Ben was 17, fighting with his brother, getting into trouble with his parents and essentially out of work. Growing up in Boston was tough and his disagreements with his family led him to make a life-altering decision: He would leave his hometown to discover if he could make it on his own.
He arrived in Philadelphia via New York and went on to become the rich, famous bespectacled founding father. But my lesson for the students is to remember that when Ben was young, he made mistakes (“erratas”), resented his brother and was in constant disputation with his parents about their beliefs (sounds like the typical teen, doesn’t it?).
What Ben realized through his journey from Boston to Philadelphia was that he had to figure some things out or he was going to end up miserable. So he decided to practice some habits that would allow him to arrive at something he called moral perfection.
He wrote down 13 principles that he thought encapsulated the ideals of becoming a better person. He kept track of his actions and their consequences and came to realize that practicing moral perfection was one thing, but becoming morally perfect was impossible.
However, along the way, he found out about his nature and how difficult it was when he focused too much on one thing because he found himself lacking (or slipping) in the other. Guidance was an issue, and he needed self-discipline — and the rest is what we read about in Ben Franklin’s autobiography as part of the American Literature class.
Students quickly begin to realize that talking the talk is very different from walking the walk, so guess what we do? That’s right — we practice! Our self-improvement challenge begins this week, and students will choose a virtue to define, describe and then practice improving during the next few weeks.
I guess it’s the coach in me, but learning always is more effective and fun when we go beyond the talk and focus on the walk!
At least that’s what I think.