Nuggets of Pedagogy: Election Time


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.

 

Democracy in motion.

 

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.

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4 thoughts on “Nuggets of Pedagogy: Election Time

  1. Oh my gosh- I love your intro to the Stupid ugly foreigner. Let me guess the true one is that you rescued three polarbear cubs! So funny. Anyways, just thought I’d give a shout out to another expat blogger. Cool blog.

    • Unfortunately, no. I only rescued 2 polar bear cubs, the last one perished, though not because of the fire, but from an unrelated incident with a Frenchman and a whaling boat. The waffle iron was the true statement.

      Always cool to hear from others out in the world, far away from home!

  2. Ha, this reminds me of the documentary “Please Vote for Me.” It’s about an election in a Chinese elementary school class: http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/pleasevoteforme/
    The parents get REALLY involved, putting what seems like ridiculous amounts of money and effort towards a little grade school election. The filmmakers seem to suggest this is a consequence of China’s “one child” policy. Maybe there is a similar dynamic in Korea; while there isn’t an official policy or anything, I’ve read that the trend is to have fewer kids nowadays because the cost of educating a Korean child has become prohibitively expensive.

    • Many families I’ve met definitely have fewer kids, and focus a lot on pushing that one to great heights. I think it’s also part of the pressure in the culture to be the best, to strive for the best constantly, that pushes silly student elections over the top.

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