One of my favorite educational documentaries, mostly because I love the title, is “Waiting for Superman”. The title alone pretty much sums up a large part of why our education system is struggling to keep pace with the needs of 21st Century learners. I personally blame Hollywood for this. All movies about education showcase how one person turned around an entire school by themselves or beat immeasurable odds to save a group of challenging students. Very similar to how Superman just flies in and saves the day.
Because of this Hollywood imagery, many subconsciously think that there are school leaders out there that can change schools for the better with their super powers. They are inevitably disappointed when they realize that these people cannot live up to the unrealistic expectations set before them.
But what if people stopped waiting for Superman and settled for Batman? One of my favorite icebreaker questions with students is “Superman or Batman”? I love to hear their answers because “kids say the darnedest things” but I also like to give them my answer. I always choose Batman because I technically could be Batman. For all intents and purposes, Batman is just a person with a bunch of tools. Essentially, so is a good school leader.
No school leader has special powers that will overcome the challenges that come from leading schools that serve low socioeconomic communities but they can have tools. The other thing I like about Batman is that he does not try to do everything by himself. He brings Robin. No one can do it alone. I would even argue that no two people can. To me, Robin does not symbolize just one other person but rather the collective team of people that work in tandem with the principal.
It is essential that we have realistic but high expectations of our school leaders. If we expect them to be like Superman, then they have already failed. Batman is a superhero too. In fact, when you ask kids, most of them pick Batman. Why? Because he has a lot of cool tools.