Presidents Day is a great time for teachers of all grade levels to ask students what they would do if they were president. Social and emotional lessons that students can carry with them today, such as the importance of sticking with school work and of persevering through setbacks are all lessons to be learned from our nation’s leaders.

There are four questions I would like to see every student in every grade asked, with appropriate follow up:

  1. What would you do if you were President of the United States of America?
  2. Who would help you do this?
  3. How long do you think it would take to do this?
  4. What if you had a hard time, ran into some difficulties, some obstacles? What would you do then?

Each of these questions will be incredibly revealing to the teachers asking them, from kindergarten through high school. Underlying each one is a social-emotional, character, and life-learning lesson. Following a brief explication of these, I will present a sample “extra credit” assignment I strongly recommend teachers offer to student from the upper elementary through high school grades.

Each of the following life lessons should flow naturally from the conversation questions noted above. These should not be lectures, but drawing out the lesson from what the children say (or don’t say).

  1. You might be President some day! Why not? It might even be a reason to care about your school work.
  2. No one is successful on their own. Everyone has helpers and needs help. Never hesitate to ask for help if you need it and be prepared to give help not only when you are asked but when you see people having difficulty (this makes a wonderful activity even for early childhood classes, but certainly for older students: how do you know when a classmate of yours might need some help?) And, even if you can’t be President, you can still do some pretty important things.
  3. It takes time to get important things done. Not everything is instant. In fact, very little is. Important things take planning and we have to leave time for things to happen.
  4. Even though things seem easy when they are finished, there are almost always barriers, obstacles, roadblocks, and trouble along the way. That’s just the way things are, and when that happens, we have to work to get around them. We have to be persistent about things we really care about, and we also have to be willing to do things differently from how we planned, and even compromise a little to get most of what we want. “Grit” means being tough and smart enough to persist even when things are not easy. But it means to persist in working toward one’s goal, not persist in trying the same things over and over again that are not working.

Continue reading about lessons to be learned from our nation’s leaders.

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