Inspiration Education

By Dr Charles Margerison

What Or Who Inspires You?

What inspires you to put energy and effort into an idea?

Who has been inspirational in your own life?

I have studied the life stories and achievements of over 500 amazing people who made major contributions to engineering, science, medicine, literature, art, architecture, charity, business, education and many other areas.

In the process, I recognized that inspiration was at the heart of their achievements. This led me to ask – how can we help students and adults to be inspired, and convert their ideas into outstanding achievements?

Inspiration Can Come From Different Sources

Harriet Tubman – 1822 – 1913 – She was a slave for her first 29 years. Her inspiration came from the determination to be free. Under the cover of night, she escaped and travelled the difficult route through forests and fields to Pennsylvania. Having recovered, she then returned many times to help other slaves to escape.

Thomas Barnardo -1845 -1905 – He was a teacher who conducted evening classes for poor people. Jim Jarvis was a teenager who attended. He told Barnado that he lived with other orphan boys, sleeping rough in derelict buildings. When Barnardo saw the appalling conditions, he was inspired to establish homes for children in need. The Barnardo Homes organization continues today.

Charles Darwin 1809 – 1882 – He sailed for five years on a vessel called ‘HMS Beagle’ and was inspired by the wildlife he observed. On his return, he put forward the radical view of natural evolution, in contrast to the prevailing religious views of the time. This inspired other scientists to research and develop new approaches based on evidence.

Florence Nightingale – 1820 -1910 – She had strong beliefs, combined with determination to achieve. In particular, she believed that people’s lives could be saved by careful nursing. At the time, thousands were dying through infection and lack of care. Nightingale established the nursing profession, and inspired generations of nurses to save the lives of millions of people.

All of these people have inspired people in successive generations.

Everyone has someone who inspires them. It can be parents or family members, a sports icon, or someone who helps when difficulties occur.

The Importance Of Role Models and Mentors

In my life, I have been inspired by some outstanding people, who I have been fortunate to meet.

Charles Murphy was a quiet man who taught night school classes at Birkenhead Technical College in the UK. I was working in a clerical role and had no qualifications. A colleague suggested that I enrol in classes that he conducted. A year later, I qualified to enter the University of London School of Economics. In my life, Charles Murphy was an inspiration.

Gordon Wills, who later became Baron Prestoungrange, was a larger-than-life character with lots of big ideas. One of them was to establish a journal publishing company. I had no experience and, as I found out later, Gordon had only a little more. It was a big risk, as I had to invest half my annual salary. We made losses for the first few years, but Gordon inspired me and others to continue. That company is now Emerald Publications Ltd, one of the major global journal publishing companies.

Dr Charles Margerison – Emerald Publishing Stand At Expo

Rose Hughes is about 100 years of age at time of writing. She still lives in her own house, doing all the cooking and cleaning. No visit to her home is complete without a cup of tea and a biscuit, and a good conversation. She is my aunt, and an inspiration to all who meet her.

Reg Revans was a scientist by profession and a radical educator by choice. He inspired my approach to helping adults as students in what he called action learning. This turned the traditional approach of learning first in order to act, on its head. He advocated that we should take action and learn from errors and mistakes. 

Dr Reg Revans  (1907 – 2003)

Inspiration in Schools

I developed Amazing People Schools to help students appreciate and learn from amazing achievers both past and present. The website – – enables students to explore and identify the character strengths that amazing achievers developed. The digital platform is packed with resources to support students in developing their own character strengths, and enabling them to be the best versions of themselves.

Exemplars of Inspiration

Thomas Edison had little formal education, as he was profoundly deaf. He did not let this hold him back and worked hard to develop his technical skills and create brilliant innovations, such as telegraphy, the phone battery transmitter, the music phonograph, the light bulb and film camera.

Ada Lovelace helped to create the first computer during the middle of the 19th century, when it was frowned upon for women to be involved in business professions. She had been educated in mathematics and became the software programmer for Charles Babbage, the mechanical engineer who is credited with building the initial computer.

Frida Khalo, a Mexican artist, who had many injuries and illnesses to contend with, used these as the motivation to continue to develop her artwork and this still inspires people today.

In addition, at Amazing People Schools, we encourage students to talk and write about people they admire and provide inspiration. These include sports people. We have arranged with an organisation called Virtual Soccer Schools for leading footballers to appear online to share how they train and keep fit, plus how they maintain their wellbeing and mental health.

Also, we encourage students to meet people in their community, such as fire fighters, nurses and people who keep the streets clean. As a result, the students learn how these people work and contribute to everyone’s quality of life.

Inspirational Quotations

I have noted that many people are inspired by quotes. My doctor mentioned that before leaving for his surgery each morning, that he reads philosophical quotes to help him be inspired for the day. Some quotes I find inspiring are –

‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’– Mahatma Gandhi.

‘Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.’ – Maya Angelou

‘Believe that you can and you are half way there.’ – President Theo Roosevelt.

‘May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.’ – President Nelson Mandela.

‘Life is a daring adventure or nothing.’ – Helen Keller.

‘If you can dream it, you can do it.’ – Walt Disney.

‘Stand for something or you will fall for everything.’ – Rosa Parks.

Literature can be very inspiring. I have found Rudyard Kipling’s poem titled ‘If’ very helpful.

Therefore, it is useful to ask students to write not about the quote or the poem, but rather to ask them to outline –  ‘In what way has what you have read inspired you, and how?’

Inspiration For Achievement

Once a student is inspired, they focus more. As a result, their performance invariably improves. Inspiration provides a purpose for effort and action. This is at the heart of character education.

We are working with students, teachers and parents to focus on inspiration. This is best done through discussion and action. In particular, we encourage students to look at the processes used by amazing achievers, and apply those in their own lives.