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Find Your Hero

With the culture around education today we all need a hero.

Educators, Administrators, Teachers, and Coaches are often looked to as hero’s. But being someone’s hero can take its toll. The climate around education today might be as bad as it has ever been. Educators everywhere are feeling like they are not valued, not seen, and especially not heard. We show up everyday, adapting and doing whatever it takes for kids, not for glory, especially not for the money, but because we just love kids. But every educator needs that someone they can look to when they feel they just cannot do it another day. Educators, you need to find your hero.

Find Your Hero
My Dad

But in my own district, and in many around the country, the outside noise has been deafening. The distractions have increasingly made it more difficult for teachers to stay focused on what we do best, impact kids. The rhetoric of fear, based on assumptions that usually are unfounded, have left us feeling like villains. Someone needed to be the scapegoat for education in the pandemic and in many places the educators themselves are the target. 

Every morning I “get to” teach and coach. I don’t “have to”. In part because I know that there will be at least one little soul who will walk into my classroom who depends on me to be their hero for that day. They will feed off our connection and my love of doing what I do, so that whatever life is throwing at them, for at least the school day they feel some sense of safety and security. I love pouring out my cup to the young people I see each and every day. That also requires me to be poured back into, we cannot pour from an empty cup.

teachers are choosing to leave the profession they love.

Add the noise of the chaotic climate in education with the everyday stressors of the job and many teachers are choosing to leave the profession they love. They are real life heroes. Not because they grade papers on the weekend, put in extra time after regular work hours for free, spend their own money to educate their kids; these are things they knew were required before they took their first job.

They are real life heroes because they are the surrogate belief for so many young people who simply cannot believe in themselves. They stand in the gap, they become a bridge that students can traverse from a life of hopelessness to discovering that they really are the greatest miracle in the world. Being an educator for almost 30 years, I know all the ways educators go the second mile on a daily basis, and just because they want to see kids succeed. 

My dad has always been my hero.

My dad has always been my hero. Ever since I was a little guy, I wanted to be just like him. I wanted to be a teacher, a coach, up on stage singing and speaking just like he did. My dad was a music minister who also was a music/band/choir teacher and also a coach. I imagined myself doing exactly what he did, when I looked at him I saw a real life hero.

When my parents divorced, the way I saw him changed. He had to carry blame and guilt for many things, but now I know one of the toughest burdens he carried was how the way I looked at him changed. As a young man I never could wrap my head around it, my hero fell, so if he could fall, what’s to say the same thing would not happen to me. I used that as an excuse to run from success. For such a long time, I blamed him for all that I could not become.

I punished my dad, I kept him at a distance…

For me I didn’t have that someone I could look to anymore, to know that everything would be ok. So I punished my dad. As I kept him at a distance, my life as an adult began to unravel and fall apart and who better to blame than my hero. I made sure he took a back seat to my children, my time, and most importantly my love. 

I needed my hero. But because I got lost in all the noise and distraction of life I refused to let myself find him again. I chose to see what was happening to me as everyone else’s fault but my own. If my Dad had just not screwed up, life would have been just fine. At 46, I found myself sitting in a drug and alcohol rehab facility. I had tried to drink away my life, my failures, my existence.

Find Your Hero

My Dad came for a visit while I was there. We had a counseling session and for the first time since I was 12, we really were able to just have a conversation and share how each of us felt in our hearts. It was the first time I could look at him and see my hero again. He had always been there, I just had chose not to see him in that light.

But what I began to see was a man who when he fell, always got back up and tried to make a difference in the lives of others. It took me falling to a bottom, I wish on no one, to see that not even my hero was or could be perfect. My alcoholism helped me to see my father as human and still my hero because he overcame his mistakes to continue to be that minister, that teacher, that coach, that I had always wanted to emulate. If my hero could fall and get back up, then I could too. 

I was still missing the point of it all…….

It helped me in my early recovery to feel like I was finding my hero again. But I was still missing the point of it all. I was sure that in time he would be able to up his level of heroness to where he was when I was 12. It was all on him, he was the one who fell off the pedestal, not me……right?

My Dad had apologized to me numerous times over my lifetime for his mistakes yet somehow I felt he still had not paid his debt to me. It was good to see him again in a different way, to feel like our relationship was on the mend, however, I still kept him at a little bit of a distance. I was so fixated on all that he had done, that everyone else had done to me, that I was blind to my own faults and failures.

…we get so blinded by all the noise and distractions….

I was an alcoholic, I had lost everything, I could not even legally see or contact my 6 year old daughter. My adult children had to live as though I were dead to cope with the inevitable fact they had lost their own hero. My point being, is that when we get so blinded by all the noise and distractions, the hell all around us, the way people disappoint and hurt us, we lose sight of what we do control. Ourselves, our attitudes, our efforts, our actions. It is easy to do and there isn’t any fault to label on anyone when we lose our way. But what I have found is that when I owned my part, all I could control, my eyes became less clouded one day at a time. When I owned my own failures I then saw that man, my Dad, as the same hero I did when I was in middle school. 

I was talking to an assistant coach one day, who just happened to be a pastor as well. We were just sharing our stories with one another and my Dad came up in our conversation. He could sense the longing I had to find my hero again, to have that father son relationship I needed but was in my own way to find. Then he shared something very profound. He asked me, Have you asked your Dad for forgiveness?”

He just asked me if I had ever been a hero and fell.

At first, I was actually offended. Why did I need to ask him, I didn’t do anything. He was one who had fallen, he was the one who stole my hero from me. But he hit on exactly what I was missing. He just asked me if I had ever been a hero and fell. OUCH! He said did you always honor your Dad? All the resentment, all the intentional distancing I had done to him, came rushing to the forefront. I had treated my Dad so callously to make him pay for his mistakes. That was my choice and my reaction to being hurt, but it was wrong. My assistant coach told me to just go home, call my Dad, and apologize. I will admit I didn’t want to, but I was going to.  

I got home and made the call. My Dad answered as always, with a joy and love for me I could feel through the phone. As I began to tell him I was sorry I just began to cry. I had treated him so harshly, just to make him pay. I had been the one who had kept myself from finding my hero again. But what he said after I finished was life changing. He simply said son, you have no idea what that means to me. I know I made mistakes but I have always loved you and believed in you. I am just so proud of you.

My Dad with my wife at my wedding

At that, all the bitterness, anger, and pain were gone. Everything I held against him was wiped away, the decades of an unproductive relationship vanished and my hero was on the other end of the line. Since that day, my relationship with my dad has felt free. I call him when I need advice. It feels so good to know that when I am hurting, when I am overwhelmed and don’t know what to do, I can just pick up the phone and call him, he always knows exactly what to say. You see, once I let go of all my resentment, all my anger, all my frustration at what had gone wrong I could begin to see all that was right. The way I saw the situation changed, I saw above the line and not below it. And the best part, it allowed me to find my hero. 

As educators we are a lot like I used to be. Life as an educator in the pandemic has knocked us down, time and time again. Life just keeps throwing one left hook after another and then we feel kicked while we are down by the ones we think would appreciate all we do for kids. The last two years have been extremely unfair, who knows when it will get easier. But we do have a great power. The power of choice.

I had to make a choice, to live or to die.

When I lost it all, I wanted to die. Literally, I had no desire to keep on living. Many of the things that had happened to me were unfair, were extremely painful, and left me scarred. But how I chose to react to it, had left me at a rock bottom where I had to make a choice. To live or to die. I chose to live and to learn to own what I could control and even when it gets really tough, and I think about throwing in the towel, I don’t. Because I have something I control, I can say “I GET TO” live today and make a difference. 

Teachers, Coaches, Administrators……no matter how hard things are right now, we get to. We get to come to a job, even when the outside noise and distractions are trying to get us to tap out, where we are at least one little soul’s hero. We walk into a profession every morning that puts us in a position to change the course of one young life, if not many. You are making a difference where it really matters, even if parents, school boards, and our own communities cannot see it.

we often become the scapegoat for those feelings.

Listen, we can’t control what they see, what they do, or even what they say. The pandemic has taken away their ability to feel like they are in control of their lives, we often and unfortunately become the scapegoat for those feelings. I don’t think it has anything to do with us as educators, I think it has to do with them as people. That noise and chaos they create is solely a reflection of themselves and I hope as a profession we can begin to put that in its proper place. On those making the noise where it belongs. 

I stand with every educator today, no matter your role. Sometimes you have to make a choice to go in a different direction for your own mental health and the success of your family. Some of us will leave education and move on, there is no shame in that. Some of us will stay. Whatever we choose to do, that great power of choice is ours. And whichever path you walk down, find your hero. Reflect back on the last two years. Own all of your mistakes, your faults and failures. Apologize to those who you have wronged, I promise you there is great freedom for you in that.

Look around your hero is probably closer than you think.

The apology I gave my Dad meant the world to him, but it was really for me. It freed me from all the baggage and crap I carried my whole life. It will do that for you too. Then look around, your hero is probably closer than you think, and begin to lean on that hero. Because if you are in education or choose to go a different way, you cannot pour from an empty cup. 

Then just control what you control. Focus on your thoughts, your feelings, your words, and your actions. You have the power of choice in it all and begin to say I GET TO again. Go make a difference in whatever profession you choose, because you are a difference maker, it is in your DNA. I am hopeful that many of us can bind together and be heroes for one another. I am hopeful that we stand strong, controlling what we control, and continue to show up every day for those students who come looking for us to be their hero.

Be their surrogate belief until they can believe in themselves.

It is a lot to ask, takes more from our hearts than we probably care to admit. But if not us, then who. Educators, find your hero, discover again that you are the greatest miracle in the world. Then go share your story with young people, because they are our future and hope and you may be the only one to ever tell them just how special they are. Be their surrogate belief until they can believe in themselves. Help them to believe and discover that they are the greatest miracle in the world.

Create those connections and relationships that make you their hero. It is a heavy burden and the pandemic has made it almost impossible to bear at times but remember this is the greatest profession in the world. We leave real life legacies. Say you GET TO again and choose to see above the line. See all that is right, not all that is wrong and find your hero. It is hard to be one when we have none. FIND YOUR HERO!

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