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Integrity Matters

On Monday, February 20, 2017 it was President's Day; the perfect time to reflect on honesty and integrity. As a teacher, there was no subject that I loved teaching more than Social Studies. I found that an introduction to presidents and historical figures was particularly mesmerizing to my young students. This topic offered up the opportunity to engage in history, but also to emphasize important values such as hard work, bravery, determination, and honesty. As a lead up to the Presidents Day holiday, I always focused on our nation’s iconic leaders, Washington and Lincoln. Both men led our country in times of great peril, and both shared the quality that we so want to impart to our youngest learners—integrity. As part of the greater unit of study, I told the tale of George Washington and the Cherry Tree. Most historians believe this tale is indeed a myth, however the lesson it imparts resonates deeply for children. In the tale, George wants to use his shiny hatchet ever so much, and disobeys his parents by cutting down a beloved cherry orchard tree. Later, George fesses up to his father, and is rewarded by his father for telling the truth. My students loved to dramatize this tale, making it even more powerful.

Lincoln, nicknamed Honest Abe, came by the name during his tenure as a shop clerk. Lincoln would walk miles to return a few pennies if a customer was shortchanged or a purchase was weighed incorrectly. As a child, Lincoln borrowed a library book that was ruined by the rain. It is chronicled that he worked for three days to pay back the amount it would cost to replace the book.

So how do we instill these same virtues in our children? We share these and other inspirational stories with them. We talk about how much we admire those who make good choices and practice modeling those same honest behaviors ourselves. Parents and teachers can help their children by acting as Washington’s father did when George confesses to the cherry tree incident; he let his son know that it was okay to make a mistake and that he valued truthfulness. By making honesty more important than punishment, we help truth telling seem less difficult.

Our first, and sixteenth president have paved the way for us in countless areas. Both are revered for their contributions to our country, but as our little ones begin the journey of school, both Washington and Lincoln pave the way for character education.


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