- High School
Email received one week before the first Model United Nations (MUN) conference: Mr. South, I am experiencing intense, suffocating anxiety and fear when I think of the upcoming conference. For my health I feel it is best if I do not attend. I think the pressure may cause an aneurysm, or bring on fainting spells.
My response: Dear Joe, trust me, you’ll be fine. Everyone gets nervous as the conference approaches. I have been doing this a long time and I know you are ready. While I am concerned about your health, I think we can work through the anxiety without an ambulance standing by. But just in case, you should know that the conference organizers have a doctor on site, as well as an ambulance.
Face to face, two days before the conference: “Mr. South. I’m not ready! My resolution is terrible! I haven’t had enough time to do all the research I need to debate either topic! I Googled my symptoms, and I’m pretty sure I have angina. Also I think I’m getting the flu, and maybe have dengue fever. And I still don’t understand what the difference is between a Point of Order and a Point of Information!”
My response: “You do look a little pale, but I think that may be from all the crisps I see you eating at lunch. As far as being prepared, I’ve seen your resolution, remember? I gave you an A. It’s excellent. I’ve also seen your research binder, we talked about the topics, you know them both inside and out. Take another look at your Parliamentary Procedure flashcards. You are ready.”
7am the morning of the first day of the conference. A phone call from Joe’s mom: “Tom, Joe locked himself in his bedroom. He won’t come out until he talks to you.”
“Put him on the phone.”
“I’m sorry Mr. South, I hate to let you down, but I think my angina is acting up, and I just can’t go to the conference.”
“Ok Joe. That’s fine. You’ve put a lot of work into getting ready for the conference, and your parents spent a lot of money buying you a new suit. Why don’t you just put the suit on, come on down to the conference, and just observe. I can speak to your committee Chair and let them know you’ll be an observer delegate.”
“Ok Mr. South, I’ll come, just as long as I don’t have to give my speech or do anything more than watch.”
I’ve been a Model United Nations Director/Advisor for fifteen years. The above happens before every conference my students take part in. Every conference there is one student who thinks they Just. Can’t. Do It.
Joe will show up in his brand new (first) suit with a badly tied tie. Joe will go into the room where his assigned committee is meeting and quietly sit down while he watches twenty other delegates excitedly talking about their committee topics and begin to form coalitions with like-minded delegates. Joe will realize he’s hearing nothing he doesn’t know. Joe will give his opening speech. Joe will take part in creating a resolution to solve whatever the issue is his committee has been assigned to address. At the end of the first day Joe’s eyes will be lit up. He’s excited. He’s proud. He can’t wait for day two.
This is why I do MUN. Seeing the lights come on in my terrified students' eyes when they realize They Can Do This. Usually by the end of day two they’re arguing about what the impact of Peru’s GDP will have on the next SDG meeting at the United Nations.
So what is MUN? It is a club or class in which students role-play as delegates to the United Nations and simulate UN committees. MUN students attend conferences held across the globe, where they debate on current international issues and try to come to an agreement on how to solve those issues. Just like in the United Nations.
MUN is a truly meaningful activity for middle and high school students. It brings the global community closer together, promotes awareness, and educates younger generations about the issues of the world today. By joining MUN, students gain skills like research and technical writing, problem-solving, diplomacy, and public speaking.
I’m very proud to bring Model United Nations to The Harbour School. This is year one of what I hope will be many years of academic skills building, looking at worldwide issues in a meaningful way, and allowing THS students the opportunity to take character building risks. It’s challenging, and it’s rewarding, especially for the Joe’s in the world.