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Teaching & Learning with Martin Luther King Jr.
If you need a motivational, reflective activity, you’ve come to the right place. One of my favorite ways to challenge my students to set goals is to listen to inspirational speakers.
This is an excellent opportunity to use Martin Luther King Jr.’s classic “What is Your Life’s Blueprint?” speech to get students thinking about what happens next. This inspirational speech was delivered at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia on October 26, 1967, six months before King was assassinated. In it, King calls students to think about what they want from their lives, and how they can be their very best selves.
Isn’t that just the best?
Now, let’s dig deeper. The above quote is touchy-feely, to be sure, and we don’t want to fool ourselves into believing that Martin Luther King Jr. was a teddy bear. No, oh no – this man was fierce. He advocated action and standing up for your rights and going to jail in an unjust system if that’s what it took to achieve freedom.
I believe that, in addition to wanting to inspire students to make the most of themselves, Martin Luther King Jr. wanted to inspire them to make something.
There’s a message of action here, too. Just because we can’t be a tree doesn’t mean we’re allowed to stop trying – we have to choose something else to be and use that to make our voices heard. We have to choose something to become, and stop making excuses for a way that we could have done it better “if only”.
Get real with yourself and your students. What have we been avoiding because of “if only”? Which of the following things sound like something you’d say?
*I’d let my students choose what books they read if only I had more class time.
*I’d give more feedback on papers if only I had another planning period.
*I’d direct the school musical if only I could sing.
*I’d work out after school if only I weren’t so tired.
*I’d plan our meals ahead if only my spouse would help.
*I’d give to charity if only I could pay off the car.
If any of these sound like you, you’ve let yourself get stymied by the “if only”. I’ve been there. Instead, let’s learn from Martin Luther King Jr. and think about action. What can you do? What can you afford? Let’s start there.
*I can let students read their book of choice for 30 minutes/week.
*I can give each student two minutes of verbal feedback
*I can direct the musical and have someone else help with music.
*I can add a ten-minute jog to my day.
*I can plan two dinners per week ahead of time.
*I can give $15/month to charity without breaking the bank.
I think we get so absorbed in not being good enough to be the best, that we don’t even get started. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message is about action, and then doing that action the best that you can. If the best that you can do is a ten-minute jog after work, do it.
We can have the same conversation with students. What do they wish they could do? What’s holding them back? Can they see ways to break those goals down into something attainable? This is the true message behind Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech: pick a thing and do it.
You can check out my materials for teaching this speech by Martin Luther King Jr. in my TeachersPayTeachers store. “What is Your Life’s Blueprint?” is available on YouTube, and it’s an awesome, inspiring speech. King is great for some hard truths, and I believe that his words can still challenge us today.
What are your favorite works by Martin Luther King Jr.? I’d love to hear from you in comments. 🙂 Don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter to receive first dibs on exclusive freebies, updates, and reflections.