We are well into our third week of classes here at Park Street. Three weeks of a school is certainly not enough for a storied history. Yet, as I hop into our different classes, I am consistently met with the impact and the stories our school is creating. In French, students are busy making travel brochures of places we all can’t wait to go to (when we can travel again), World Enrichment students have been transported to Ancient Egypt as they read one of Shakespeare’s plays, STEM classes are combining Art and decimals to explore who they are, and students in Phys. Ed are using Eat Smart and the Nutrition Guide to track their own eating habits. I am reminded that these diverse and engaging classrooms are possible because our families, our teachers, and our students very enthusiastically said ‘yes’ to an education at Park Street. I am beyond proud of these last three weeks and cannot wait to see what our school community does next.
This week, Park Street’s English teacher Sam Leach is sharing her unique perspective on what heroism means, and the lessons we can take away from one particular Canadian icon.
Let's Talk about Heroism.
As an English teacher with a predilection for the fantasy works of J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien and who has, rather self-servingly, plunged children into these literary realms, I am no stranger to conversations about heroism.
Whilst fiction is often an excellent place to explore the notion of heroism, there are countless real-world examples that are worthy of exploration in the classroom.
However, heroism has taken on a new meaning since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic with many countries making gestures to celebrate their essential workers. This was captured, ever so beautifully, in the recent artwork by Banksy which depicts a child playing with a nurse toy; Batman and Spider-Man discarded in the bin.
As Gandalf states (with all of McKellen’s trademark conviction): “Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” I love this definition of heroism - when the ordinary, paradoxically, becomes extraordinary
Fast forward 12 months and I am delivering a lesson on him tomorrow to my brand-new students at Park Street Education. To be honest, Fox’s achievements are something that I struggle to comprehend. As an English teacher, it is easy for me to pick out the persuasive techniques he used in his 1979 letter to Adidas asking for 26 pairs of running shoes, but what I struggle to process and understand is how someone could display such resilience in the face of such an insurmountable goal. Sure, the physical aspect of his mission is beyond impressive (I can barely run 5K without pausing to take a little breather), but my admiration goes beyond that. What I struggle to comprehend is how in the final years of his life, he was so selfless when he had every right to be selfish.
One of our aims at Park Street is to build resilience in students so that they are prepared fully to tackle the challenges that they may face throughout the course of their lives. It is easy to make a lesson plan out of Terry Fox’s story and use him to impart some sort of moral education to pupils, but I think it needs to go beyond that.
Canadian children will grow up knowing all about Terry Fox and they won’t, as a consequence, endure any embarrassment due to ignorance surrounding his identity like I did, but what I do hope is that every year they will look at his story with fresh eyes - the eyes of a foreigner - so that there can be an annual renewal of wonder at his resilience and courage.