Searching for Clark Kent

Unlike many people in America right now, I am not waiting for Superman. First of all, Superman is a mythical creature from another planet created to entertain the public.  Nothing more, nothing less.  As far as I know, we have yet to have contact with any intelligent life form from another planet, and–if we did–I doubt that its first prerogative would be to fix America’s education system.  So if you are one of the people sitting around waiting for Superman, I’m afraid you don’t have much chance of him ever showing up.  Instead, maybe it’s time to go out and search for  Clark Kent.

I know, I know, “But Clark Kent is just a comic book character too!” is what all you nay-sayers are shouting right now, but if you just give me a second, I’ll explain.  Clark Kent is the mild-mannered alter-ego of the all-powerful Superman.  He constantly lives in the shadow of his red-caped friend but never seems to let it bother him.  And while Superman flies around town effortlessly beating up bad guys and stopping bank robberies with ease , Clark Kent works tirelessly at his job as a news reporter making what one can only assume is a fairly moderate income.  Who receives all the fame and glory?  Superman, of course.  He is the one who is featured in video clips, who makes the front page of the Daily Planet, and who everyone looks up to.  And do you know why?  Because he is an oddity.  He is someone they can never be–no matter how hard they try, no matter how big their hearts are, no matter how much money they are paid–because he is one of a kind. Superman is the thing stars are made of.

Clark Kent, on the other hand, goes about his business consistently churning out one solid news report after another, not because he needs to, not because it brings him untold wealth or fame, but because he loves his work.  Sure, the only real reward he ever gets is one of those peck-on-the-cheek kisses from Lois Lane that makes his glasses steam up, but he doesn’t mind.  In fact, it seems that he likes it this way.  Recognition isn’t what Clark aims for; doing his job and doing his job well is what matters.  Even while the man with the famous “S” on his chest appears on the front page of the very paper Clark writes for, Clark is working on the bylines for the next issue; it’s as if he is perpetually working.  Mr. Kent knows that he will never be featured in a documentary or be the focus of an entire nation.  He knows that not everyone will appreciate what he does–people might even write letters to the editor talking about how much they despise what he is doing and that he is the reason that America’s newspapers are failing.  Clark knows that he will always walk a fine line between making the public happy and doing his job professionally, but he always sticks to his guns and does what he knows is right for his readers no matter who might tell him he is doing it the wrong way.  And Clark Kent knows that he is making a difference even while the nation’s focus is on Superman and how he is changing the world for the better.

The irony, of course, is that Clark Kent and Superman are one in the same.  Yet, even though the Man of Steel’s secret identity is thinly veiled by only a pair of glasses, nobody seems to notice.  They just go on praising Superman and taking all of Clark’s hard work for granted.  So why, you may ask, doesn’t Clark just quit his job as a newspaper reporter and move onto the bigger and better things that he surely is capable of (I mean, he is Superman and all)?  Because the world needs news reporters, and he’s darn good at it.  He’s good at it because he cares about his job, he puts passion into his job, and he isn’t satisfied until his job is done correctly.  This means staying up late, waking up early, writing an entire article then scrapping it because it just didn’t work, taking any story that crosses his desk instead of discriminatorily taking only the best ones, and even bringing his work home with him.  And Clark does all of this without using any of his super powers.

Now imagine that America’s public schools were filled with Clark Kents.  Imagine that you could take the qualities of Clark Kent, the comic book character, and instill them into a real person.  Much easier, much more practical, and much more realistic than sitting around waiting for Superman, isn’t it?  Well fellow citizens,  just take a walk or a drive to your nearest public school building and you will be amazed to find it is teeming with Clark Kents.  Except these Clark Kents don’t don a pair of tights and a cape in order to fly around town beating up bad guys and stopping bank robberies because this isn’t Metropolis, it is America.  No, these mild-mannered public school teachers simply work their hardest to make sure that every child that passes through their doors receives the best possible education no matter the circumstances.  They work for the American public without seeking fame, fortune, or headlines.  Sounds like the perfect definition of a superhero to me.

Reminder: Monday, November 22, is the National Day of Blogging for Education Reform. Bloggers across the Internet will be posting and advancing debate on how we can all work together to improve education in America. Be sure to visit EdVoices on the National Day of Blogging for Education Reform, as we will be featuring the latest posts from education’s top bloggers.

Comments (13)

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Searching for Clark Kent | Edvoices -- Topsy.com

  2. What a positive outlook and twist to the whole “Superman” phenomenon. I agree. We are all the Clark Kents behind the Supermen. We work hard day-in and day-out, constantly trying to improve what we do to better help our kids achieve their full potential. We are one and the same with Superman. He would be nothing without us. Keep up the work, teachers. Don’t let all of this stop you from doing what you do best and making a difference in lives every day. I’m proud to be Clark Kent!

  3. Thanks for a great post! I will be sharing it with my friends. People need to understand that there are no magic bullets. Improving our schools takes hard work and determination — it’s too bad those qualities don’t get people more excited.

  4. @Nicole…Well said!

  5. Great insight. There will never be a “one-size-fits-all quick fix” to the complicated problems facing so many of our students. Thank you for this well written response to Superman.

  6. Thank you for your well written response to Superman. The problem in education we face as teachers daily goes well past the school house doors. I know each day I go to work as a teacher, I am faced with a myriad of issues for students that is not even related to education. Did they eat today or yesterday? Why do they see themselves a terrible person? Did they get enough sleep last night to make it through the day? All these add to the constant pressure of making sure they are educated. I am pretty sure I didn’t have the class ithat teaches these aspects in college, but what I have learned through the “expereince” of being in a classroom allows me the ability to give my students the feeling that they can be their own Superman. Thanks you again for this insightful response.

  7. Visit George Cassutto’s Cyberlearning-world.com at http://www.cyberlearning-world.com. George has less hair than Clark, but he certainly is an average teacher trying to make a difference in the lives of both teachers and students with his lesson plan-based website. Nothing fancy — just Civics, History, and Technology help for those who can use it.

  8. Clark Kent may indeed be teaching in the USA, but his alter ego is found in any one of the 17 industrialized nations that do better than the us in nearly every academic area. Our Clark Kent teachers are taken from the lowest 20% of their graduating classes while the Superman teachers abroad are not only from the top of their classes, but are often required to have not one, but two academic masters degrees before they can teach. Many European secondary schools require fluency in foreign languages, while our students struggle with one, just as do their teachers.

    • Wes, I was in the top 3% of my graduating class, and I’d be willing to bet there are plenty of teachers out there who who graduated at the top of their classes. I’m not sure where your statistics came from, but if they are true, then I am extremely impressed by what the lowest 20% of graduating students have been able to accomplish with their students thus far. After reading your biography, I am surprised at your opinion; I’d love to hear more of your thoughts because it sounds like you have had some fantastic life experiences that would be quite inspiring. Thanks for your comment!

  9. Hi Chris,
    You inspired me at our Region 56 dinner the other night. And, I am proud to say, Homewood 153 will begin wearing red on Tuesdays next week! Now I am looking all around Edvoices and I love it! Just came across your Superman article from earlier in the year and it is extremely well written! Nice job!
    Wanda Gunter

    • Thanks Wanda! I just saw this comment today :) I look forward to seeing you at our next meeting!

  10. To chris janotta re:superman/clark kent: Consider this:
    Teachers are actors and actresses.
    Daily they keep a straight face while being told lies about students.
    The lies are told by the parents to the teachers about their kid.
    The teacher has already figured out who your (the parents’) kid is, i.e.,
    where he is on the Richter scale of behavior and intelligence.
    Parents walk into a classroom and regularly play up their kids’
    skills, talents, intelligence, merits, awards, niceties, and pulchritude
    to impress the teacher and everyone else.
    The parents who walked into the classroom before or after said set of parents
    told the teacher the very same thing about their supposedly multi-talented
    handsomely beautiful genius of a kid.
    Apparently they forget that you Superman/Clark Kent are with their kids all day long
    and have probably superhuman knowledge and instincts about said kids due to just that
    criteria alone. Add in multiple degrees, which many many teachers have, and professional development courses coming out the wahoo, it is amazing that teachers can keep a straight face when
    mommy and daddy are laying blame on the teacher rather than on the “kidnemesis” they raised.

  11. New to blogging and enjoyed all your discussions about the the film. Chris, I liked your view on the movie. @ Laura – Loved your comments – so TRUE!

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