|Image courtesy of Campus Progress|
via Creative Commons.
“Kids can’t tell the difference between heroes and celebrities.”
People worry that their kids are labeling Bieber, Kardashian, and Cyrus as heroes. What sort of adults are they going to turn into if celebrities are their heroes? It’s a problem.
Except it isn’t.
Kids don’t consider those people their heroes. Every classroom I go into feels the same way. When I ask who their heroes are, kids never tell me that type of celebrity. It’s never happened, and I’ve asked that question to thousands of kids. There’s the disconnect.
I could give my theories on why the disconnect exists, but I’m here to talk about how to teach heroes versus celebrities. It might seem that I’ve just declared that there’s nothing to be taught. It does seem that way, but the truth is that there’s a great opportunity to teach the heart of heroism by using celebrities.
The first step of any such lesson is to prove to yourself that the kids really do know the difference. An easy way to do that is a simple word activity. Tell the kids you’re going to read a list of words. After each word you’ll say the word “hero.” If they think the word applies to heroes, they should raise their hand. Then say “celebrity.” If they think the word applies to celebrities, they should raise their hand. The kids should know that they can put their hand up for both if they like. You’ll soon see they understand the difference. Try this list: famous, brave, caring, good-looking, honest, rich, selfish, and kind.
You will notice that some students put their hands up for both. Ask them why. They’ll explain that some celebrities are kind, some heroes are rich, etc. This is a great segue into the meaty part of the lesson. You can share with the kids that they have just pointed out that there’s more to being a hero than being famous. Or being good at sports, singing, or acting. Those things aren’t barriers to being heroic, but they are not enough by themselves. There has to be something else.
Celebrities are great for showing examples of that something else. In the last couple of months, we’ve seen stories of heroism (or at least good citizenship) featuring Dustin Hoffman, Mila Kunis, Taylor Swift, and every teacher’s favourite celebrity, Ryan Gosling. In those stories you could share the value of giving and watching out for others. Give your students bonus points if they know who Dustin Hoffman is. You can set up Google Alert to get these stories sent to your inbox or you could follow the activity on my Pinterest board.
Movie stars have an advantage in performing heroic acts. They’ve practiced. Most actors have spent time imagining themselves in perilous situations in which they come to the rescue. They’ve probably spent hours performing those acts as well. So when it comes time for someone like Ryan Gosling to step into traffic to pull a woman out of the way of a speeding taxi, it seems natural.
This idea of practice and imagining is key to ongoing studies of heroism. Simply put, the more you’ve imagined yourself doing the right thing, the more likely you are to do it when it matters. The more you’ve practiced small acts of compassion, the more likely you are to step out from the crowd when an act of heroism is required.
With the movie stars as your example, it should be easy to encourage your students to start practicing every day. Ask them for suggestions on how they could practice. They’ll know of some everyday opportunities. Also, give them scenarios in which they can imagine their reactions. What would you do if…? The best scenarios come from real life. Use headlines or examples you’ve seen in the classroom. You could also take advantage of The Hero Deck, a card game featuring all sorts of heroes. Each card allows your kids to imagine themselves as heroes and ask themselves what they would have done.
While telling people you’re teaching the difference between heroes and celebrities is the sexy option, why not choose to teach about heroism using celebrities? Try it out - I’d love to hear how it goes.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by guest posters are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Institute for Humane Education or its staff.
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