Kindergarteners Learn 'Heroes Are Everywhere'
We welcome guest blog author Ruth Ebenstein*, an American-Israeli writer, historian and health activist.
'Heroes are Everywhere' is the title of a homemade, hand-illustrated book created by the kindergarten class of Hebrew Day School of Ann Arbor. It was inspired by an effort to teach the children to recognize the heroes that fill the fabric of their daily lives and even more importantly, the heroism that lies within each one of them.
"Asking a question, trying something new, making a mistake and learning from it are examples of heroic behaviors that we engage in every day," explained Debbie Carbone, a kindergarten teacher at Hebrew Day School of Ann Arbor. "And our teachers, coaches, friends, and parents all demonstrate heroism by being kind, respectful, helpful and persistent."
Of course, these kinds of heroes were not the ones that first popped into the children's minds when Ms. Carbone introduced the topic. The five- and six-year-olds sprawled across the brown-and-magenta carpet threw out names of champions that habitually wrap themselves in capes--and can fly.
"Yes." Ms. Carbone cocked her head and smiled. She was careful not to distinguish costumed superheroes from "regular" heroes, delicately preserving the children's magical faith in the realness of heroic supernatural characters. "But what are their personal traits?"
"They're strong--and brave!" chimed Toby.
"They save people's lives," volunteered Miles.
"And what do they do to make a difference?" prompted Ms. Carbone.
"They help people," said Ziv.
"They protect us from danger," said Eli.
This conversation formed the launching pad for creating a book that celebrates the heroes in our lives. "Who are the everyday heroes we all know?" asked Ms. Carbone. The kindergartners brainstormed, and a natural list spilled out: firefighters, doctors, police officers, mommies and daddies, nurses, soldiers, veterans, teachers, bus drivers, grandparents, athletes, clergy.
Ms. Carbone took it one step further.
"How can we keep these everyday heroes in our minds so that we can remember their actions?" asked Ms. Carbone. "Let's be authors and illustrators and create a book."
And so they did. Each child chose an everyday hero to illustrate as his or her contribution.
After Ms. Carbone bound it together and prepared a cover, the kindergartners turned the pages and found some blank pages collected in the back. What was supposed to go there?
"Who haven't we included in our list yet?" smiled Ms. Carbone, peering at all the pink cheeks and toothy grins.
Shoulders scrunched, the children exchanged glances. Who could it be?
"Look at the person next you. He or she, like you, is a hero."
Everyone beamed. Were they, in fact, worthy of this lofty title?
"I can be a hero!" cheered Nitai.
"Yeah, if someone fell over, I would help him up," said Miles.
"If someone was playing alone, I would be nice and ask her to play," said Nessa.
All of her classmates nodded in agreement.
Peering into the eyes of her gleaming students, Ms. Carbone leaned in and offered perhaps the most important lesson of the day.
"We don't need to always be heroes," she said quietly. "But if the opportunity presents itself, we can all make heroic choices and do heroic deeds."
For a moment, every kindergartener stood tall and beamed, connecting to the hero inside.
Being a hero meant having the confidence to do what's right, and being a good person.
Could they think of any other everyday heroes close by?
Gil shot up his hand.
"I know a hero just down the hall," he said. "My sister, Mia. She's in third grade. She can come to our classroom right now and teach all of us how to tie our shoes!"
Which just goes to show you that heroes truly are everywhere.
RUTH EBENSTEIN is the author of the forthcoming memoir, Bosom Buddies: How Breast Cancer Fostered an Unexpected Friendship Across the Israeli-Palestinian Divide and a children's book entitled All of this Country is Called Jerusalem. Ruth's previous guest post was entitled Learning How to Lose a Presidential Election: A Primer for Students. Follow her, on Facebook at Laugh Through Breast Cancer - Ruth Ebenstein, and on twitter @ruthebenstein.
Photos by Alison Reingold