This week, I have had both of these things on my mind. They might be two separate blogs, but I will see if I can make sense of it here.
A few weeks ago, I sent out a message to staff – is there a class interested in partnering to hold a student election? I had ordered materials from CIVIX last fall for the Federal election and never had the opportunity to use them due to Covid protocols. We were not allowed to hold a student election. I had ordered materials again this Spring now that we are allowed to mix cohorts. I was not entirely surprised that no one took me up on the offer. It is report card time. Plus, teachers did activities related to their government units in Social Studies with the Federal election this past fall. But, I still felt that it was important to do. So, I tried another approach. I sent en email asking if there were students interested in helping run the student election and I got the names of a wonderful group of keen Grade 4 and 5 students.
We held a meeting and I showed them the official looking ballots that we had been sent for London West. They helped make boxes for the ballots and talked about how we would set up the screens and what we needed (class lists, highlighters and pencils). We discussed roles and made a schedule which involved two areas (different poling stations I guess). One in the library and one in the Maker-space. We discussed safety – both have separate entrances, hand gel and HEPA units. This way, we could host two classes at a time and get all the voting done in the first two blocks of the day. They were so excited to come into school 15 minutes early to help set everything up.
Ahead of “election day”, I posted the posters sent to me and shared videos made by CIVIX about the provincial electoral process. I highlighted all 9 candidates. I shared helpful websites like “Vote Compass” so that students could figure out the political party for them based on what issues are important to them. CIVIX has a YouTube Channel with a number of resources. CBC Kids News also has some great videos to share about elections. I shared the CIVIX lessons with teachers (in French and in English) digitally. I didn’t get any invites to come and do a lesson with a class, but that is okay. This is a little seed that I plan to grow in years ahead.
On Thursday, 297 students from Grades 1-8 voted. Our 50 Kindergartens were on a field trip. We have about 20+ students learning online currently. Our student population is around 420 students, so that was a pretty good turn out (70% ). Certainly better than the 43% of the Ontario adult population who voted. I saw this graph and thought it would be interesting to discuss. Is there a bias in it?
Prior to each voting session with classes, students went over the voting process: how to properly fill out a ballot so that it was not spoiled (we had 12 spoiled ballots – most added a name to the ballot: Batman). I explained why student elections are important. I shared that a lot of young voters feel intimidated to vote, so this was practice so that it was easy when they turn 18. I shared and students were shocked to hear that only about 60% of eligible voters vote. Wait until they see the abysmal turn out by the adults last Thursday! I encouraged them to get their family members out to vote and to go with them if they could. I shared that I would share the results from our election and compare them to the official results in our school, our riding and in Ontario. One class even made identification cards for themselves (with photo ID!).
While this was happening in the Library Learning Commons, the real election was happening in the gym. Members of the public smiled as they left the gym and saw the election happening in the LLC. I noticed one of our former students was working at the poll for the day. I wonder if she ever participated in a student election? I am sure that she did with my colleague Gord back in the day…
My student helpers were amazing. Obsessed with making sure we got our pencils back, thanking students for voting in the Ontario Election. They were polite and professional. But when it came time to count the ballots their excitement was contagious. I literally sat back and let them take it away. We had a whiteboard with candidate names. Students emptied boxes and reported results. They decided that although there was a clear winner, they wanted to make sure their numbers were accurate and pooled all the ballots and counted them again a different way. I had to ensure that they would not share the results with others, which they loved.
And then, I entered our results online to be combined with the rest of Ontario.
As you can see, students elected an entirely different government than we did. If I can get personal, the government below, “elected” by students looks like a dream. And before you discount their results, keep in mind that students have felt the impact of this pandemic in a number of ways adults have not.
In our riding, London West our results for the winner were the same (Peggy Sattler – NDP), but there were some interesting differences in 2nd, 3rd and 4th place… the Green Party did better than the Progressive Conservative Party in my area! So interesting. I need to have a follow-up meeting with these students to analyze together on Monday. The graphs below are the election results for London West: first the actual results and below it are our white board school totals.
Do you want to see student results for your riding? Well, you can check them out here:
Some students who have a keen interest in politics certainly came forward in our student election. What are we doing in schools to foster this? What can I do next year? Eco-Club? Student government? If these were my students, their participation in this would be in their Learning Skills comments. We have to highlight these things. I know that some Teacher-Librarian colleagues of mine have attended CIVIX virtual workshops and were impressed and inspired by them. I need to commit to this.
What are leaders currently doing to foster leadership in others and raise others up? I know one concern I have in my area is that there seem to be less women and more men “at the top” than before at my school board and ETFO local. While I have always been more comfortable with less formal leadership roles, maybe I need to put my money where my mouth is and start exploring some more formal leadership. Never say never…
We have 4 years to really grow and select better leaders. Let’s not squander it. Let’s raise a generation that will vote in every election because it is just the right thing to do. A good habit. Some of the Grade 8 students that voted this week might be eligible to vote 4 years from now! Let’s encourage students to be compassionate and hopeful. That is how we combat the apathy. But what else can we do? Please share with me in the comments below.