I am currently on a Hurri-cation 2018. I have evacuated my eastern South Carolina home in Pawley’s Island and have found refuge with family in the upstate due to Hurricane Forence. This has been a very stressful time and one that has given me a great deal of time to think of my current situation and also feel for my students. This year I have done a number of things to better connect with my 11th grade US History students. This isn’t to say I ignored previous classes but with this year’s onboarding process I tried adding more opportunities to learn the students’ backgrounds and develop a better relationship. As a sidenote, this statement – developing relationships – always feels manipulative to me. Teachers should not develop relationships as a means of improving scores but because students are deserving of the human connectio. My personal growth journey is, well, quite a long story but, as like us all, is ongoing. As part of this reflective practice, I am investigating my own privilages and biases and working on overcoming these by knowing my students better.

The activity that has been rattling through my mind as my family (wife, 3 kids, wife’s grandmother, dog, and cat) drove 5 hours inland was based on my SuperHero themed Avatar system. I will concerns that it sounds a bit silly to have Juniors in high school pretending to be superheroes. Especially considering that my class is a college level class but I reason that with the intense level of work I expect we should also have some fun. Including this rather silly narrative device has also helped me to break through the usual tension I feel both personally and from the students’ side. I am naturally introverted so I need to build in little “get to know activities” and often my Juniors have been so indoctorinated to school that they haveva hard time getting out of the normal routine. For example, one successful activity was using of board games instead of traditional icebreakers. (Board Games As Icebreakers).

As we move into the regular class activities, part of my Onboarding Process is to have students select an Avatar type (I have 8 which can be examined here – Superhero Avatar Types) This process was accomplished through a short comic book device that included the first part of our class narrative. Within the comic presentation, as students ‘wake up’ from the event that gives them power, they meet the other heroes and provide a Superhero name, “test” (select) their powers, and pick a side in the upcoming battles. I included a section that allowed the new heroes to,give their characters a backstory. I allowed this to,be very open ended. The students could make it real or fictional. I did ask that they keep it under 3 – 4 sentences. I also asked them to give me their hero’s non-academic strength and their kryptonite. This was allndone through Google Forms and was only viaible to me. Some students were quite playful – I have several aliens thatcwere sent to Earth. Some didn’t really take the backstory seriously, but did share their strengths and weaknesses. Many more that I thought gave some heartfelt personal stories.

These are the students that I’ve been thinking about. The students who told me that they might not have the vest paperwork, or that their single moms are their hero’s, or the kids who have never met their birthparents because of drugs.

This Hurricane is one more challenge. It is one more obstacle that will make their journey an actual hero’s journey. I also know that the ones that did not share yet also have their battles and are working to slay their own monsters which will look different and which I may never see.

I have made each student their own card using mtgcardsmith.com. it has no classroom application. There is no XP or currency value. But I want each of these young adults to know that have I heard the story the have shared, that I will listen as they share more, and that I will value their journey and effort in their time with me.