To My Son’s Teacher, And All Those Ordinary Superheroes Saving Kids Today


Comic books have lied to all of us.

Heroism isn’t capes and costumes.

It doesn’t come from radioactive spider bites or metal suits or gamma rays or distant planets.

It isn’t tricked out all-terrain vehicles, gadget-laden utility belts, hammers from the heavens, or indestructible shields.

The real heroic stuff here on this planet is firmly seated in the chests of the ordinary people who embrace an extraordinary calling; those whose superhuman hearts beat quite differently than the rest of us mere mortals.

They rise before the sun does, and in the most counterintuitive fashion, they run directly, passionately, purposefully into the thick of the flourescent-lit fray—and they simply save children.

They do this not in a grand single bound, not in some last-second, desperate flurry of force; not in the bombast and fanfare of spectacle; but through steady, loving attention to a methodical, repetitive, mundane string of a million seemingly insignificant decisions, because they know how important each second is and how precious every child is. They see what we normal citizens don’t see.

My son is a pretty amazing kid by most accounts. He’s creative, bright, at times funny and serious, and he has a perception about people that is decades beyond the single one he’s spent here on the planet. He’s also prone to anxiety, to self-doubt, to worry, and to rushing quickly through work when he feels the pressures of comparison. This all means that an educational system built almost completely around standardized testing and his performance on a single day, is a really bad fit for him. He often struggles in an environment that doesn’t necessarily celebrate or nurture his strengths.

His fifth grade teacher, Ms. Sass has been tireless in her efforts to help Noah improve and grow, and has even come to school an hour early every Friday to tutor him and a group of students who have difficulty with their math work.

She regularly holds fun celebration events on weekends for those kids who have shown character in the classroom, and she has created all sorts of creative games and programs to inspire and challenge her class to do their best and to treat people well. She communicates with me and my wife regularly and always seems to know exactly what Noah is going through, where he is having victories, and where he is faltering.

Ms. Sass is a straight-up superhero; not just for my son but for all of the wild, insecure, impulsive young lives in her care every day.

And thankfully for us she is not alone. Within a few miles of wherever you are reading this, a ragged army of sleep-deprived, woefully under supported, horribly underpaid do-gooders is willingly braving the daily bullets and the bruises and the battles, so that your children can become the adults they were designed to be. 

I couldn’t be more grateful for the way Ms. Sass has cared for my son and for the work that she does in this world. He has blossomed under her shepherding and guidance, and I have found the weekdays to be much less worrisome as a parent, because I know he is safe and supported. 

To her and to all you ordinary classroom superheroes on the planet, who may not hear it enough or perhaps at all: Thank you.

Thank you for enduring the countless weird, individual quirks of dozens of kids, for learning how they specifically think and process things, and for seeking to speak their brain’s personal language so that they feel heard and seen and known.

Thank you for the rest that you forfeit, the off-the-clock hours you give up, the money you take from your own pocket, and for the thousands of small sacrifices that no one will ever see from a distance. Thank you for the part of you that you give to other people’s children.

Thank you for continually fighting through defiance and shyness and laziness and silliness and bad home life, and getting intimately close to the hearts of your kids.

Though we often don’t stop to say it, we know just how much you do and just how blessed our children are to have you battling for them every single day.

Thank you most of all, for the very heroic way that without cape or costume, you fly in and you save kids—and you save the world.





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11 thoughts on “To My Son’s Teacher, And All Those Ordinary Superheroes Saving Kids Today

  1. Reblogged this on Michael Moore's Blog and commented:
    Spot on! I had a few of those teachers in my own life, including elementary, junior high, and high school. Also in my undergraduate work and in seminary… they truly did make a difference and I thank God for their place in my life and formation!

  2. Very good! I also had some phenomenal teachers, people who really loved not only teaching, but also the kids they taught. I’m 57 years old, but I hope I never forget the dedication of people like Mr. Pennisi (who taught us Chaucer, William Blake, and Greek mythology in 6th grade English), Mr. Brickner (7th grade Social Studies teacher who absolutely made history come alive), Mrs. Rhodes (9th and 10th grade English), Mrs. Hammond (11th and 12th grade English), Monsieur Allen (9th, 10th and 11th grade French – Merci!), Miss Cervenka (Music – 7th thru 12th grade), my amazingly patient homeroom teacher, Mr. Gorga, and Mrs. “Socks” Solomon, who never taught any of my classes, but was a great friend and wore very colorful socks! Because of wonderful, dedicated, loving people like these, I am who I am today, and I am grateful!

  3. Thank you! I am one of those teachers. I teach special needs children and I consider each one of them their own mystery that I get to try to solve. Almost everything about the profession of teaching is awful. The pay stinks, you have no power or voice in your own fate most of the time, there is loads of unnecessary paperwork, your performance is evaluated by people who don’t know what you are doing and could never do it themselves, your time and effort and expertise are undervalued and underestimated and disrespected most of the time, you are vilified and blamed for most of what is wrong in the nation. But we teachers have the capacity to contribute to or even sometimes change another person’s life. We get to see into the future each and every day. And we get to be with kids because no matter what anyone says…kids are the most wonderful, sweet, adorable, and funny human beings alive.

  4. Oh thank you, thank you! What a wonderful essay of appreciation for all of us professional teachers who love to teach and watch our students grow and blossom like beautiful flowers in a garden. As a music teacher…in the classroom and privately for over 30 years…I know that so much of what we do is unseen…you have made my day with your kind words.I can tell you that such appreciation does not “puff us up” but rather makes us go forth with and even deeper sense of mission and purpose. I will share this link in my network of other teachers ..thank you!

  5. My 1st grade and 9th grade teachers saved me—both great super heroes. My sixth grade teacher was the bitch from Hell—a woman who was prone to great fits of anger in her class because her dentist husband died in a plane crash—never could come to terms with it and took all the anger and grief out on us kids. I am nearly 63 years old and still find it hard to open a math textbook because she screamed at and belittled kids who were having trouble with math. I was glad to be rid of her—not sure—but I think she later became an alcoholic and died. I know she is dead.

    • But the question is: “Is she in Hell now.” All you fundies be sure to chime in here and let me know where she is right now—being as how you are all omniscient and know everything.

  6. I sit here at my desk, about to go into end-of-year faculty meetings. I read this and, like most teachers, I hope I can see myself in your description, but I understand I do not live up to it. There is just not enough …. (you can name a bunch of things here). June is the same as a gardener’s September. The weeds have taken over; it’s hard to find the good stuff, and it is all coming to an end. But September is our May; everything is going to grow and produce. There will be no weeds, and the out-comes are going to be stupendous and visible. That is our hope and that is what keeps us coming back.

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