AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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Responsibility is making sure you do what you are assigned to do.

"Outside of society isolated man, owing nothing to anyone, has a right to live as he pleases. But in society, where he necessarily lives at the expense of others, he owes them the price of his keep in work. This is without exception. To work is therefore an indispensable duty for social man. Rich or poor, powerful or weak, every idle citizen is a rascal." Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile or On Education

Learning to be responsible is one of the most important lessons children can learn in school. Responsibility is taught when students are expected to complete their assignments, when they are entrusted with the care of school property, and when they are held accountable for their behavior. Responsibility is also taught when students observe adults acting in a responsible manner.

In a democracy, the lessons of responsibility are particularly important for children to learn. Democracies require that citizens participate in their own governance. Individuals become responsible not only for their own actions but for the actions of others as well.

Examples of irresponsible behavior are sometimes easier to identify than examples of responsible behavior, but teachers should try when possible to praise the responsible actions of their students, too.

Examples of responsibility from history and literature:

  • Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
  • The Yearling
  • Little Women
  • The Miracle Worker
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  • The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass

Classroom Activities