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What does it mean to be a hero?

In this first section, you will facilitate a discussion with your students about the definition of the word “hero.” As b’nai mitzvah, students are now able to take on increased adult responsibilities and privileges within Jewish tradition. As teenagers, they are also taking on more responsibility at home, at school, and with friends. This first section will help you make connections between the concepts of “hero” and “role model” and will encourage your students to explore the importance of role models in their own process of maturation as b’nai mitzvah.

To prepare for this activity:

  1. Set up a board or butcher block paper for brainstorming.
  2. Decide if you will have students brainstorm in groups or as a whole class.

Activity Plan

  1. Gather students in a group for discussion. Begin by asking students to name some of their heroes. Encourage them to think of superheroes, celebrity heroes, and everyday heroes. When a student suggests a name or kind of person ask: “What makes him or her heroic?” Record.
  2. On the board or on butcher block paper, make two columns labeled “Something you do” and “Something you are.” These two statements draw out the differences between one’s actions and one’s values/character traits.
    1. Using markers, chalk, or sticky notes and pens, have students answer the question “What does it mean to be a hero?” by brainstorming lists in each category. If you do the brainstorm as a group, the class can discuss the proper categories for each idea.
    2. For example, under the “Something you do” category, one might write “Stick up for a class mate who is being bullied” or “rescue a cat from a tree.”
    3. Under “Something you are,” one might write “brave,” “kind,” or “quick thinking.”
  3. As students are brainstorming, encourage them to think broadly about what it means to be a hero. You may want to rephrase the question in different ways:
    1. What does it mean to be a hero?
    2. What makes someone a hero?
  4. When the brainstorm is over, ask students to look at the list and reread what they’ve written. Ask some more questions for discussion:
    1. Are heroes important? Why or why not?
    2. Are heroes the same as role models? How are they similar or different?
    3. Who and/or what encourages us to be role models and/or heroes?
  5. Homework for the next session:
    1. Pick a person to profile who you find to be personally inspiring as a role model. [See more about how to help students do this in Part 2.]
    2. Hand out the My Hero profile worksheet so students know what kind of information they will be expected to collect.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "What does it mean to be a hero?." (Viewed on June 16, 2019) <https://jwa.org/node/22158>.

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