As a part of my teaching philosophy, I believe strongly in empowering students to discover their learning, developing life skills and encouraging positive decision-making.  Keeping that in mind, several years ago my teaching team wanted to come up with a method for developing a yearlong program that bridged the distance between all of our classes and reinforced the basic team-wide goals for the students.  Our result was not revolutionary or all that original, but we developed something that was manageable and well designed for our particular situation that also reflected our overarching educational philosophy.  This was intentionally crafted to be very straightforward and simple as this is used with four different teachers  and 130 middle school students.

Goals
1.    Reinforce the habits of being a responsible student.

  • Credits
    • Money earned for good grades – quarterly 
    • Money earned for having perfect attendance – bi-weekly
    • Money for a parent signature in agendas – weekly
    • Money for books read
    • Money for participating in special community service events
  • Debits
    • Money deducted for being tardy
    • Money deducted for losing checkbook register
    • Money deducted for a hall pass   

2.    Introduce the concepts of a personal economics.

  • Credits
  • Debits
  • Consequences for overdrawing account
  • Benefits of saving money

3.    Provide incentives for supporting the greater community.

  • Throughout the school year we have community service events in which we encourage students to take part.
  • For instance, during the food drive, they would have the possibility of receiving credits based on the number of food items they collected.

Process

  1. Each student staples a blank ‘check register’ into his or her student agenda.
  2. The first of every month one teacher would ‘pay’ the students a credit.  At that time, the balances were checked and if any student had lost their agenda or overdrawn their account, they were assigned a lunch detention. 
  3. Bi-monthly the students receive payment for two weeks of perfect attendance
  4. Quarterly the students received a bonus for getting good grades.
  5. Extra pages of the check register available as needed.  It is important for each teacher to have copies of the register pages on hand.
  6. Balances are verified the last week of school.
  7. At the end of the year students gather in the commons area for a large auction.

Challenges

  • Teacher transience
  • Consistency of use/implementation
  • Students fail to bring the student agendas to school or lose them
  • Use of instructional time for salary, checking balances, etc.

Since we are a multi-age looping team of students, there are both 7th and 8th graders on the team.  Often times the 7th graders are irresponsible with the registers and use up all the money on hall passes or lost registers.  The 8th graders are much more tuned into the balance in the register because they sat through the auction the previous year and know opportunity awaits them.  It became evident is that the benefits of the program were best seen in year two.  My proposed solution if I only had the students for one instructional year is to conduct two smaller auctions to instill that saver mentality.

The concept of money is slippery for students.  When conducting this activity one can really start to see what the natural tendencies of a student are with regard to long term goals.  Most students want to have a large balance going into the auction, but do not seem to make choices that will yield that result.  The students that are the savers in the group use their hall time wisely and make sure to get the easy money, like the agenda signatures.  In addition, when a student wants a hall pass, it takes the pressure off the teacher to let the student go or not, because no money means no hall pass.  If they have forgotten their agenda or have no money, they have no flexibility for hall passes.  This mirrors the real life reality of being out of money and not being able to do whatever you want. 

The credit crisis in America should give rise to a larger conversation about teaching and practicing the skills of personal economics in a much more deliberate and meaningful way for students.  The lack of money sense and restraint has contributed to the current national money debacle.  There are some very simple but effective ways to bring basic concepts and habits of practice to our young people.  This has to be one of the most relevant lessons that can be taught to all students and KNOW that they will need it as the years pass.

*** The Personal Economics program was developed by the fabulous teaching team of Barry George, Kathie Quigley and Amy Smith (and me of course).***

***This whole post came out of a great twitter conversation with Wes Fryer this morning about economics education.***