‘What if” scenarios

I’m Somebody & So Are You!

The ‘Human Connection’ in Education:
Teaching Tools for Character & Academic I.Q. Growth:
II ‘What if” scenarios

By Vera Ripp Hirschhorn, M.S.

Contact vera@creatingcurriculum.com for professional development & teacher training workshops

“Between stimulus and response, there is space. In that space lies our freedom and our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness.” Victor Frankl

In the foreword of the 2005 edition of my award-winning book, Teens Are Heroes, Too! Challenges, Choices & Character, I invited my colleagues and future teachers enrolled in our nation’s College of Education courses to implement ‘human elements’ in their interdisciplinary lessons. Examples of these ‘human elements’ are in the stories of ‘triumph over adversities’ by, for and about teens, in the thought-provoking questions and ‘hero activities.’

Youngsters in these stories of triumph chose to solve difficult situations with a positive attitude, gratitude, self-respect, respect for others, compassion/caring at home, school or community. They were ‘victors’ who were part of the solution rather than ‘victims’ who are generally part of the problem. The “victors’ thoughts were about the ‘possibility’ rather than the ‘difficulty’ of resolving a challenging situation.

These stories are a good source for ‘what if’ scenarios that can help empower students with confidence. Role playing in ‘what if’ scenarios can further teach conflict resolution.

“What if’ scenarios based on real life situations such as those in Teens Are Heroes, Too! can inspire students to choose to:

  1. accept, with grace, challenges at home, school or community that are beyond their control
  2. respond with courage to challenges that are within their control with positive choices and positive action using their identified unique talents, skills and character attributes.
  3. get involved in a ‘cause’ about which they’re passionate for their benefit and the benefit of others.

“What if’ scenarios can also originate from teens’ anti-bullying solutions in the America’s Young Heroes contests; Blog I in www.creatingcurriculum.com includes these award–winning short films, documentaries, short stories, poems, digital art and songs.

Such ‘what if’ scenarios can help students with:

1.Awareness to understand and recognize their own emotions.


3.Self-trust and self-empowerment such as in challenging situations in which they chose to transform from a victim into a victor rather than fear criticism, rejection, abandonment or fear of ego/physical death.

4.Empathy for others (even for bullies)

5.Relationship skills

Harmony and oneness rather than duality and separateness;

Respect for each other’s diversities including academic, socioeconomic, physical or mental disabilities, ethnic, religious or racial

6. Embracing their weakness as well as their strengths

7.Transforming their pain into ‘Passion with Purpose’ and sharing the experience for the benefit of themselves and others.

‘What if’ scenarios can also be evoked from ‘hero activities’ such as “What’s Bugging You? in which anonymous input from students’ real life personal issues is requested. Solutions given by different teams of students can offer awareness, safe expression, hope and self-empowerment; thus, what if’ scenarios can be an asset to a student’s personal growth.

‘What if’ scenarios based on such ‘hero activities’ can help educators encourage students:

I. To identify their innate heroic attributes such as:

  • Self respect and respect for others
  • Fortitude
  • Compassion and Caring
  • Overcoming obstacles with a positive attitude
  • Gratitude
  • Citizenship

II. To Identify their unique intelligences (mental, emotional, physical, spiritual such as the discovery of one’s meaning in life).

“What If” scenarios can be valuable for self and peer- assessment while increasing critical thinking skills as described in Bloom’s Taxonomy such as knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. ‘What if’ scenarios can be useful to educators in assessing relationship skills in addition to problem-solving skills. Students who volunteer to ‘act out’ or role play the scenarios can initiate improvised dialogue and discussion from peers upon the completion of the ‘role playing’ while remaining ‘in character.’

I have often wondered, ‘what if’ the perpetrators at Columbine H.S. were taught to discover and become aware of their innate heroic attributes, talents, skills and potential via Self & Peer Assessment Tools? ‘What if’ Eric and Dylan were immersed in daily or weekly self-empowerment ‘hero activities?’

‘What if’ they took part in role-playing scenarios or anonymously contributed in the ‘What’s Bugging You” activity in which the entire class dialogued for empathetic solutions.

Could they have been able to transform their sadness, pain, anger or fears from being bullied, into triumph, like the contemporary and historical youngsters in Teens Are Heroes, Too! Challenges, Choices & Character? Would they still have craved the respect they expressed on a videotape in which they stated, “maybe next week we’ll get the respect we deserve.”

Regardless of the challenges licensed or future teachers in teacher training courses experience as well as their students, they can learn, via ‘what if’ scenarios that they have the power to choose their response as Viktor Frankl wrote. They can choose words and actions that are helpful, empathetic, compassionate and kind to themselves and to the challenging person or situation. “What if” scenarios can help ‘nurture’ and create future role models.

As Susan Schaller, the teacher of American sign language for deaf students and author of Man without Words wrote, “without the human element, academics is spiritless. With it, there is a bonding and understanding of hope.”

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