I know that courage is usually defined in terms of men with weapons who charge into enemy territory. I know that it is most often thought of as the ability to face death without fear.

But I teach fifth grade. I have another definition.

I believe that courage is shown every single day by children who have serious learning disabilities, and know about those challenges.  Those children wake up in the morning, grab their backpacks, get on the bus, and head into a world where they will be confused and lost.  They do it every day.  That’s courage.

I believe that courage is shown in all its glory by my students who are anxious, depressed, and even those who have been diagnosed as “oppositional”.  Every day I am a witness to the courage of children who lie awake all night fearing failure, but still get up and come to school. That is the true definition of courage.

I sit at my desk and look out at the faces of little ones who choose to disrupt the lesson in the hope of avoiding that failure.  Each and every day, as I stand in front of my fifth graders, I am aware of those among us who don’t understand the rules of friendship, no matter how desperately they want to.  I watch the faces of children who risk ridicule when they answer in speech that is garbled, using words that are imprecise.  I see them as they dare to raise their hands to make a guess, even when they don’t fully understand the question.  I see them trying to line up next to a friend, when we all know that they don’t have any real friends.

These children, these babies, who get up every single day and come to school, these children are my heroes. They are courageous in ways that I cannot even fathom.  They soldier on when all seems lost, and they keep up the hope that they will one day be successful, popular, high achieving students.

In my book, they already are.


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