There are many inspirational people from the past who can provide some great advice for the future. Here’s one of them.

*Dedicated to the Class of 2015

When I was growing up, my maternal grandmother told me that we were related to Benjamin Franklin. I figured this was one of those family myths, passed down generation to generation. But one day my mother and I decided to dig deeper, so we hired a genealogist from the Philadelphia Historical Society to do the research. Much to our surprise, we discovered that my grandmother’s story was true: I was a 7th generation grandchild to Benjamin Franklin (Benjamin-Sarah-Louis-Theophylact-Ester-William-Hannah-Mildred-me). Ben has always been my favorite Founding Father, and over the years, I’ve found myself turning to him for inspiration and advice. Here are few of the things that teachers and students can learn from Ben Franklin:

1. Don’t limit yourself to one career and one field of study. Franklin’s expertise spanned a significant number of different subject areas. He was a soldier, printer, writer, politician, librarian, postmaster, scientist, inventor, bookstore owner, and volunteer. In today’s world there’s no need to be pigeon-holed into one job or one field – get out and explore all the world has to offer.

2. Take control of your own learning. Franklin taught himself five different languages: Latin, Spanish, Italian, German, and French. Self-directed learning is now quite easy with online courses, study programs, Apps, and amazing libraries. It’s not necessary to be enrolled in school to gain new knowledge.

3. Take a stand. Franklin said “Make yourselves sheep, and the wolves will eat you.” This is great advice for both teachers and students. There are so many people who think that because they went to school, they know everything about school. But it’s teachers who are uniquely aware of the challenges that impact their school, their students, and their profession, and it is teachers who can offer the best ideas and solutions to facilitate effective change. If we don’t take control of our profession, push back against relentless testing, unfair evaluation policies, and programs that harm our students, we will surely be eaten. Students, too, need to learn to stand up for themselves.

4. Appreciate and respect the power of writing. Franklin was, of course, a great writer, and he stated “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” In today’s world, students need to realize the power of their words especially when they write on social media. They need to respect the fact for that their words live forever. We should all also realize that words can have enormous impact and can go far to change the world.

5.  “Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out.” It is clear that Franklin was not a perfect man. He made mistakes, and he was sometimes hypocritical in his writings and in his actions. But Franklin continued to strive to be a good person, to overcome his mistakes, and to work towards good. That is excellent advice for everyone.


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