The entrance to my school is through a park, where several branching paths eventually merge and usher my students forth into the bowels of elementary education. On Monday, I took to the park with my earphones in, and soon noticed there was some amount of commotion up ahead. Being in Korea, and being at a Korean primary school, I am strangely acclimated to loud, showy commotions: people chanting, people singing, people waving signs, people distributing leaflets. This is common. It is not as common for my kids to be the perpetrators.
Being the relentless attention-hog that I am, I switched paths so that I could walk the gauntlet and witness the frenzy first-hand. One of my camp kids, JW, spotted me from afar, screamed my name, and took off running. His compatriots followed, and they stopped before me and began to sing their campaign chant, while telling me to vote for CM, Grade 5 candidate number one. When I informed them that I probably didn’t get to vote, they chanted once more. The further I moved along the path, the more I was accosted once more in partisan passion, as my students threw logic to the wind, abandoned their usual terror of English, and urged me to vote for their chosen one.
The campaigns went on for three or four days, much of it bewildering and bizarre as it was comprehensible. When I could read the signs, they usually said the same things (Our school! Happy, clean, fun!), though the parents obviously differed in how much money they shelled out. Some went for heart-felt and homemade, with lots of glitter-glue and embossed construction paper, while the eventual student president, DG, had professionally printed and graphically designed posters (he also, in person, seemed like he really did not want to be in the race, but as my co-teacher mentioned, his mother was probably in on it). What some lacked in flash, they made up for in intensity. And sashes. There were a lot of sashes.
The eventual winners were not at all who I predicted, but I did play a part in student democracy, and got to enjoy embarassing my grade 6s by taking pictures of the candidates. And ultimately, that’s what teaching is all about, probably.