63: Teaching Future Heroes

63: Teaching Future Heroes

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Teachers

Teaching Future Heroes

The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.

~Mark Van Doren

I drove cautiously down the lane toward the small country school, acutely aware that the students were on recess break and could dart onto the narrow roadway in the flash of an eye. They scampered happily in the large grassy area at the center courtyard that I was slowly passing, frolicking under the watchful eye of the playground supervisor.

My car rolled to a stop outside the main entrance of the traditional red-brick school, where the teacher I had come to interview was waiting for me.

“Perfect timing!” he exclaimed. “They’re just outside for recess. Come and see them from the upstairs window!”

Without another word of greeting, he turned on his heels and nearly skipped through the door, a big smile lighting up his face. No wonder he had won so many teaching awards and citations, I thought. I followed him into the building and up the narrow staircase to the second floor.

He was already at the window looking proudly down to the courtyard below. I came to stand quietly at his side, realizing I hadn’t actually said a single word to him yet. I looked from him to the activity in the courtyard and back again. He was pointing out individuals and describing the distinct differences that were already apparent in his young students.

It was fascinating to watch this renowned teacher discuss his young charges with so much affection. I knew from his long history of success that he was known for his discipline and high expectations. It was comforting to know that was tempered by such gentleness, given that his were the youngest students in the system.

He continued his spirited assessment of the students, pointing to their current interaction as proof of their character, heartiness, innate goodness, and innocent desire to please. And their potential to save lives.

“Oh, sorry,” he said, suddenly embarrassed as he finally glanced in my direction. “You probably want to know how we make heroes out of all these adorable puppies. I just get really distracted — I love watching them play!”

We were both laughing as we shook one another’s hands in a delayed introduction. He began leading the way back down the stairs toward his office.

“They are just so cute to watch at this stage,” he continued, talking over his shoulder as he moved from the kennel area to the corporate offices of the police dog training center. We passed the Wall of Fame, where photos of the canine partners were mounted alongside plaques and awards and photos of thankful political dignitaries. For decades, this facility has graduated German Shepherds that have gone on to become distinguished members of police forces all over the world. These highly skilled and loyal canines are the stuff of legends, and the latest act of heroism by a canine officer was the reason for my interview on this day. I was assigned to write about the multi-step, complex process of selection before a police officer–dog team graduates from the intensive program. But I arrived to find the real story on this day was a level of compassion and devotion that was totally unexpected.

“This place is the same as any other school,” he explained to me once we were seated in his office. “Schools everywhere are bursting with students who are full of potential and teachers who are devoted to helping them reach that potential. School communities everywhere work together to shoulder the challenges that present themselves as students advance through the years. All teachers are identifying skills and streamlining pathways that will lead to the most success for each student.”

“But most students,” I told him, “aren’t being trained to save lives or sniff out a bomb or stop a terrorist attack. Teachers don’t expect all their students to become heroes one day.”

“Well,” he replied, “maybe they should.”

~Sandy Kelly Bexon

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