What makes me a hero?

This last part of the activity will help students find opportunities in their own lives to serve as heroes and role models for others. Students explore the responsibilities associated with being a role model and how the process of becoming a bar/bat mitzvah elevates one to a “role model” status within the community.

To prepare for this activity:

  1. Clear some space in your room for students to make a line, as they will be placing themselves on a spectrum for part of the activity. Label one side of the room YES and one side NO, with space in between for students to stand.
  2. Set up a space on the board or on a piece of paper for brainstorming.
  3. Think about what goals you have for your students. What do you want them to get out of this conversation? How are older teens and adults involved in your community? How can you empower your students to be active members of your Jewish community?

Activity Plan

  1. Give each student a half-sheet of paper and a writing implement. Give them two minutes of silence to answer the question: Who decides who is a hero? And write it on their paper.
  2. Have the students share what they have written and group responses on the board (either re-write or use tape) to visualize any patterns that emerge/similarities and differences between student responses.
  3. Ask questions to highlight places where students disagree and see if the class can settle on an answer together.
    Note: Students do not HAVE to agree. The point of this exercise is to help students realize that there are many different factors in deciding how people influence each other.
  4. Ask the following series of questions and have students place themselves on the YES/NO spectrum depending on their answer. After each question, call on 3-4 students from different places on the spectrum to share about their answers. Explain that as individuals share about why they chose to stand where they are, other students can move and change their minds.
    1. Does a person have to try to become a hero?
    2. Can a person be a hero without knowing it themselves?
    3. Is it fun to be a hero?
    4. Are there downsides to being a hero?
    5. Can someone your/our age be a hero?
    6. Does it matter whether someone’s hero is a woman or a man?
    7. Is a hero the same thing as a role model?
    8. Are you a hero/role model?
  5. After you have gone through all of the questions and students have had the chance to share, ask the students to return to their seats. Students should have some quiet writing time to respond to the following prompt:
    • Describe a time when you were a hero or a role model.
    1. What were/are the benefits of being a role model or a hero?
    2. What were/are the challenges of being a role model or a hero?
  6. When students are finished, have them pair up and share what they have written.
  7. To conclude the activity, come together as a class and discuss a few more questions with the group:
    • How can you (the students) be heroes or role models in your everyday lives? At your school? In your family? In the Jewish community?
    1. Who are you a role model for? (family, peers, etc.)
    2. Do you want to be a hero/role model? Why or why not?
    3. How does becoming a bar or bat mitzvah, and becoming a Jewish adult, change the way you think about yourself as a role model for others?

Extend the activity

Consider using this activity as an introduction to doing a service learning project with your class or to help your students take on a community service project of their own.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "What makes me a hero?." (Viewed on September 15, 2019) <https://jwa.org/node/22175>.

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