How Stan Lee Impacted Our Classrooms With Powerful Life Lessons

4 min


Stan Lee, whose career spanned more than 50 years, is best known as the creator of hundreds of Marvel superheroes. Beyond his illustrious career, he spent his lifetime championing equality and diversity. He spoke eloquently on many subjects relevant to those of us who teach tomorrow’s leaders.

Here are some life lessons for students, straight from the man himself.

Excelsior

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Lee said, “You know, my motto is ‘Excelsior.’ That’s an old word that means ‘upward and onward to greater glory.’ It’s on the seal of the state of New York. Keep moving forward, and if it’s time to go, it’s time. Nothing lasts forever.” Ever young-at-heart, Lee showed us how to seize the day every day of his life. Excelsior also speaks to the importance of setting goals and striving for them. The students in our care can apply this lesson by writing down their dreams and reaching for them relentlessly.

Celebrate our differences

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Lee knew that what makes humans special is our differences. We share the world with people of different colors, genders, religious and cultural values, and today’s classrooms are a melting pot of diversity. “I have always included minority characters in my stories, often as heroes,” Lee once said. “We live in a diverse society – in fact, a diverse world, and we must learn to live in peace and with respect for each other.” Lee included this philosophy in his comic book characters, saying about the X-Men, “I wanted them to be diverse. The whole underlying principle of the X-Men was to try to be an anti-bigotry story to show there’s good in every person.”

Speak out against racism

Lee vocally condemned racism and bigotry, perhaps giving today’s students the courage to use their own voices to condemn what Lee saw as one of society’s greatest evils. “Let’s lay it right on the line. Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today,” he said. “But, unlike a team of costumed super-villains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot or a zap from a ray gun. The only way to destroy them is to expose them – to reveal them for the insidious evils they really are.”

Deadlines yield results – so does hard work

“I don’t have inspiration. I only have ideas. Ideas and deadlines,” Lee said, speaking about where his ideas come from. Those who wait for inspiration to strike will never find it, but putting in the hours of practice turning an idea into a workable finished product teaches student grit. The ability to dream up a project and see it through to completion is one that students will need no matter what profession they pursue.

Everyone can be a hero

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“Another definition of a hero is someone who is concerned about other people’s well-being and will go out of his or her way to help them – even if there is no chance of a reward. That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero,” Lee said. He knew that random acts of kindness, that a helping hand for someone in need, has the power to change the world. Encourage students to be superheroes by teaching them that a good deed is its own reward.

You won’t work a day in your life if you love what you do

“I don’t really see a need to retire as long as I am having fun,” Lee said. Many teachers know this to be true – to go to a job you enjoy every day is truly one of life’s greatest gifts. Students can follow Lee’s lead by pursuing their passions in life.

We are all human, in this together

“America is made of different races and different religions, but we’re all co-travelers on the spaceship Earth and must respect and help each other along the way.” While we have our differences – differences that should be celebrated, Lee reminds us – we are all human, and sometimes our fellow humans need a helping hand.

Love is powerful

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Lee spoke powerfully about the humble power of love. He said, “For many years we’ve been trying, in our own bumbling way, to illustrate that love is a far greater force, a far greater power than hate. Now we don’t mean you’re expected to go around like a pirouetting Pollyanna, tossing posies at everyone who passes by, but we do want to make a point. Let’s consider three men: Buddha, Christ, and Moses … men of peace, whose thoughts and deeds have influenced countless millions throughout the ages — and whose presence still is felt in every corner of the earth. Buddha, Christ, and Moses … men of good will, men of tolerance, and especially men of love. Now, consider the practitioners of hate who have sullied the pages of history. Who still venerates their words? Where is homage still paid to their memory? What banners still are raised to their cause? The power of love – and the power of hate. Which is most truly enduring? When you tend to despair … let the answer sustain you.”

Read

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Studies show that reading improves students’ cognitive development and overall performance in virtually all measurable areas. Lee knew this as well. He said, “The pleasure of reading a story and wondering what will come next for the hero is a pleasure that has lasted for centuries and, I think, will always be with us.”

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AuthorAmy

Senior Member

I am an unrepentant lover of words - and lucky me, I spend all day, every day immersed in them. When I'm not teaching, I'm reading. Or writing. Or teaching eager (and sometimes not-so-eager) adolescents about the power of the written word. I live on the scenic Oregon Coast with my dog, two cats, and five-year-old son.

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