What would your superpower be?
Recently, during a religious and moral education lesson, I talked to pupils about superheroes and whether they had a moral obligation to use their powers for good. This lesson was in an S2 class, where pupils – at the age of 12 or 13 – are, of course, beginning to discover how to navigate their way through complicated friendships and relationships, as well as developing their interpersonal and social skills.
As a starter task, I asked the pupils what superpower they would like to have and why. Their responses and explanations were insightful, amusing and surprising – their answers proved to be an accurate reflection of a young person’s experiences and everyday challenges as they grow up.
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Some responses were predictable. The class’ biggest gamer wanted a combination of superpowers encompassing the full gamut of X-ray vision, super-strength and super-speed. This pupil had created their own version of an ideal video-game character that could not be beaten in combat. Another pupil, who cycles competitively, opted for super-speed so that she could not be caught and could win all of her races.
There was a particular response which reflected experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic. One pupil wrote that the superpower he would like to have would be to fly. This was not for the views or as a rapid means travel, but so that he could fly unnoticed to the house of his friend, who did not live locally, during the Covid-19 travel restrictions.
Looking at superheroes and responsibility today with my enhanced support class, and I asked them to tell me what superpower they would like to have. This is my favourite from today pic.twitter.com/A19Za8OMtv— Miss Wilson (@MissWilson282) April 22, 2021
Two responses in particular shone a light on the challenges faced by young girls. One wanted her superpower to be invisibility, for two reasons. First, to be able to spy on her peers to see what they say about her behind her back. Second, she wanted to choose when she could or could not be seen, as she sometimes became self-conscious of her appearance in crowds. Another pupil wrote that she would like to be able to read her crush’s mind so that she knew what he was thinking – I found that both humorous and relatable when thinking back to once being a teenage girl myself.
One response, however, stood out from the others. A pupil wrote that the superpower she would like to have was “responsibility”. At first, I thought she had misunderstood the task – responsibility does not seem like a typical idea of a superpower. Her reasoning was that she wanted to be so independent that she did not have to rely on anyone else; she also wanted to always know exactly the right things to say and do in every given situation, in order to keep herself and others safe.
It was a great example of how even a straightforward-seeming class activity can take you in all sorts of directions you never anticipated.
From being able to win races and read your crush’s mind, to flying to your friend’s house and gaining independence – the class wishlist of superpowers was deeply insightful and thought-provoking, with many bringing a smile to my face.
Normally, you'd think of superpowers as exhibitions of phenomenal strength, speed or physical or mental agility. In this class, though, they reflected the small steps and everyday struggles that are a part of growing up. If you ask pupils what they want in life, expect some surprising – and deeply insightful – answers.
Catriona Wilson is a probationer teacher of religious, moral and philosophical studies. She tweets @MissWilson282