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Who do you think you are?

Do the students really know who they are? If not, who do they think they are, and does that change depending on who is around?

by Helen Levesley

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


Do the students really know who they are? If not, who do they think they are, and does that change depending on who is around?

Preparation and materials

  • You will need one reader.

  • You might like to play the theme music from any of the Harry Potter films as students leave the assembly. These are available to download.


  1. I wonder how many of you have watched the BBC programme Who Do You Think You Are?, which charts the journey of various celebrities in their search through their family history? The programme goes around with them as they discover any number of revelations and/or family secrets.

    Who would have guessed that Boris Johnson, mayor of London, was distantly related to George III? Or that Jerry Springer’s grandparents were killed in the Lodz ghetto during the war? Or that Barbara Windsor has a connection to the famous artist William Turner? Or that Ainsley Harriott’s great-great-grandfather was a white slave trader in Barbados?
  2. Other famous faces were shown researching their family trees. They went on an often surprising and sometimes emotional journey as they discovered family they never knew existed and secrets they had no idea were there. They were, more often than not, not who they thought they were.
  3. These programmes have a strange effect on the viewer. We see people we think we know (from what we see on TV), and they turn out to be someone completely different. Our prejudices and opinions about that person are put to the test, and often it leaves us asking the same question. Who am I?
  4. This is one of the biggest questions to ask. Who am I? Think about that question for a second. It is one that has puzzled the human race since time began. The famous philosopher Descartes said: ‘I think, therefore I am.’ But how does that help us?

    What he was saying was that because he thinks, then he must exist. It is something that we can spend a long time thinking about. I am who I am. But is it my outer self that I project to the world or is it more about my inner self?

    Am I what I look like? Am I my family, and all the influences that they have on me?
    Am I my relationships and how I am with other people?
    Am I what I do? And does that define me? I doubt that if you look up the word ‘teacher’ in the dictionary you will find a picture of me!
    Or is it our decisions that make us who we are, or even our religion?
  5. Religions give us good examples of people who have trouble with who they are. St Paul had a life-changing experience on the road to Damascus, and instead of being someone who persecuted Christians, he became one of their most influential people, spreading the gospel far and wide.

    Likewise Abraham, who became the founding father of three main religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – had to make certain decisions and choices that would change who he was. Notably, being prepared to offer up his son Isaac as a sacrifice.
  6. Even wizards have problems. Let me draw your attention to his passage in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

    Ask your reader to read the following passage from page 245 of the paperback edition (ISBN 0-7475-3848-4): line 11 (‘So I should be in Slytherin …’) to line 24 (‘… far more than our abilities.’).

Time for reflection

It is our choices that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities. I wonder if that makes sense to you? What choices have you made? They have all brought you to where you are, and that ultimately makes you who you are.

Every choice I have ever made, whether it is good or bad, has brought me to this point and on the whole I would say that I am pretty happy with that.

So if I were to ask again, who do you think you are?, I have no doubt that we would get many different answers, just like the famous people on the TV show. And yet that answer will be intrinsically about you. Because whoever you think you are, and all the facets that go along with that, you are you, and if I were you, I would be pleased to be that unique and brilliant person.


Prayer or meditation

Who am I? I am many things.

My parents, my friends, even the music I sing.

Who are you? This secret inside, help to realize, to be open and fling

wide the door, so that I can see, the fantastic and magical me.


Publication date: 2008   (Vol.10)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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