There are many “programs” out there for educational consumption that I have been exposed to or witnessed first-hand. While many do have merit, I tend to describe a lot of them as band-aide solutions. They may help alleviate the mild discomfort and help the superficial wound, but the root cause of the problem remains unaddressed. That is where I see HEROES® as different. I was around when it was piloted in our school 11-12 years ago, and I always start every year by saying to each group of kids I teach that this program could be the most important series of classes they take…period. Not in grade 7 or 8, but EVER. Other courses in school provide your core skill set, but this course allows you to choose your path in life. It really challenges students to ask some hard questions about themselves; questions regarding the walls they possess that are preventing their gifts and abilities from shining through — and ultimately to achieve success. Once students can identify these walls they can begin to learn how to start to knock them down by focusing on the positive aspects in their lives.
Personally I love teaching the course! It has provided me with that perspective that allows me to see the kids in a different light. Like most of us know, kids are inherently good. When kids act out in school, shut down emotionally or give up all together, it typically stems from something that was said to them, circumstances that are often outside of their control, or FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real). When teachers realize these walls exist, I think students are treated a little differently and stronger relationships can be forged. When trust can be earned in the classroom and students make themselves somewhat vulnerable, it makes the classes real and authentic. The more I teach this, the more I learn about its truths. It is impossible to teach these concepts and walk out of the classroom feeling lousy about life. It gives me a helpful foundation to build off of every day as it provides a positive “reset”.
There are so many facets of HEROES and H2 that speak to kids in amazing ways. From watching kids scream “I HAVE GIFTS AND ABILITIES AND A DESIRE TO SUCCEED” every time you hold up a water bottle, to reading profoundly powerful relevant stories that leave the kids stunned, there are so many resources that really drive the key messages home. I love watching the looks of sheer horror when I dump an entire bottle of freshly chilled water into the garbage to signify what many students (and adults) end up doing in their lives—they waste their gifts and abilities and wonder why success is hard to achieve when life is not exciting or enjoyable.
As teachers, we would give a lot to understand how to make a student feel good about themselves to achieve success, and the students have the opportunity to explore this. It is like being given a clue to solving a very complicated problem. What a gift! Having the kids understand the intricately complex but yet subtly simple relationship between Thoughts-Feelings-Behaviour helps them understand why they do what they do, and how to change it.
I feel that HEROES and H2 have had a significant impact on our school. Our student body derives from some very challenging demographics, which results in many common walls for our students. Consequently, one of the biggest skills we can teach our kids is resiliency. Not only what it is, but how to believe in themselves, and to make the right decisions during difficult circumstances. Despite the large number of hurdles our students may have in life, they come together here and create an amazing school culture, which I love! While a lot of the culture can be accredited to our amazing staff, I do think that a sizeable portion of our school culture stems from many of the principles we talk about in HEROES and H2. The generous spirit of our kids is, at times, overwhelming. I have often wondered if the number of kids that are positive, encouraging, friendly and genuinely love being in our building just might stem from the seeds of knowledge and encouragement that were planted in their HEROES courses. Believing that perhaps we had a small part in it is extremely rewarding.
Witnessing a student go into the course like this deflated and overwhelmed and then seeing them come out the other side believing they can succeed in life… makes this program priceless.
~ Shane Jones, HEROES & H2 teacher (Sir John A. MacDonald School, Calgary)