Ask anyone what they dislike most about politics, and chances are they’ll probably say something about how negative the races usually are. It seems like they just can’t say or do anything positive. It’s all about tearing down their opponent and avoiding what they will actually DO if they are elected.
The last couple of weeks of school got me to thinking about how much many of those who are running for office could learn from my 5th graders on running a campaign.
Last week, I had three students from each of my classes run for class representative of Student Council. They all made cute posters with catchy slogans. Interestingly, they were all girls, no boys ran for election.
The thing that impressed me most was when it came to them having to give a speech in front of their classes. At recess on the day of the speeches, two of the girls (who are best friends) running against each other in one class were working on their speeches together. One was really nervous, and the other was trying to help her with her speech. The one helping was giving her suggestions based on her speech, without worrying about how similar they would sound. She just wanted to help her friend, even up to the last-minute before they gave their speeches.
In my homeroom class, one girl had written a song for her campaign speech. She tried to do it from memory, but forgot the rest of her song half way through. She was a bit embarrassed, and I just asked her to finish by telling the class anything about herself as to why they should consider voting for her. She did, but it didn’t end there.
The next morning, she showed up with a piece of paper in her hands. It was her campaign song. She asked if she could sing her song again, and finish what she had started. I told her everyone had already voted, and it wouldn’t change the outcome. She understood that, but she just needed to finish, and she was very determined about this. The winners hadn’t been announced yet, so I told her she could at the end of the day. She sang her very catchy campaign song to the tune of The Mickey Mouse Club song, spelling out her own name rather than Mickey’s.
After she had finished, we were packing up for home when the announcements were made. She didn’t win, but she seemed fine and not upset. She finished packing up and left at the first dismissal bell.
Most of my students were still in class after she left, waiting for their dismissal bell, and singing her song.
“It’s just so catchy! I can’t stop singing it!”
“She was so brave to do it again.”
These were things I was hearing them say about her. It was so touching and sweet. I texted her mom, so she would know just what a wonderful job her daughter had done.
One thing I had both classes do was take notes during the campaign speeches. I told them it was important to research who they wanted to vote for. I’ve been reading their notes, and they are just amazing. Here are a few of them about all the student council candidates:
“I love her idea to make it a song. She has some guts to go in and sing out there. Her song was catchy.”
“She isn’t afraid to fail.”
“That song took guts.”
“She’s trying something new.”
“She gets nervous.” (One of our candidates was very blunt and honest, saying she gets nervous doing new things. I’m guessing the student who wrote this comment could relate to this.)
I’m not sure where we got the idea that negativity and trashing opponents was the way to run for public office. How can someone say they’ll build up our community, state, or nation while simultaneously tearing down someone simply because they are running against them? At least my students haven’t picked up on this, or at least they chose to stay on topic about why they would be the best choice for class rep. Candidates could learn a thing or two from them.