3 Inspirational People: Inspire Students & Teach Grit & Growth Mindset

How do you inspire students? I suppose there are many ways to skin that particular cat, but one nice way is to give them a few examples of inspiring people from history and then have them go away and research someone from the past or present who they think was inspiring and to get them to articulate through some form of presentation why they thought they were inspiring. It’s also a sneaky way of teaching a few underpinning qualities and attitudes of ‘grit’ and growth mindset at the same time in my opinion.

The three inspiring people I chose were: George Washington, Joan of Arc, and Gandhi (my bullet point notes below). The outline I stuck to was a brief intro on each giving the dates they lived, a few things we know about them, why they are inspirational, and some personal qualities they demonstrated. I’m always surprised by how little many of my students know of these characters, but sometimes I’m also blown away by the odd one or two who are experts!

I like this activity because you can also link it to persuasive writing. Once students have chosen and researched a little about their inspirational person, they can set about trying to convince others and even enter into a debate about why their chosen character is more inspirational than another.

This can be turned into poster tasks, PPT presentations, written essay tasks, letter writing tasks, cartoons and storyboards, and of course more imaginative stuff using amazing apps like Explain Everything, etc.

Anyway, here’s my notes below about the three inspirational people I would choose. What about you? Who are your inspiring role models and why?

1- George Washington
Born 1732 – Died 1799

What do you know about George Washington?

•1st president of the United States
•His first set of false teeth were made from cow’s teeth – his second pair were made of hippopotamus ivory due to bad tooth disease
•He joined the navy at the age of 14
•He was the only one of the “Founding Fathers” to free his slaves
•Marijuana was the primary crop grown by him at Mount Vernon

Why inspirational?

•Once, during battle, a cannonball almost hit him and his men. Everyone hid, except George, who kept on fighting.
•He led the Continental Army to victory over the Kingdom of Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783)
•YouTube video on George Washington: http://www.history.com/topics/george-washington/videos#george-washington

Why else was he inspirational?

•Some quotes of things he said:
•“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter”
•“Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company”
•“Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence”

Some of his personal qualities:

•High principles
•Impartial justice
•Totally trustworthy
•Calm in the face of danger
•Dauntless in adversity

2 – Joan of Arc
Born 1412 – Died 1431

What do you know about Joan of Arc?

•Lived in the 1400s
•When she was only 16 or 17 she convinced Charles VII of France to give her a small army to go and liberate Riem from the English
•She then led the army to win several more battles and helped give Charles VII the confidence to be crowned King of France
•She was captured by the English and burnt at the stake age 19 for heresy

Why was she inspirational?

•She had no experience
•She was only 16 or 17 and spoke confidently to the would-be king
•At the same age she led an army successfully to battle
•She inspired the king to take the throne
•She died a martyr’s death for her doing what she did, because she was a woman

Some of her personal qualities?

•Personal strength

3 – Gandhi
Born 1869 – Died 1948

What do you know about Gandhi?

•Came from an Indian family of Hindus
•Was a lawyer in South Africa
•He led India to independence in the 1940s
•He was a civil rights activist
•Peaceful freedom fighter
•Known for “non-violent civil disobedience”

Why was he inspirational?

•Famously led Indians in challenging British salt tax with the 400 km (250 mi) Dandi Salt March in 1930
•Stood up for what he believed in: imprisoned for many years, many times, in South Africa and India.
•Gandhi attempted to practice non-violence and truth in all situations, and advocated that others do the same.
•Not materialistic: He lived modestly in a self-sufficient residential community & wore traditional Indian dhoti & shawl, woven with yarn hand spun on a charkha.
•He ate simple vegetarian food, also undertook long fasts for self-purification & social protest.

Joan of Arc:


2 thoughts on “3 Inspirational People: Inspire Students & Teach Grit & Growth Mindset

  1. Found this interesting, Carol.

    Working with school leaders in T & T my colleague from the National College did a similar group discussion exercise with leaders – they had to choose one from a list (including Gandhi – also Mother Teresa, Churchill, Alex Ferguson and others!) research their leadership qualities and consider how they won hearts and minds. The ensuing discussion was fascinating!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s