[An Abecedary of Cape-Wearing] N is for Nemesis

For this installment in the Abecedary of Cape-Wearing, I will focus on the enemy. I typically avoid enemy and villain talk for a few reasons. Mostly, I prefer to not give airtime to the negative. Also, I don’t want to spend my time writing about the things that bother me. I know there are plenty of truly amazing folks that can and do examine what is NOT working. I appreciate that in some instances. I even know some people are energized by such conversations. I am not one of those people. But… I’ll dip my toe in today.

I looked up nemesis:


In the world of superheroes a nemesis is often a villain–someone that is bent on the destruction of the hero or something the hero protects. It’s worth examining because the story itself must have a nemesis of some kind or there is no story. What fascinates me about the definition above is the word “inescapable.” Inescapable implies that undefeatable, but the crux of every superhero story is the defeating of the undefeatable. That’s what they do for a living, defy the definition of a nemesis. Granted, some come back over and over again, but they do get defeated. The more realistic definition may be “a long-standing rival.”  This sits better with me. It feels less futile.

In education, there are many powerful nemeses. Each one feels inescapable—apathy, ignorance, poverty, budgets, institutional racism, time… I could go on, but I prefer not to. The point is, that while our nemeses can attack and overpower us in the short term, and while they feel inescapable some days, we do actually have the upper hand. We strike down apathy with our own passion and dedication.  We combat ignorance as we champion learning. We combat poverty directly and on a grand scale with our day-to-day work. We serve kids well in spite of budgetary limits. We embrace the learning needed to thwart institutional racism. And we race against time each day, each year. We are defeating our nemeses. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again. Teachers are Superheroes.

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