Me, Jay Z and the idea of a hero

A Year 8 girl asked me whether I wished I was Jay Z. I considered briefly and answered no. I told her I liked being a teacher. She looked at me with disbelief.

“You're telling me you wouldn't wanna be rich and married to Beyonce?”

Part of me finds it depressing that so many students are obsessed with celebrities. It creates a view of success that is both unattainable and shallow.

I teach a unit on Heroes, both literary and real. We think about what qualities a hero can have. My students always seem surprised that there a people who have heroic qualities but aren't famous. It's a revelation to many because of the close connection they have between fame and success. They find it exciting that someone next door can be a hero.

We do inevitably end up discussing their celebrity favourites but this isn't a bad thing. For example, we can all agree that Jay Z does show a single-minded commitment that is pretty heroic. Maybe, just maybe the kids go away respecting him for reasons beyond his vast bank balance.

p.s. Many teachers are snobby about children reading gossip magazines. While I'd rather all my students were reading War and Peace, I reckon “Hello” and “OK” are better than nothing. They are engaging with language and I guess that's something.