We’ve never had a teacher as president of this country, possibly because teachers—surprisingly—do not earn the vast millions needed to stage a campaign. I’ve been thinking about this lately. Like many people, I find myself unusually stressed out and afraid this election season. I’ve found a great way to cope with it, however. I never watched the show West Wing when it was on, but it’s streaming on Netflix. So every time there’s distressing election coverage, I kick back and watch President Bartlet and the gang run the United States government with ethics and dignity and a sense of humor. I generally wind up feeling pretty hopeful about the political situation in our country after an episode or two. Thanks, fictional characters!
The more I watch, though, the more time I spend reflecting on the skill set needed for a President. And I’ve decided that what we really need to do is elect a teacher. Here are some skills a President has to have:
1. The ability to negotiate a peace between warring parties.
Well, Jesus definitely took Juan’s pencil, but it may or may not have been justified. First of all, Juan stole his marker during art class and never even gave it back, and second, Jesus asked if he could borrow the pencil and felt that consent was implied when Juan didn’t answer. Now the pencil is in basically a hostage situation and tension has risen to nuclear levels. Teachers have the ability to use diplomacy—with force as a last resort—to restore the pencil to its rightful owner and negotiate a cease-fire.
2. Crisis management skills.
Mary got her period for the first time during math class! Without going into too much detail, it’s an unpleasant situation. A teacher has to be able to get Mary out of class without other students noticing, make sure she arrives safely at the clinic (without ever leaving students unattended), clean up any remaining mess, and get the rest of the class focused back on fractions, preferably without wasting any class time.
3. Ability to navigate complex policy demands.
School policy mandates that teachers include the following information on the board for every class they teach: standard, essential question, learning goal, agenda, starter activity, early finisher activity, vocabulary, extension questions, and homework. Some teachers have four different classes. The ability to somehow meet these ridiculous demands and still preserve space for, you know, teaching class shows an impressive ability to work within constraints without being bogged down by minutia.
4. Ability to manage the press.
Middle school girls can spread news faster than the speed of light—a fact inexplicably neglected by scientists thus far. How to handle it? Face-to-face meetings? Whole school press conferences? Imprison the rumormongers (in silent lunch) for libel and slander It’s a delicate situation.
5. Willingness to make personal sacrifices for the sake of the greater good.
Ask any teacher who’s given up their one day of no lunch duty to help kids study for a quiz retake. We’ve got this.
6. A poised and dignified demeanor in demanding circumstances.
At some point, a kid will fart—loudly—in the middle of a really serious class discussion, or right at the saddest part of a book. If a teacher has mastered this skill, not a single student will respond through the mere force of Teacher Look. Can you imagine how helpful this skill would be for the President of the United States?
I think we’re unlikely to see a teacher candidate in any election soon, but it’s a shame. Teaching is basically the perfect preparation for our nation’s highest executive office, honing a unique set of skills that our country desperately needs in the White House. Maybe someday. Until then, we’ll continue soldiering on, managing the rumor mill, elucidating homework policy in State of the Union-worthy speeches, and calming tensions between hostile parties over important issues like who was sitting at the lunch table first. It’s a crushing responsibility, but we can handle it.