisdom to give to their students, and we are experts at passing it on.
4. A lesson from George
Lenny, who is perhaps one of the most lovable characters from all of literature (Of Mice and Men), was also one of the neediest. George served as his guide through his life, maneuvering him through a complicated world and helping him make good decisions—sometimes even very difficult ones (we won’t go there).
Tough love is part of the teacher’s job description. While encouragement and affirmation have their place in the classroom, sometimes being firm and teaching discipline is the best way to assist our students.
5. A lesson from Tinker Bell
It’s not easy being a nice, clean fairy in a world full of messy Lost Boys. However, it is in this world where Tinker Bell thrives. She deals with the rowdiness of Neverland because it is where her heart is. She is loyal to the people she loves.
Non-teachers often raise their eyebrows and wonder why anyone would voluntarily work with kids and deal with the stresses that come with the job. The answer lies in passion and the fact that teachers are loyal to their mission.
6. A lesson from Samwise Gamgee
When times were joyful and when the journey was dark and dangerous, Sam’s faith in his friend Frodo never wavered. Whether being attacked by giant spiders, slaying orcs, or seeing Frodo get seduced by evil, Sam was always by his side and supporting him on his quest. He never stopped believing in who Frodo truly was.
A great sidekick’s love is unconditional. The kids that come into our classrooms are sometimes bruised, hungry, erratic, depressed, and angry. Teachers meet them where they’re at, and do not waver from the conviction that they are good. For so many students, teachers are the only people to provide them with love and support. To accept them on the good days as well as the bad ones. Sidekicks are faithful, and it is this faith that allows heroes to be great.