As Model United Nations (MUN) conferences proliferate and develop, schools would get more opportunities to participate in MUNs locally and abroad. In certain conferences, especially those overseas, teachers might be involved as well. Usually, many chaperone their students to the conference venue, then leave to do their marking elsewhere, but only because they lack the MUN experience to contribute more significantly to their delegation. So what is the role of the teacher at a MUN conference, and what more can they do during a conference?
The teacher’s role at a conference should be in overseeing their delegations to make sure that delegation morale and discipline remains high. In many MUN conferences, the level of competition means that delegates would be contesting for awards across almost all councils. As a result, even senior members of the delegation might be occupied with competing in their own committees. Because of the intensity of these competitions, they might miss the bigger picture about looking after the welfare of the entire delegation. In this vein, the role of the teacher is to monitor the conference dynamics and their delegates’ condition. While teachers still can delegate the task of ensuring that the delegation spirits are kept high by the head delegate and senior members of the team, they can also play that role because of their authority as teachers, and because they would be much more detached from the action. Hence, just like a football coach at a sports game, the teacher can offer team talks to delegates at the end of conference days to keep the delegation morale going.
In addition, the teacher should serve as a proactive point of contact between the delegation and the conference secretariat. The dynamics between conference organisers and teachers, is different compared to head delegates. Conference organisers are more likely to take the words of teachers more seriously as opposed to delegates – if only because the former are adults and figures of authority over the latter. As such, the influence of the teacher far outweighs that of his/her delegates and head delegate. In the event that there are complaints and issues to address, conference organisers tend to take more consideration for the inputs of teachers than delegates. In addition, by serving as the point of contact with the conference organisers, this would also free up delegates to compete for the school at the conference. While teachers may assign tasks to students to take care of the delegation, having an additional voice of authority stemming from the status of a teacher definitely does not hurt.
Lastly, teachers could also seize their time at the conference to network with fellow teachers from schools elsewhere to expand their professional network and that of the different schools and MUN clubs. International MUN conferences would contain delegations across different nationalities from schools around the world, and therein lies an opportunity for fellow teacher advisors attending the conference to get to know one another to increase the exchanges between delegations. This could be a chance to exchange contacts between schools, and potentially opens up opportunities for exchanges in terms of delegates attending each other’s very own MUN conferences.
Hence, the role of teachers at MUN conferences is actually broader than simply chaperoning delegates to conference venues. With their status as educators, they could also help to coach the delegation to fight on in the conferences when the competition gets tough, serve as effective points of contact with organisers to improve the delegation’s experience at the MUN conference, and network with fellow educators and potentially expand the exchanges between schools and MUN clubs that they both represent.