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If You Can't Teach, Be a Politician: Leadership Skills Necessary for Success

by Brenda Mahler 7 months ago in trump

A comparison of required skills of a public school teacher and those displayed by President Trump as a politician.

If You Can't Teach, Be a Politician: Leadership Skills Necessary for Success
President Trump Photo - AP - Andrew Harnik

This morning while watching the news, my husband stood up and walked away from the TV muttering, "Trump would be a terrible substitute teacher."

I giggled at his humor and then realized; he wasn't attempting to be humorous; he was disgusted. Since we both work in schools, we have seen our share of bad teachers (unfortunately) and even worse substitutes. Images of Trump being tarred and feathered by a gang of high school students flashed in my mind. I smiled (but won't admit it.)

When a substitute walks through the school doors, students begin scheming of ways to unify their peers to mutiny. Their eyes sparkle as they work harder to sabotage learning than they have worked on any previous assignment. They are like sharks in the ocean who smell blood; if they sense weakness, they go in for the kill.

Veteran teachers quickly identify which adults will survive the biting student comments and sharp behaviors and who will go down with the ship. For a body to find success in the dark, cold waters of the public (whether a teacher or a politician) certain traits are essential.


"Fake it until you make it" and "never let them see you sweat" identify the two most important mandates for any adult employed in public service. If the dog puked on the carpet or your child spilled the entire gallon of milk before your workday started, those become events of the past. Upon entering the work building, the role of teacher requires a display of confidence, a positive attitude that all is right with the world.

Just as it is the teacher's job to reassure and establish a warm inviting environment, the POTUS should be a calming agent to the country. Trump fails to reflect or instill peaceful tranquility. In fact, he scares the shit out of me!


Students come to school carrying baggage from daily concerns just as each American currently struggles with economic, emotional, and physiological problems. An expression from the 1800's "handle with kid gloves" references gloves made from the soft lamb's skin allowing the wearer to manage a situation with compassion. Teachers address issues with kid gloves because they recognize each child struggles and needs to be supported.

Trump, on the other hand, (actually, on both hands and small hands at that) wears oversized, rough leather coverings - both left-handed. After watching his briefings or speeches, my shoulders are tense, nerves are shattered, and my mind is marred by scars as if recovering from a massage by a rough skinned newt (not Gringrich).

Love of Learning

Information disseminated by the press reports that Trump doesn't read much. This seems to be supported by his own words based on a quote by The Donald speaking with Tucker Carlson.

"Well, you know, I love to read. Actually, I'm looking at a book, I'm reading a book, I'm trying to get started."


Carl Orff is credited with saying, "Tell me, I forget, show me, I remember, involve me, I understand."

Humans learn best through modeling and practice. Thus, teachers' lessons are created to incorporate both for optimal learning. If clips of President Trump's interactions, provide example of how to treat others respectfully, civilization will prove to not be to civil.

Sense of Humor

One of the first and most important lessons a teacher learns is to refrain from using sarcasm. When it is misunderstood it becomes mockery and if the joke must be explained, it is not funny. Successful teachers use humor to promote a positive learning environment:

  • To laugh at themselves when they make a mistake
  • By allowing students to share their creative sides
  • When creating connections between content and life events
  • Redirecting attention from inconsequential comments or behavior

In contrasts, Trump often is called upon to explain (or defend) what he defines as humor.

  • When he asked the Russians to find Hilary Clinton's emails, "I will tell you this: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," Trump said at a press conference on July 27, 2016.
  • When he claimed (repeatedly) the President Obama was literally the founder of the terrorist group ISIS.
  • When his remarks about police brutality ended with a request., "Please don't be too nice." 
  • Or when in response to protests that turned violent by a few he made a threat. "When the looting starts the shooting starts."

Each example reinforces the claim that if an explanation is required, it's not funny and sarcasm produces harmful, ineffective results.

Interpersonal Skills

Education demands all people work in collaboration to support a positive outcome. When conflict exists, the response can't be to fire the students, the parents, or the teachers. All parties must compromise to resolve problems. When Trump's response during conflict ends with the statement, "You're fired," compromise is nonexistent. Strange how two public entities that are both expected to function in the interest of society display such a dichotomy of management techniques.


Evidence supports the flaws in Trump's verbal communication skills. When he speaks, his words tend to be dehumanizing, demoralizing, ambiguous, severely exaggerated, racist, manipulative, and incendiary. Though this would be an excellent vocabulary list for students, a teacher who uses these techniques would be out of a job.


Teachers are required to participate in annual self-evaluation as well as a system of observations and assessments by an administrator. Feedback is provided and used for professional growth. 

Trumps self-evaluation is evident through quotes on his own performance. Only after four years on the job will his true effectiveness be appraised through the 2020 election results. Personal quotes show he believes he is the best president of all time, seldom offering evidence to support his claim.

"A lot of good things are happening. Really good things. We're very proud of the job we've done." (Washington Examiner)

"I think we've done more than perhaps any president in the first 100 days." (Washington Examiner)

"I'd give us an A." (Washington Examiner)

"We have had tremendous success, but we don't talk about it." (AP)

"I've passed a lot of legislative bills that people don't even know about." (Washington Examiner)

"Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest - and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure. It's not your fault." Donald Trump on Twitter 2013

"I'm speaking with myself, №1, because I have a very good brain and I've said a lot of things. … My primary consultant is myself." (MSNBC, 2016)


Possibly one of most important jobs of a teacher is to manage the masses. Disruptions impact learning negatively. When the teacher in the room relies on an outside source to maintain order, they lose control and are viewed as ineffective. Seldom, if ever, does a competent, qualified instructor relinquish management of their command because in so doing, they surrender power. 

Effective leaders possess the tools to supervise without calling in the National Guard or Military Troops. And I have never observed a teacher retreat to the basement. In fact, teachers are trained to attack if an active shooter enters the building.

School Do Not Use Electoral Colleges to Promote Teachers

Teachers are hired for skills, experience, and knowledge. They are constantly under scrutiny to perform professionally, disperse accurate information supported by science and follow a code of conduct that identifies ethical norms and standards of behavior. Teachers are required to use researched based strategies, follow best practices, and gather statistical data to support their effectiveness. 

President Trump gathered enough electoral votes to hold office, but he would never survive the keen senses of American teenagers, the expectations of a school board, or the demands of parents of student in public education.

Brenda Mahler
Brenda Mahler
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Brenda Mahler

You are invited to my blog, I AM My Best. I write stories about life experiences: teaching, mental health, parenting, dealing with illnesses and death, and some politics.

See all posts by Brenda Mahler