Thoughts on Seeing Heroes

I saw a post on Facebook last week about a student that taught his teacher how to be a better teacher. That post triggered a memory. I remembered a newspaper clipping I have tucked away in my things. It’s a letter to the editor from a teacher about one of her students.
In the mid-1990s, we lived in South Dakota, close to the Wyoming border. One winter, a newspaper article told about two Wyoming brothers who were out riding horses on their ranch. The 6-year-old brother somehow fell through the ice on a frozen pond and his 9-year-old brother went in to try to save him from drowning. Sadly both of them drowned. I broke my heart then and it still makes me sad to think about a family losing two sons in a ranch accident.
The news clipping from the teacher touched me even deeper because I was teaching at the time. She wrote to the editor that the older brother had been her student in school. He was a troublemaker and she was always getting on to him to be sit down and be quiet. She didn’t like him because he was so disruptive. Then he died while trying to save his brother. She said something I will never forget: “I never saw the hero in him.” She vowed to look for the hero in all her students from then on.
I’ve never forgotten her words: “I never saw the hero in him.” When I was teaching, I had students that I didn’t like because they were so unruly. I thought of what she said and looked for the heroes in them, but it was a hard thing to do. I taught of 30 students per class, including several troublemakers, who really didn’t like geometry. It was a challenge, but I always hoped I did some good. During my short teaching career, her words echoed in my head and I kept looking for the heroes.
I wonder if the teachers of the Greatest Generation saw the heroes in them. We just spent a week remembering those lost and those who survived the Pearl Harbor attack. I bet there were “troublemakers” there who let their hero side out that day.
I think about her words when I see people that annoy me or that I see living under bridges. Maybe they have a hero in them, but no one takes the time to look for it. Or maybe it’s buried so far no one can see it. Maybe we all have a hero in us. I hope people can see it in us.

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