Throughout the year, we teach our students about the important places, events, and people of our world. While these are all valuable lessons, it is also importance to teach them of their own importance and significance in our world. Many may be thinking that I am referencing elementary aged students and the lessons they learn in the early grades as they adapt to the classroom. Instead, I think the responsibility falls to the upper grades. It is in these years that we can teach the students the costly lessons in life, and how to avoid the mistakes made by others throughout history.
What should we teach?
- Lead students to identify their areas of interest.
- Discuss with students the wrongs of the past.
- Identify the problems of today.
- Ask students what they can do to make a difference.
- Challenge students to change the status-quo.
- Encourage students to stand up for their beliefs.
- Allow students to be individuals and to think for themselves.
- Teach them that they are responsible for their world, and that by-standers are never positively significant.
Some of my suggested topics or activities to spur discussion:
- Review Important People and identify what made them important. What could they have done differently? How could they have changed the world or the future? What lessons do they teach us about the world we live in now?
- Talk about the recent news story of terror. Ask your students what they would have done? Would they have run from the scene? Run to help the injured? Are they angry at the terrorists? How can we prevent these events in the future?
- Discuss the latest school shooting. What would prompt someone to do this type of thing? How would they deal with a situation like this in our community? Do they understand how someone could do something like this? Is there any explanation?
- Refer to a local shooting. How would they respond in such a situation? What about their friends or family with them? Are they sympathetic/empathetic to the shooter? Can they explain why these things happen? What would they change to prevent these shootings?
- Examine the Events of 9/11. Is this really a battle over religion? Were the terrorists bad people? Were they following the tenants of their religion or acting as individuals? How should individuals or nations respond to an attack such as this one? Should we have gone to war? Against who? Are the people of the nations where the terrorists are from responsible for these attacks?
And then, ask your students to evaluate. What type of person am I now? What do I do on a small scale that impacts others? How can I help my community? How can I influence the people around me in a positive way EVERY day? What can they do to make positive change?
- A fun way to allow students to self-evaluate is to have them Create Paper Dolls of themselves. Just as they would evaluate a character from a book or an historic figure, they can detail the characteristics of their own personality and identify their own contributions.