Saturday, January 9, 2010

Heroes Large and Small

With Power Comes Responsibility

Early in September, everyone in 2nd grade wrote “hopes and dreams” for the year. The children decorated their wish cards and posted them outside the classroom, where they served as a visual and linguistic representation of the excitement surrounding the school year ahead. Now, several months later, the class members are thinking about the beginning of the calendar year and the tradition of making resolutions. During their class meetings this week, Mrs. Fell and the students discussed the difference between hopes and resolutions. They decided that the biggest distinction is that a hope is a thought, while a resolution involves a plan of action.

With this idea in mind, Mrs. Fell gestured around the room to point out a number of books on display. There is a biography of Ruby Bridges, a book about Eleanor Roosevelt, one about Mahatma Gandhi, and another about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Since the beginning of the year, we have been talking about the power we have, and the responsibility to use it. We can use it to have a good day, or we can use it in a negative way,” Mrs. Fell commented. She explained that the biographies in the room are about some very powerful people who chose to use their power to make changes in the world, and then she shared a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Mrs. Roosevelt’s statement generated a flurry of responses from the children. “It means no one can change your mood,” said one boy. “And you can always say ‘no.’ People can’t make you do things,” added one of his classmates. Mrs. Fell agreed. The children continued talking about the power they had to influence others’ feelings, or to control their own thoughts and feelings. They also discussed how it is sometimes difficult to do the right thing. Again, Mrs. Fell referred to the people in the books. They were heroes, she pointed out, because they made the choice to do the right thing even when it was difficult. They had the power and they used it.

What are the qualities of a hero? The children know that a hero is not a character with super-powers, but rather, a human who chooses to do something difficult in the face of risk, or even a person who makes less dangerous everyday decisions that can influence others. One child brought the message home when she said, “I think our parents are heroes, too. They give us encouragement. They give us words to use, and they say you can do it.”

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