Tales from Towne: Interviews and Elections

Susan Stenhaug General 18 Comments

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One of the most highly anticipated days for a fourth or fifth grader in the Denver area is the day he or she comes to Young AmeriTowne.  It’s a day they will remember for years to come.  I meet people in their 20s and 30s who remember what job they had or what shop they worked in.  Of course, the day of the field trip only lasts about 3-4 hours, but what some people aren’t aware of is the amount of preparation needed at school before the students step on a bus to come to Young Ameritowne.  At school, teachers spend 2-6 weeks’ teaching curriculum designed to prepare students for their trip.

One of the most time consuming and amusing parts of this curriculum is interviewing students for job placements in town.  Everyone fills out an application and interviews for a job (i.e. a doctor, reporter, teller, etc.) but only two positions are voted on by the students themselves; the mayor and Judge.  There is a general election where anyone can run for one of these two positions, which consists of giving a short speech in front of classmates, who vote on their top 4 candidates for each position.  Teachers announce the top 4 candidates and divide the class into campaign teams.  Teams help their candidate make posters and write speeches culminating in a primary election.  Candidates give 1 final speech and the winners are announced a few days before the field trip.

Since this process happens back at school, I, fortunately never have the difficult task of delivering the bad news to the unlucky candidates.  Working with fifth graders every day, I know how easily tears are shed and feelings can be hurt.  How do the teachers avoid this becoming a popularity contest?

A few weeks ago, I gained unique insight to this question.  It changed the way I see fifth grade students, and I now know not to be surprised.  We had a mayor and judge who were twin brothers, Drew and Evan.  They weren’t identical, but both had happy demeanors, and were kind and respectful to each other.  The only noticeable difference was Drew’s autism.  It was apparent when he gave his speech, which was typed, as most mayors will do, but he read it very slow, with care, and held it directly in front of his face.  Here is a snippet of his speech: “Remember, my door is always open so please stop by with any questions, concerns, or ideas to make AmeriTowne a better place.”mayor and judge blog 007

When Drew concluded his speech, his classmates burst into applause, in obvious support, but no one more obvious than his brother standing next to him, who could be seen nodding along the entire duration of his brother’s speech.  When I asked Drew why he decided to run, he said his brother told him to do it.  He told Drew it wasn’t a popularity contest.  When he won, he said, “It was a test to me that I am truly qualified for this position.  A good mayor requires humor and smartness.”

Well said, Drew.  These kids are so much wiser than I was giving them credit for.  They support one another, cheer each other on, and vote for the most qualified candidate.  They work hard and are caring and I will never take them for granted again!

Teacher’s Tip: Don’t announce Mayor and Judge until you are announcing the other students’ positions.  This will deter from tears and still gives everyone a chance to go through the application process.

Comments 18

  1. Becky, we recommend that you wear something appropriate for your first day of work! But, be sure your shoes are comfortable–you’ll spend a lot of time walking around Towne. See you soon!

  2. I am giving my judge speech on Tuesday, do you have any advice for me. Such as what should I wear on that day, or should I memorize my speech.

  3. Hi Sabrina, how exciting! I recommend that you dress up a bit for your speech as that will help your classmates take you more seriously. You don’t have to memorize your speech, but practice enough times that you can look up at the audience more than looking down at your paper. Sometimes it helps to do bullet points so you know what to talk about, but you don’t have to read every word you’ve written. Finally, be honest and tell your classmates why you would make the best judge. Good luck!

  4. Hi Elynor,
    Congratulations! For your speech, we recommend that you do a couple of things:

    1. Say thank you to those that helped you become Mayor. Maybe you’d like to thank your family, your teachers , and your classmates?

    2. Provide some advice for your fellow citizens about their day. Has your teacher suggested any goals or given any direction about some good things to do?

    We don’t require that your speech is memorized, but it helps if you’re not reading from a paper the whole time. We look forward to seeing you in Young AmeriTowne!

  5. Hi Terry,

    Why not run for Mayor? I think you’ll gain valuable experience, whether you win or not. Good luck!

  6. I Got to be mayor one year, it was awesome!!!! I loved it!! this year my brother is running for mayor, and i’m running for judge!!

  7. Hi Madison,

    That’s so exciting! We can’t wait to see you both in AmeriTowne, and congratulations!

  8. Hi Hanna, I think you should keep running…you might not win the election, but I bet you’ll learn a lot in the process! And it’s ok if you don’t win. There are so many fun positions in Young AmeriTowne. Good luck!

  9. Dear Jasper,

    It is our recommendation that you run! Even if you don’t win, you’ll likely learn something in the process that will help you in the future. Maybe you’ll gain confidence speaking in front of a group, or maybe you’ll learn what kinds of things to say (or not to say) in a campaign speech that will help you if you run for student council some day! Good luck, and we’ll see you in AmeriTowne soon!

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