What makes a hero? Spotlight post with Author Ellen Jacobson and Guys with Ties
To inspire hope and courage, I dedicate Monday posts through the months of March and April to authors and professionals on the subject of heroes, historically defined, and also the transformation in today’s society. I like to think of this term as the Everyday Hero. Here today, I have fellow author, Ellen Jacobson, answering three questions on the hero topic. I’ll also end this post with my Everyday Hero of the week, Assistant Principal N, Founder of Guys with Ties, a club focused on developing strong character and respectful manners to set students up for future career success.
About Her Story “The Silvering”
Could the gift of silvering become a prison for those who possessed it?
Caestu, an ordinary fisherman, disobeyed the principles which guide his people’s way of life. Fortunately, the mark of disobedience is hidden beneath his glove. Unfortunately, others know what he has done. Now he must decide whether to stay with his people or leave to search out others like him.
Spotlight on Author Ellen Jacobson
What is your definition of hero (historically or in today’s world), how does your hero fit the definition and then finally, why did he or she fall?
My first reaction to defining a hero is to characterize him/her as someone who fearlessly combats evil through extraordinary feats, superhuman powers or the like. But on reflection, I’m not sure if that’s really what a hero is.
When I think about all of the silent and unsung heroes who make a real difference in our world, what comes to mind are the small things that they do which would never make newspaper headlines, but do make life better for their friends, family and community. Or those people who change things in society, not through superhuman powers, but through persistent action which challenges the status quo.
Maybe a hero is someone who thinks of others first and seeks to improve their lives.
I think my hero, Caestu, is on a journey to be someone who puts others first, rather than selfishly bury his head in the sand and ignore what’s going on around him.
I don’t think of Caestu as someone who has fallen, although that might be an interesting theme to explore if I expand my short story, The Silvering, into a novella or novel one day.
About Author Ellen Jacobson
Ellen Jacobson writes mystery and sci-fi/fantasy stories. She is currently working on the first in a cozy mystery series about a reluctant sailor turned amateur sleuth, as well as tales set on imaginary worlds. She lives on a sailboat with her husband, exploring the world from the water. When she isn’t working on boat projects or seeking out deserted islands, she blogs about their adventures.
Everyday Hero Assistant Elementary Principal N, Founder of the Club Guys with Ties
Guys with Ties is an elementary school club for boys in all grades from Kindergarten through fifth where they dress up once a week and model good manners and respect. Initiated by Assistant Principal N this past fall, the purpose is to improve the culture of caring and respect, and through positive peer pressure, create a widespread change in helping those around us. What began as a casual compliment to students who chose to dress up and have selfies taken with the principal, has now expanded to school clean up, classroom aid in conduct and modeling manners and chivalry. The hope is to show students how to apply manners and positive character traits to set them up to succeed in future careers and relationships.
[Erika] Tell me about the purpose:
[Principal N] In some schools you work, you see a mix of socioeconomic situations. Some students don’t have male role models or any positive figures in their lives. I want to be a positive role model for my students and show them how to use good manners and be respectful, and also identify good character traits to help them succeed in their lives down the road. Businesses have come forward and donated bow ties for the school. We even have kindergarteners who stop into the office and take one to wear in class.
[Erika] Where did your inspiration come from to start this group?
[Principal N] My first year at this current elementary school, I noticed a group of boys who would randomly wear ties. They never wore them all on the same day. The principal and I would compliment them. Then later at the end of the school year we always hosted a holiday feast. We encouraged the entire school to dress up. We took pictures and the idea expanded from there. At every opportunity in school when the principal and I saw kids wearing ties, we’d take selfies with them so their buddies would see the pictures and want to do the same. We brainstormed how to reach all grades and find a time in the morning to have meetings. The group is still in the infant stages. Next fall my hope is to focus on community involvement on a greater scale. I also hope to determine a theme for each of the meetings, whether or not it’s a weekly or monthly theme has yet to be decided.
[Erika] What role will the community play?
[Principal N] I would like to have several speakers come meet with the boys. They could talk about their life instances and backgrounds and share how they might not have come from the best household or situation, but transformed their lives and worked hard to succeed. I want the community to inspire kids to succeed and share their successes. If a kid knows someone has struggled to make it, they might relate. I want the kids to also get involved with volunteer work, to help churches reach out and help with families and gather resources for victims who lost their homes in events like the recent tornado that came through and destroyed so many homes.
[Erika] How is the group helping kids and what’s the impact on school culture?
[Principal N] The focus is a behavior shift. We’re trying to create positive behaviors in the classroom. We strive to have kids recognize acceptable and nonacceptable behaviors. Students involved with the group look back and realize a choice might not have been the gentleman thing to do. We look out for opportunities to help: to pick up trash and litter, to help out in the office with shredding paper, and to also assist custodians with brooms, dust pans and trash.
[Erika] What happens in weekly meetings? Do any of the kids wear ties at home?
[Principal N] I try to meet with a group of students in each grade once a week. Monday, the 3rd graders. Tuesday, the 4th graders … Friday is a combination of Kindergarten and First graders. A total of 80 kids participate and sometimes the struggle is getting them all together to talk about a lesson. We talk about filling buckets. We implement something called “Atta Boy” compliments. It’s a reciprocal tally of giving compliments to others and also noting when we receive them. We keep track. The goal is to get students to recognize the good things that go on and to also understand how it feels to give and get compliments.
[Erika] Have they taken the idea and applied it to life like Scouts, Clubs or Sports?
[Principal N] I have received lots of parent feedback in how their kids need to get a shirt or a tie. They remark on changing behaviors in the home. Teachers comment on behavior changes in the classroom. I have a notepad with our logo on it. Teachers have them in their classrooms and write down when they see someone doing a gentlemen act. I get a copy and send it home with the student. We also recognize them in the lunchroom and hang up the note so their peers see it.
[Erika] What’s your biggest moment of making a difference?
[Principal N] I love when I watch a student do something unprovoked. A good character trait like opening a door for someone else or seeing trash somewhere and picking it up and throwing it away. I love it when the students come up with ideas for how to help the school on their own.
[Erika] Where are you now in comparison to where you began?
[Principal N] We’re still beginning. The routine to dress-up isn’t easy. We’re still learning what how to recognize opportunities to do something positive. I have a wonderful group of 4th graders this year. I stress to them about their leadership and set expectations high for them. I put a lot on their shoulders to help with the club. 1. They can handle it. 2 They set the foundation for the group next year. 3. They already come back with ideas to improve the school in positive ways.
One student came up and said, “I’d like to start tutoring.” So now I’m reaching out to our teachers and letting them know about the group and what we can do. Recently a librarian had a 2nd grader struggling to get ready and pack up for class. She asked our group if we could help and the guys enjoyed it. So they can be the leaders for next year.
[Erika] What are the plans for girls to get involved?
[Principal N] The hope is to get the girls club off the ground next fall. A group of fourth-grade girls came up to me and said they wanted to be involved. They had a name, Girl with Pearls. Right now, our principal who is a female would serve as their leader. She is more of an expert than I am on the subject. So far they are working to gather plastic beads and pearls for all the participants.
[Erika] Anything else you want the public to know?
[Principal N] I love what I do. I get a 100 hugs and high-fives a day from kindergarten to fifth graders.
Motto: “If you look good you feel good, if you feel good you do good.”
Thank you so much Ellen, for your thoughtful reflection today. I can’t wait to read your story! And thank you Assistant Principal N, for doing what you doing and being a great role model for so many young minds and hearts.