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Moot Points: Be a hero in your classroom

August 29, 2017 Ray Suchow, Special to the ATA News
With a solid handshake and his trademark stare, Montreal Canadien great Maurice “The Rocket” Richard made a lasting impression on Leduc teacher Ray Suchow.
Image by: Marie-Josee Hudon

I’ve been very fortunate to have met many inspiring individuals during my career, each of them heroes in their unique way. From each of these encounters, I’ve learned at least one good lesson that I’ve been able to incorporate into my teaching. As a new school year begins, I often reflect on how my heroes can be used to further inspire my students.

Early in my career, when I met the delightful Diane Carey — best-selling author and former high school English teacher — I gained the courage to follow my writing dreams while teaching full time. From that experience, several years and many publications later, I’m able to show my students that you can follow more than one dream at a time, so dare to enrich your life by pursuing your passions.

At a recent conference I had the great fortune to listen to — and then meet — retired senator and general Roméo Dallaire, the hero of Rwanda. It was easy to see how our soldiers could follow this personable man. He had time for everyone, with eye-to-eye contact, a brief word and a smile; you instantly became someone special in his eyes. I felt this even more when I respectfully asked him to dedicate his book to my social studies class, as his picture and a brief biography were in the textbook we were using. He happily did so, and then suggested we pose for a picture! That encounter confirmed to me that when you dare to meet a legendary hero, the personal inspiration and motivation you can receive is truly incredible.

Maurice (The Rocket) Richard left a positive impression on me with a solid handshake. He was in his late 60s at the time, and was visibly tired after signing many sticks and jerseys at West Edmonton Mall. However, when he gripped my hand, and looked me square in the eye with that stare I’d heard so much about, I briefly wondered if I’d get my hand back. The power! Vicelike, rock-solid, even after many years of retirement; I immediately pitied every goalie he’d fired a slapshot at. 

To his surprise, he realized that I too possess an excellent handshake, and after a timeless moment spent sizing me up, his quick nod and smile of recognition sent me happily on my way. That moment will forever be etched in my mind, and since then I’ve mentioned the positive power of a good handshake to many high school students while discussing job interview techniques.

All of these encounters reinforced Roméo Dallaire’s affirmation: that we must resolve to continue pursuing humanism in our living and teaching — that humans treating each other well does matter! What better place to model that than in our classrooms, and what better lessons to pass onto our students, year after year, than the ones we’ve gained from our own heroes?

So, dare to meet a hero, talk, ask for a picture, then share the experience with your students. They’ll be inspired by it and so will you! Have a great year!❚

Ray Suchow teaches computers, religious studies and information processing at Christ the King School in Leduc.

Moot Points is your chance to write about a funny incident, a lesson learned or a poignant experience related to teaching. Please email articles to managing editor Cory Hare:

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