The Hero's Journey: How Educators Can Transform Schools and Improve Learning

The Hero's Journey: How Educators Can Transform Schools and Improve Learning

The Hero's Journey: How Educators Can Transform Schools and Improve Learning

The Hero's Journey: How Educators Can Transform Schools and Improve Learning


This is a book about hope. It affirms the power of personal and collective responsibility to enact heroic changes in our schools. Through a shared vision, purpose, and inquiry--and using the collective wisdom of myth, legend, and metaphor from around the world--we can find the inspiration and courage to face the challenges inherent in transforming schools into authentic learning organizations.

As the heroes of legend leave the safety of their homes to face dragons and serpents in their quest for treasure and enlightenment, so do modern educators face new practices and confront the barriers to change in education. The authors show how heroic educators can triumph in their journey--and achieve excellence for students. Like both Arthurian and Jedi Knights, the Native American hero Black Elk, and Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, heroic educators face six stages on their journey:

• innocence lost;

• chaos and complexity;

• the heroic quest;

• gurus and alliances;

• trials, tests, and initiations; and

• insight and transformation.

Finally, the heroic educator returns "home" and begins the journey again, with a renewed vision and an enlarged heart, to create a caring community for learners of all ages.


The heroic educator is not an isolated, charismatic, or superhu
man individual who hands down miraculous answers from on
high. Instead, this is a person like us, who might say: “Come
with me. We can do this together.” She could be a colleague
who, by virtue of being a little farther down the road, can look
back and say: “I’ve been there, and it’s not so bad around the
bend. Don’t worry. I know it feels pretty dark right here. But it
gets light up ahead.”

—INTERVIEW with a teacher of the year

Why This Book?

Individual and shared acts of heroism have inspired courage and hope throughout the ages in every corner of our globe. Heroes have changed the course of history. Some have become the subjects of myth, art, film, and legend. Others have acted quietly—known only to those whose lives they have touched. in the United States today, we are at a crossroads in education that calls for nothing less than heroism. Our current structures for schooling are exhausted. They make it “agonizingly difficult” (Hargreaves & Fullan, 1998) for educators at all levels to respond to the needs of children in a global society. Regardless of efforts to develop state and local standards, new forms of assessment, innovations in technology, or applications of new approaches to teaching and learning, these attempts at educational reform will not succeed without fundamental and heroic changes in the culture, structures, policies, and perceptions of the place we call school.

According to cultural anthropologist Joseph Campbell (1949), in times of darkness and confusion that test our minds, hearts, and spirit, we have often looked to heroes of other times and places to give us courage and hope. This is such a time in the history of public education. the complexity of the current educational reform agenda demands courageous, responsible, determined action on the part of all who believe that preparing our children for life in the 21st century is both a national priority and a moral responsibility. For schools to be-

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