Highlands Blog

Be the Change

Shara Kernan
Shara Kernan, Highlands School’s learning specialist, works with students in Kindergarten through 8th grade to provide additional services outside of the classroom.
“Be the change.” Three simple words, but when placed together, what a powerful message these words convey. Last spring, I read a short synopsis of the book, Be the Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story. I was immediately enthralled. Author Arun Gandhi, the fifth grandson of Mohandas Gandhi, captures the teachings of his extraordinary grandfather in a simple, but poignant way. After reading the book, I knew it would resonate with my students. I decided to read the book aloud to all of my students, kindergarten through eighth grade. Sharing this memorable story with my students was a powerful experience. Not only did the kids learn about Gandhi and his teachings, but they reflected on how they might become agents of change in the world. I asked each of them to respond to a simple question: “What can we all do together to make the world a better place?” In words and in drawings, my students created truly beautiful and thoughtful messages of change. Their messages depicted their individual interpretations of Gandhi’s words and actions. We taped all of the messages to a wall in my room, and we connected the messages to each other and to the quote “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
This fall, in celebration of our Country of Study, I read other books to my students written by Arun Gandhi about his grandfather’s teachings and practices. One of his books for younger children is entitled Grandfather Gandhi. In this book, young Arun is faced with a series of frustrating and hurtful experiences, and he responds with anger. His grandfather explains, “Arun, we can all work to use our anger, instead of letting it use us.” Arun learns from his grandfather to “live his life as light.”  My students and I discussed Gandhi’s compelling message, and once again, I asked them to describe their feelings and thoughts in words and in drawings. My students created illustrations with captions expressing their own experiences with anger and how anger can be transformed into something positive.
Recently, some of my older students read Mr. Gandhi’s book Legacy of Love: My Education in the Path of Nonviolence. After reading the book, they were inspired to copy and illustrate some of Gandhi’s quotes. Later this month, my students will be using what they learned from the book in their upcoming project on Revolution. Throughout the year, we will continue to research and discuss the philosophy and practices of Mohandas Gandhi.
Arun Gandhi’s powerful books, and the conversations and messages they inspired, strengthened the relationships among my students this year. These books provided us with important reminders of the ways in which we are all connected and the fact that together we can make a positive difference in the world.
Highlands School, 4901 Old Leeds Road, Birmingham, AL 35213, (205) 956-9731
Highlands School's 'whole child' approach to education and commitment to academic excellence, creative expression, and leadership development prepare and motivate students in grades 4k through 8 to make a positive difference in an ever-changing world. Located in Birmingham, Alabama, Highlands School holds dual accrediation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and the Southern Associations of Independent Schools (SAIS).

For more information, visit www.highlandsschool.org.