Taking pride in a job well done never goes out of style

September 21, 2007|By LISA PREJEAN

Jamestown = riches.

That's what I wrote on the board when we started a new history unit on Captain John Smith. I figure if the main concepts stick with my third-graders as they travel through school, I will have accomplished a goal.

When I was in third grade, the only connection I felt toward Captain John Smith was a motel we stayed in during a family trip to Williamsburg, Va.

The motel was named after him, which was quite confusing to me. I thought that "his" hotel should at least be in "his" town.


Ever since, I've had to stop and think each time I read his name. Williamsburg? Jamestown? Which one did he help establish?

The answer always comes to me in connection with our trip. Captain John Smith wasn't connected to Williamsburg, where we stayed. He was the leader of Jamestown.

Jamestown, which was established in 1607, was the first successful English settlement in the New World.

(The oldest successful settlement in the United States actually is St. Augustine, which was established by the Spanish in 1565.)

Named after King James I of England, Jamestown was primarily founded by English gentlemen who thought they would find riches in the New Land.

At least that's the description found in many history books.

Recent archaeological research at the site of Jamestown suggests "that at least some of the gentlemen and certainly many of the artisans, craftsmen, and laborers that accompanied them all made every effort to make the colony succeed," according to The Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities,

But just how much were the "gentlemen" doing and what share of the work fell to the "artisans, craftsmen and laborers?"

And if the gentlemen were doing their share, why did Captain Smith feel the need to establish a new rule?: "He who will not work shall not eat!"

Apparently, someone wasn't helping around the house ... er, fort.

My husband and I use a form of the work-eat rule at our house. We tell our kids because they eat, they can help wash the dishes. One should just naturally follow the other.

My 12-year-old recently told me that a boy he knows doesn't have any chores around the house.

I found that hard to believe, but I was ready to defend my position on work at our house.

"Wow, he's really going to be in trouble when he goes to college," I said.

My son nodded and said, "Yeah. You know, chores don't seem as bad now as they used to. I used to dread doing them, but now I just get them done."

That's the way it should be with all the mundane things in life. We have to do them, so why put them off?

Teaching a child responsibility is different from teaching grown men the same. I wouldn't have wanted John Smith's role.

Can you imagine trying to motivate men who thought the work was beneath them? Perhaps some of you can.

Thankfully, the old belly trick still applies: The way to a man's heart is through his stomach.

Maybe Smith wasn't just able to motivate the "gentlemen" but also to encourage them to take pride in a job well done.

That's one history lesson that can be beneficial for every child.

For more information on the archaeological research at Jamestown, go to

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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