On April 3rd I had the 10th grade students do an extra activity in the evening (7:30 – 10:30pm) as part of their study night for civics. I was able to work closely with my cooperating teacher to get permission to make it a mandatory event for all students and to use the school hall and access to the sound system and microphones for the event. The purpose behind having the students complete a mock legislature activity outside of class was to make up for a gap in instructional time due to the holidays and 12th grade exams as well as to get the students first hand experience writing and passing laws for their own community modeling the process employed at the national level. What I wanted them to see was how the legislative assembly breaks down roles within itself for proposing laws, amending bills, and reaching a consensus. I also wanted them to experience what it was like trying to work in huge numbers of people and all trying to reach the same conclusions. Because different groups would be doing a number of items while others had no work to do I also added a reading comprehension aspect by having the students read excerpts from the Indonesian Constitution in English aloud and answer questions which were to be turned in to me from their small group.
The night started off on a shaky foot because the hall was not open or unlocked like it was supposed to be so we had to relocate to the upper floor and balcony of the main office building. Once everyone had gotten in and settled I was able to explain what was going to happen for the night. During the event students were broken down into three main groups: the proposal committee (consisting of 30 students whose role would be to discuss and draft their own bill proposal), the MPR (the legislative body that would listen and debate the bill made up of 30 students) and the subcommittees (which would be further divided into four groups to edit and revise the bill for final approval - four subcommittees were created from 40 students). I took volunteers at random to make up each group and get them started on the actual discussion and writing process.
While the proposal committee worked first on the balcony to brainstorm ideas for laws that they could write for the school the other students worked in groups of 5 - 7 students reading and answering their constitution questions. I was able to walk around, ask pointed corrections, and help with English as necessary. During their planning meeting it was clear that there were a number of things that students were not pleased about at school. Once the time was up for them to finish drafting their bill I had all students gather while the proposal committee selected one member to read out the bill for the rest of the assembly. After the bill was read I gave the students sometime to debate their bill in a formal setting. During the debate it became very clear that the issues (English usage in class and on campus, the amount of homework assigned, and the organization of study nights/tutorial classes) the proposal committee had chosen to address were very close to the hearts and minds of these students. Many got involved and spoke up during the debate very passionately defending why this was a good bill to pass or not. It was great to see the students showing their enthusiasm and energy over such serious concerns. It really showed me just how invested these kids really are in their education and really trying to make things better for themselves and others.
Once time had run out for the debate I gave the subcommittees and MPR time to review and edit the bill in detail. While they worked on their revisions and suggested changes, the proposal committee started to work on their constitutions. After all the revisions and suggestions were finished I collected them and gathered the entire class back together. At this point each suggestion was read out loud and voted on my the entire group (saying yeah or nay if it was to be passed). What changes were made were to keep homework assignments the same; to have a spy committee to spot check and give rewards (house point cards) or punishments (extra duties) for those who did not speak English when it was required; and to make study nights/tutorial classes optional. In the end we had a final reading and one mass vote by having the students raise their hand. The bill ended up passing the legislature by a vote of 86 – 94.
Afterwards I had the students complete a two paragraph reflection for the event detailing telling why or why this isn’t a good method for writing laws and what aspects of the event they liked and disliked from the mock legislature. After reading their reflections is was clear that any of the things that students complained about in their reflections was the space and the amount of time the activity took. In the future I think if I were to repeat this activity I would definitely try and put it earlier in the day, on a Saturday, or over the course of several days. Given the situation without having keys is much harder to change because arrangements were made, in the future to make sure that it doesn’t happen again I will be sure to have to person in charge of the hall there so we can eliminate having to squash everyone into such a small place.
Many of the students saw the benefits to getting together as a class to complete this activity and the numerous lifeskills they were able to learn in the process. Many of them discussed how they don’t really answer or speak up in class, but that at the legislature activity they were able to contribute to their small groups and even discuss their thoughts and ideas in front of the whole group. Many were also able to see how making decisions for the group and leaning toward what you as the representative want for the community can be very challenging especially if you don’t agree with what the community wants. Overall I was very proud of the students for coming out and getting actively involved in the activity. It was reinvigorating to see the students get passionate during the debate, asking critical questions of each other, and working collectively to reach a final conclusion that everyone could be happy with. Their passion and excitement reminded me why I cared so much and why I wanted to become a teacher!