This PSHE assembly discusses pupils’ admiration of their personal heroes, and looks at the emotion of envy – urging them to distinguish between wanting to be someone else and wanting to be like someone else

You would really benefit from featuring the Youtube clip called “Listen to a Legend: 4 Minutes with Sir Bobby Charlton.”

It’s a lovely sequence with Sir Bobby talking to a group of the boys and girls who are in the TV advert with him, with their conversation interspersed with some historic film clips. Notice the couple of times when his voice catches with emotion.

Introduction for teachers
It may seem a bit unorthodox to put a commercial at the centre of our assembly – but it’s not necessary to promote the product as part of the meaning, and the clear messages about ageing and achievement should outweigh any concerns about product placement.

Do you ever look at someone else and think, “I wish I was that person”? Would anyone like to tell us who they wish they were if they could be someone else? [Ask the assembly]

Yes, there are some interesting choices there. But you know, in a way I’m a bit disappointed that any of you want to be someone else. Because to be absolutely honest I am very happy with all of you being yourselves. You see, I’m not at all sure it’s a good idea to want to be someone else.

Let’s be clear about what I’m saying. I think you can want to be like someone else – to be able to do some of the things that another person does better than you. There are things that I wish I could do that other people can do, but I don’t want to become one of those people, and stop being the person I am. Not at all, thank you. Take great footballers, for example. You might wish you had some of the skills of a great footballer, but from what I know about many famous footballers I think I’d rather you all just stayed as yourselves.

But here’s a story about someone who, just for a moment, perhaps wished he was someone else.

Hannah was watching TV with her granddad. Suddenly, she said:

“I really like this advert, Granddad.”

Her granddad laughed.

“We’re supposed to like the programmes, not the adverts.’

“Most of them are boring, but I like this one. Watch.”

There were voices of children, and suddenly a scene in a park, with boys and girls playing soccer.

“Oh, I know this one,” said Grandad. “It’s Bobby Charlton – Sir Bobby – scoring yet another great goal. Mind you, I’ve got a bone to pick with him.”

“Why’s that?” said Hannah, as they watched Sir Bobby score that terrific goal once again.

“Because I got carried away the other day and I must have thought I was him, and I made a fool of myself.”

“A fool of yourself, granddad?” said Hannah with an innocent expression on her face. “I find that difficult to believe.”

“Behave, you cheeky madam,” said Granddad.

“Well, tell me what happened.” Said Hannah.

“It was like this,” said Grandad. “I was walking with friends on a canal towpath when we saw a soccer ball floating nearby. We fished it out, and looked around and we could see that the ball belonged to some children and dads playing in a pub garden on the other side. They were all waving for us to send it back. So what did I do? I put it on the ground and ran up to take a brilliant 20 metre kick across the canal into the pub garden.”

“And did you do it?” asked Hannah.

“What do you think?” said Grandad. “What I forgot was that it was at least fifty-five years since I kicked a ball, and even then I was useless at it. So instead of soaring over the canal, the ball skidded off the side of my foot just a short distance into some reeds. It’s probably still there.”

“Grandad!” said Hannah. “What did the kids and their dads say?”

“No idea,” said Grandad. “I was hiding under a bridge.”

Hannah shook her head.

“What were you thinking of?”

“Well, I suppose I was thinking of that thing that everyone says – you can do anything if you try. So I tried. I must have thought I was Sir Bobby.

“But you weren’t?”

“Nor could I ever have been. Do you know, he’s almost exactly the same age as me, but he’s him, and I’m me. In some ways I’d like to be like him, but I’m not him, and really I don’t actually want to be. Still, it would be good to show off with a good kick of the ball like he does in the advert.”

”Come on Grandad,” said Hannah. “I just can’t imagine you kicking a ball.”

“No, I guess you’re right,” said Grandad. “There are some things that are just not possible. In a film where he’s talking to children, Bobby tells them if they want to be good footballers they have to practice. That’s true, but I could have practiced for ever and never been nearly as good as him. I’ll tell you something, though…”

“What’s that?”

“Sir Bobby Charlton is a real, solid gold celebrity. He’s not just famous for not doing very much like some celebrities. He did something very special for himself and his country – a career in football crowned by a World Cup winner’s medal. He’s not big headed about it; just proud. And he has every right to be proud. Over forty years later he probably still feels good inside with the memory of it.”

“Ah, but Granddad,” said Hannah. “Do you think he can play the piano as well as you?”

“Well, Hannah,” said Granddad, looking very pleased with himself, “That’s an excellent question. Maybe if he practiced every day…”

It’s good to think that we can do anything we want to if we only try hard enough. The bit we can forget, though, is that any worthwhile success comes from years of hard work that often comes with heartbreak and disappointment along the way. Even then, some things will still be out of reach. So one of the lessons that we should learn is that we have to know ourselves, and what it is that we’re good at. We’ll learn along the way that there are some things that we can enjoy very much without being brilliant at them, while there are other things that we might be very good at indeed. Then we become content with who we are, without longing to be another person.

A prayer
Lord, we thank you for all the talents and abilities that lie inside us. Help us to make the most of what you’ve given us, to work hard, and try to be better. Help us not to be envious of others, but always to be pleased when our friends do well.

A thought
Steve Redgrave, five times Olympic rowing gold medalist, was sixteen before he realised he could be really good at rowing.

Further information
Sir Bobby really does lead a healthy life. Read an interview about his health and fitness that was in The Guardian

Research Sir Bobby’s life – there’s plenty of information on the web. In particular, read about the Munich tragedy and his experience of it in an excerpt from his autobiography on the Times Online.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in January 2009

About the author: Gerald Haigh