March 7, 2017

I'm Headed To The Classroom - As a Teacher!


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.






22 comments:

  1. It's good at this point in life to do something exciting and scary. I'm sure the 4th graders will be in good hands. (But don't try to tell them that they can make any money by blogging!)

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    1. How true. I am supposed to deal in reality!

      The course is quite structured, but I know I will have to modify it to match the educational and language levels of these kids.

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  2. As a health educator for years, one of the most important directions I was ever given was to "make it real" for the audience. Hopefully the curriculum will not be so rigid that it can't be modified to appeal to the socioeconomic realities of this gr 4 group. I volunteer at the local elementary school with a group called the school "dignitaries". We assist the educators with their programs and the goal is to bring the community into the classroom and be visible to the student body. It's a positive connection with the community.

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    1. Based on the ethnic and economic background of this school I will probably be modifying the way I present vocabulary words and concepts of entrepreneurship, for example. Actually, I am more comfortable with a looser approach. I used to dislike teachers who just read from a script.

      I will be nervous for the first class, but figure my teacher genes will rise to the surface.

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  3. That sounds like a good match for your skills, Bob! And an interesting challenge. Good for you!

    I started some volunteer work at a food bank warehouse processing large skids of food into smaller packaging for distribution. While I think it's a helpful activity to Feed America, I'm not sure my back and knees can take the work on a warehouse floor even with anti-fatigue floor mats, and I may have to find another avenue of volunteer work. :-(

    --Hope

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    1. You are doing good work, but it does sound a bit much in terms of physical effort. Don't hurt yourself!

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  4. Good for you Bob.

    I volunteer as a literacy tutor for children in an inner city. Many of these students also have issues with math which they receive free tutoring. I have always been a strong believer that if one can't read and comprehend, no other subjects including Math will be conquered.

    I have neighbors who both teach in school system that I volunteer each week. One teaches kindergarten and the other teaches high school math. He complains constantly about the need to work on the student's reading skills first before he can even teach them math.

    I am challenged each week by my student and sometimes walk away frustrated, but I hold on to hope that she is getting a little better each time even though the progress is slow.

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    1. This course use math, but focuses on concepts and instilling a desire to achieve goals. I will be interested in the reading skills of these kids.

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  5. This is awesome..Do you know if similar JA opportunities are available in Houston ? I would love to do the same here in Texas...thanks

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    1. Contact Junior Achievement of Southeast Texas, headquartered in Houston, to see if they offer this program in local schools. The one I am doing is named, "Our Region."

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  6. Keeping your efforts in though and prayer Bob. As intimidating that it may be, what a gift it will be if you are able to translate your lifetime of wisdom in some small way to young children before they have made decisions which may adversely impact their whole lives! Pretty great opportunity!

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    1. The teacher figures since I was a radio DJ and started my own business the kids will be able to relate! Let's hope.

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  7. I'm sure you have fun. Great way to 'give back'. Enjoy!
    b

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    1. Thanks. It should be fun after the first day jitters.

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  8. Just wondering- did you have to go through a police check for this role? Where I live that's a common, almost standard requirement. Personally I find it rather off-putting. I guess that's the world we live in now- sad.

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    1. No, there was no background check. I asked but was told it isn't necessary...probably because the teacher stays in the classroom.

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  9. Congratulations on your new teaching gig! I taught (college students) for 40 years and now do volunteer teaching in Maine's Senior College program. One of the things that made teaching such a satisfying career for me was that sense of having an impact on young lives. It was always a little scary, especially on the first day of class each time -- but having a bit of an adrenaline buzz helps make you a more lively and interesting teacher. Enjoy! -Jean

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    1. I go into the classroom later today to meet the teacher and students for the first time. Because of their spring break I won't begin the lessons until the end of the month. Deep breathing!

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  10. Good for you. Those 9- and 10-year-olds will keep you on your toes and ask you questions you can't possibly imagine. You will develop a lot of empathy for them as you witness the difficult personal situations they inhabit. Good luck!

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    1. I am not sure what to expect in terms of familiarity with concepts and vocabulary words, but I am confident in my ability and the material's flexibility to adjust.

      WE will see!

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  11. Did your introductory visit to the classroom yesterday go well and help relieve some of the jitters? Even after years of teaching, I always got the jitters before the first class.

    Jude

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