People Make Choices. Choices Make History.

Posted by Mary Hendra on January 22, 2014

When I started teaching in South Central Los Angeles nearing 20 years ago, I discovered that the most important thing for my students to get from me was the understanding that they truly mattered. For many, they had had a revolving door of teachers and few expected me to stick around even a semester. Some had given up on school because they didn't think it mattered to them, or that they mattered in the world. Before any academic work would hold their attention, they needed to understand that they had a voice in their life and community--that their choices mattered.

As I taught and was taught by these amazing students, I collected a number of favorite quotes to reinforce how much I believed they mattered:

  • "We each weave a singular strand in the web of life. No one else can weave that strand for us. What we each contribute is distinct, and what we each withhold is uniquely irreplaceable." - Duane Elgin
  • "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." - Eleanor Roosevelt
  • "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

miep gies quoteAt times, we all need these small encouragements to be ourselves--to express our own voice through the choices that make this world a better place.

What do you tell your students to help them recognize the power of their choices?

Do you have favorite quotes you, too, have collected?

For even more inspiration, we share a quote from an upstander every Sunday on Facebook and Twitter. Follow along, or share your favorite quotes! Tweet at @facinghistory with the hashtag #upstander or post your quote to our Facebook wall.

Topics: Choosing to Participate, A View from the Classroom

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