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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Everyday Heroes

We have been studying the idea of the hero's journey or quest in my junior classes.



Today we read a chapter out of an anthology that I really like entitled Everyday Heroes. These are biographical stories of people who have overcome personal hardships and tragedies to succeed in life. None of the people are famous or celebrities. They are, just as the title says, common people who have made something good out of the kind of problems my students face: drug abuse, homelessness, abusive parents, poverty, and so on.

For the most part my students like reading the stories. They are written on a middle school level and have questions at the end that help them to acquire vocabulary and critical reading skills.

Today, we read about a woman named Catina Washington. Catina's life included being born to a 17 year old mentally handicapped mother who irresponsible living soon had Catina and her family homeless and dependent on charity handouts. Despite this, Catina graduated from high school and college and was voted outstanding woman of the year for Northern California.  At the time the book was printed Catina did volunteer work for a homeless hotline in Oakland, California. She planned to go to law school.

What I emphasized in the book is that Catina, like the archetypal hero, learned from her time living on the margins of society and took those lessons with her as she proceeded through life. In fact, she used those lesson to help people in her community much as the archetypal hero brings a boon back to the world she came from.

What I hope to do to enrich the lesson is to get my students to reflect on what they have gained through this year that can help them in the future. Each of them is on an heroic journey.

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