Friday, 4 October 2013

What I Learned From Grade 3s!

Hey Everyone,

Recently I had an awesome opportunity to engage a classroom full of grade 3 students; the teacher reached out to Ken Johnston and I over Twitter and invited us to teach her class about democracy! I am grateful to have collaborated with a fellow Red Deer City Council Candidate to do this!  

#RDVote Red Deer city council #RedDeerFirst
First I spoke about civic pride and about taking ownership of our city by respecting others and caring for our community. I asked the kids how we could do this and their response was very positive! They told me about not littering and not speeding. They told me about listening to teachers and caring for trees at the park. I am very impressed and I respect the job their teachers are doing!

Then Ken spoke about the city government and how it provides our water and electrical utilities. He was very engaging with the kids drew their attention to many examples of how the city provides for their quality of life. He taught them that city government contributes to their day-to-day lives directly in many ways and that voting is very important. I admire his ability to captivate the children!

After that, Ken and I handed out monopoly money for tax payments and began the election debate. Ken was for building new swings and I was for building new slides. We both felt that we knew the best way to invest the tax dollars and we took turns appealing to the students. We discussed safety, fun and convenience and we drew many smiles!

Halfway through the presentation a kid said that he didn’t want a slide or a swing but that he wanted a bouncy castle! It was then that I realized how important it is to listen and engage with the kids and not just assume that I know what they want. It is important to be mindful of how the issues are framed.

Though this was just a pretend election, it taught me that as a councilor I will have to make hard decisions that not everyone will support.

The results of the vote came in and there were 36 students who wanted new swings and 5 students who wanted new slides. Those 5 students paid the same amount of taxes as the rest. But we all agreed ahead of time to support the decision.

At the end of the class many interesting questions were asked. What does the mayor do? What happens when there is a draw? What happens if nobody turns out to vote? The kids were very excited to hear us answer their questions and I am glad to have been able to teach the kids about democracy. I hope Ken and I made a lasting impression on them.

The kids did, however, make an impression on me! I understand that the benefits of community investments aren’t always measured in dollars but are often measured in the general well being of the people. Fiscal responsibility must be coupled with the purpose of building community and planning for the future; there must be a bigger picture view!

I understand that there isn’t always a right and a wrong way. Even though the slide was more valuable to some and the swing was more valuable to others; sometimes the best solution isn’t what the majority wants. If there were no slides and there were already lots of swings it would have been better to build a slide. I can see how things are interconnected and I recognize the challenges of being an effective leader.
#RDVote Jonathan Wieler

I believe that the willingness and the ability to collaborate are paramount virtues of a city councilor. Ken and I best served the kids when we worked together to find the best solution. Though we each have different values and viewpoints we found a solution that worked. That’s effective leadership!

I am reminded of my favorite Winston Churchill quote, “democracy is the worst form of government except [for] all those other forms [of government]”.


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"By getting the kids involved in the democratic process and teaching them about civic pride I hope they will be inspired to take ownership of their city and be proud of it." - Jonathan Wieler