Do all superheroes wear capes? That was the question posed to children in Year 2 this week. I think there is a superhero in all of us. Young children love the concept of having special powers. Sometimes they embrace the Iron Man action figure, Spider-Man lunchbox, Batman underwear, Captain America shield and Wonder Woman costume crown before they have even seen the movies or read the comic books. I suspect one of the biggest reasons children love superheroes is the sense of control and power they can exert on the world. By directing their energies into these fictional figures, they can conquer bad guys, control the world and rule their own universes.
On many occasions I have entered our Reception classrooms and seen a caped, masked superhero writing at the table. On closer inspection it has turned out to be one of the children! The teachers in Reception use the costumes as a stimulus for writing and it is incredible to see the difference it makes to a child when they are dressed as a superhero. Young children find it difficult to differentiate between reality and fiction. Any games children play with characters inspire their imaginations and should be encouraged. For years, heroic stories have been used to inspire, motivate and transfer cultural values to children. If there is one thing that makes superheroes so great it is that they are relatable. Life can get quite tough and, during these woeful moments, we can rely on a few lessons from our comic book friends for inspiration.
Take Batman as an example. Many adults will be able to relate to his family loss at a young age. He actually has no inherent superhuman powers. He proves that everyone can be a hero if they simply put the effort in and stand up against corruption and for justice. For the most part, Batman is the everyday man with some martial arts training and an intelligent mind. It is little wonder that The Cape Crusader continues to be one of the world’s most popular comic book heroes.
The Hulk has the most uncontrollable temper. He is not nice when he is angry. In the comics, Bruce Banner first tries his utmost to control his anger but eventually gives in and uses the beast called The Hulk to serve mankind. Rather than try to squash anger in us, maybe sometimes these bad qualities can be used for the greater good. Maybe there is a Hulk in all of us. We just need to channel the negative energy into doing something positive.
I am sure there are times when all of us feel alone, isolated or different? Despite believing that he is the only remaining Kryptonian left in the universe, orphaned Clark Kent finds strength in his companionship with family, friends and ultimately Lois Lane. Superman teaches us that despite feeling downtrodden, weak and unappreciated, we are never truly alone or alienated. When he does good by saving and helping others, Superman feels part of a larger community.
We teach the children at Yateley Manor to stand by their beliefs and be strong to support what is right. Through our pastoral systems we encourage children to reflect on how they feel and how they might be able to use their strengths for the better. And of course, the sense of family and community runs like a vein through our school.
I am reminded of this Superman-style approach to community daily when I chair staff briefings. Seeing the faces of staff and hearing their feedback on learning and family well-being, I am never in doubt how important our relationships are during this difficult time. I have heard from many parents recently about the lengths to which staff are going in order to support families remotely. We really are extremely fortunate to have such a dedicated staff.
Finally, whilst bringing this piece about superhero qualities to an end, I would like to thank our families. The pressures on you at home, and the challenges you are under to balance so much, are not underestimated by us in the slightest.
We have a community full of superheroes.
“It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.” (Batman)