Monday, January 24, 2011

A resource for encouraging character development

I think one Holocaust topic that is often overlooked is a discussion of rescuers and the character development that can be learned from those individuals. I recognize that for most teachers the reason this area of the Holocaust is overlooked is due to time constraints, but I do think there is something important in making sure this topic is at least recognized. I think it helps remind students that even in what is one of humanity’s darkest hours, there were good people who tried to help.

Now I’ll admit that I do not have time to actually do a whole lesson on this subject, but I do have a copy of the poster set created by the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, a non-profit organization that recognizes and offers financial assistance to rescuers. JFR publishes a poster set that explores the character traits of rescuers such as compassion, moral leadership, courage, integrity, and social responsibility. JFR believes that rescuers are, “not just heroes from the past, but also role models for the present” and wants students to realize that rescuers are not unique but have the same character traits that young people can and do have.

I keep the posters up in my classroom throughout the year and I watch as students read over them throughout the first semester. During second semester, when I teach the Holocaust unit, I will discuss the posters directly and talk about the importance of these character traits. I keep the posters up the rest of the year so that students are reminded, visually, of those characteristics that make up the best of humanity. Again, I don’t have time to do a lot with this lesson because like all teachers I live in a world where one week is considered a lot of time on one subject, but I think having the posters up year round and then addressing them directly helps remind students that people have been - and are - capable of being good and just.

This poster set and the accompanying Teachers Guide is available for free loan from the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education's Resource Center. The posters are also available for purchase in English and Spanish (“Poster Set on Rescue: Traits that Transcend”) directly from JFR.

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