September 23, 2015

This Is How To Run For Office

Candidates Pixie and Ali
There is still more than a year to go until the presidential election of 2016. As the first candidates begin to drop out of the race before a primary vote has even been cast, there are already members of the electorate who are tired of the whole process.  Too much insincerity, too much money raised and spent, and dare I say, simply too much hot air!

The student council at Friends’ offers a different kind of campaign.

Only fifth graders are eligible to run for President and Vice-President of student council. Of our seventeen fifth graders, twelve have thrown their names in the ring. We have six pairs of students ‘on a ticket’ who wish to lead our student-led group that plans events and spirit days and brings the students’ voice to our school leadership.

Three years ago, following a trip to Washington D.C., 5th grade teacher Liz Richards re-designed the structure for our student council, integrated it with the 4th and 5th grade social studies curriculum on elections and government, and got the whole school chattering with anticipation and intrigue.

Liz Richards and all the candidates
While in D.C., Liz visited the Lincoln Memorial where she read the famous line from the Gettysburg address “This nation shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” She was inspired to bring history and government to life at Friends’.

Her strong personal interest in government, combined with the significance of the current election season, provided the perfect opportunity for Liz to do what all great teachers do:  make learning real, relevant, and exciting. With the support of her colleagues in the elementary school, Liz created a new student council. Candidates are being voted on this week by all our students. Posters adorn our hallways. Strict campaign rules are being followed. There are no privately funded special interest groups here. Only positive advertising is allowed.

Cameron & Mark
Last Wednesday our entire elementary school, and many parents, gathered in the Great Room to hear stump speeches. One even took the form of a song, set to We Will Rock You! The candidates were received with great respect and thunderous applause. Presidential and vice-presidential candidates promised everything from new recess equipment, class pets for every class, an all school stuffed animal swap, more gatherings, even “all fun, all the time!”

Today, Friday at 12:45, the winners will be announced. I don’t know who will win – I’m not privy to the results ahead of time – but there is something I feel very confident about. Whoever wins, the other ten candidates will be happy for them.  Each one of them can be proud of running a positive and upbeat campaign and I know that they will support their friends and classmates in their success.

Finn and Quinn
As Head of School, I am looking forward to working with our new President and Vice-President to help to improve our school.  I am eager to hear their ideas and have them report to me on what all the students are thinking.  While only two students will receive the most votes at the ballot box, they will not be the only winners.

The real winners are all of our elementary students.  They have an opportunity to get a jumpstart on one of their most important responsibilities as citizens: voting. We all got a taste of what it’s like to hear positive ideas set forth by candidates, instead of the negative messages.  And it was all done in a supportive educational atmosphere ripe with respect and courtesy. 

Thanks to Liz and all our candidates for a race well run.

No comments: