In today’s classroom, where everything seems to be driven by standards and test scores, I sometimes find it hard to find the time to spend with my students learning about different character qualities and life lessons that, arguably, are more important lessons to learn than some of the ones we are required to teach. As a history lover, I look for ways to tie in stories about men and women, both past and present, who have made their mark on the world. There is so much we can all learn from the example set by these peoples lives. Below are five people I believe have changed the world for the better and the lessons from their lives I like to highlight for my kids each year.
1. Be Positive, Even When Things Are Tough – Anne Frank
There is perhaps no greater example for young people about the power of being positive than the life of Anne Frank. After being in hiding for over two years in their secret hiding place, the war was coming to an end and Anne and her family thought they may be able to come out of hiding soon. Unfortunately, they were discovered by the Germans before this came true for them. Anne and her family were captured and sent to concentration camps. Despite these horrific circumstances Anne said, “Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.” That is a bit of wisdom that is good for us all. Kids need to learn early that even when things are tough, we can still look for positive things around us. The power of positivity is enduring.
2. Be a Goal Setter – Amelia Earhart
Some people are very driven to accomplish goals they set for themselves. Other people would rather go with the flow. Amelia Earhart was a woman who set big ambitious goals for herself and would stop at nothing until she reached her goal. By setting specific goals, Earhart was able to accomplish many things people never thought possible. She wanted to be the first woman to fly by herself across the Atlantic Ocean, and she was. She was determined to be the very first person to fly from California to Hawaii, and she did. Kids need to look at the example that Earhart set and understand that if they set big goals for themselves, the sky’s the limit.
3. Be an Encouragement to Others – George Washington Carver
When George Washington Carver was studying art at Simpson College, one of his teachers noticed his love for science and knew he had tremendous scientific potential. She encouraged him to pursue his love of science. These words of encouragement spoken over Carver helped to change the world. Carver went on to be a world famous agricultural scientist. He became known as the “farmer’s best friend.” He was even called on to be an advisor to people such as President Theodore Roosevelt and Mahatma Gandhi. Kids should notice that the words of encouragement spoken over Carver spurred him on to become an amazing world changer! What can we all do to speak words of encouragement over people in our lives?
4. You Cannot Do Everything Alone – Thomas Jefferson
Although Thomas Jefferson was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, he had help and input from other men like John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. Kids need to understand from a young age that nobody is an island. They need to know it is okay to ask for help. Great things happen when people work together. Like Jefferson, kids should understand the value working on a project with other people.
5. Stand Up for What You Believe In – Sitting Bull
In the words of a famous song, “You’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.” Sitting Bull is a great example of a person who was willing to stand up for what he felt was right. In a time when the line between what is right and what is wrong seems to be blurred more and more every day, kids should learn from a young age to believe in something and stand up for their belief. Sitting Bull provides a great role model for kids that it is important to stand up for what you believe is right, even in the face of adversity.