Heading to the Classroom by Bob Lowry
I should quickly qualify: I will be teaching one class a week for 5 weeks as a volunteer with the Junior Achievement program. The goals are to explain some basic economic literacy and talk about the possibilities of entrepreneurship. In my case it will be with 26 students in a 4th grade class at an elementary school not far from my home. If all goes well, I will become a regular part of the school’s schedule.
My mom taught and volunteered in schools for over 40 years. Betty was a preschool teacher for a couple of decades. And, I guess being a consultant for 25 years was a form of teaching. Even so, I have never pictured myself in front of a bunch of real children, in a real school, with a real lesson plan to work through.
I’m finding it kind of exciting, and scary. I was looking for a new volunteer activity that put me in a position to positively affect children’s lives, and this seems to fit the bill.
To quote from Junior Achievement’s web site, it is the “nation’s largest organization dedicated to giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success, plan for their futures, and make smart academic and economic choices.“
Financial literacy is one of the major factors in determining the economic well being of an individual. In the United States, a recent study shows that nearly two-thirds of Americans couldn’t pass a basic financial literacy test, so we are failing to educate our children and adults about the way that world operates. Junior Achievement is one of the major players in attempting to change these alarming statistics by focusing on our youth.
I had a training session a few weekends ago. It was my first chance to look at the teaching material, the use of my time in the classroom, and the benefits I may leave behind. I was quite impressed with the quality of all the material, and the thoroughness of the plan. I will have all sorts of visual aids, graphics, activities, and concepts to bring alive to my class. The lesson plan for each 45 minute class is plotted out for me. I just have to bring it alive and make it interesting.
The school I have been assigned is in a poorer section of town. Almost 100% of the 750 students receive free or discounted school lunches. It does not rank very well academically among other elementary schools in the area. This leaves me a little uneasy. I hope there is no serious language barrier or that the concepts I am presenting will have some relevance to the world in which these kids live.
At the same time, this situation means these children are very likely to benefit from a positive message of economic potential. If this course can give them a sense of possibilities along with a basic understanding of how their decisions will affect their future, then the time is well worth it.
I am likely to start teaching toward the end of this month. I’ll share with you how it goes.
By Bob Lowry