It’ll almost be a year since I started with FLCP and what a year it’s been! In two semesters I’ve been able to interact with many different students (but one or two I’ve seen on multiple occasions!) and have seen many teachers come and go. I can just remember it now – the anxious teacher I was before I started, worried over my lack of experience teaching and interacting with West Philadelphia high school students! But how far we’ve all come and what an experience FLCP has provided! It’s definitely taught me how to relate on a more personal level to people, regardless of how similar or different they might be from me. On top of that, FLCP has made me realize how important it is to invest in our students because of their unending potential. I was genuinely caught off guard by some of the amazing insights and questions some of these boys and girls had. It really has been enriching thus far, being able to consistently challenge myself and the students with both parties emerging wiser than when they had started. I can only hope that I can continue to impact students as I continue to participate in this program.
But while I talk about personal growth, what about FLCP? There’s no doubt that the organization has changed as well in as little as two semesters. As FLCP continues to grow, I’m intensely curious as to how it will expand. As semesters have gone on, we’ve increased significantly in size adding several schools that are willing to host our program. But what is FLCP’s general vision for itself and how big does it intend to grow? Who knows how different it will end up from the founders’ vision. Only time will tell.
As I look back on all of my blog postings, I realize that I often discuss how enriching I find the FLCP experience to be or I describe my personal methods of teaching in the classroom. Yet, I never seem to really delve into the subject of significance, especially concerning what we do in the West Philadelphia community and the potential impact it has on the students.
I am strongly inclined to believe that teaching the topic of financial literacy has a strong impact on the students. What allows me to make such a claim is the interest that we have in our program, as well as the interest that the students show in the classroom itself. I love it when students ask me questions during lessons because it truly shows they’re interested in the subject – and this is an occurrence that happens more often than not. Detailed questions are the best, because I know the answer that I provide will (hopefully) help them in some way. Financial Literacy seems especially important in West Philadelphia, given the nature of the neighborhood. Particularly, one example comes to mind: Check-cashing institutions. Since West Philadelphia is full of them, it’s important to get the message out to these students regarding the tradeoffs they face when they use them. So whenever we discuss this topic, many students seem to be fully aware of this circumstance and are genuinely interested when we describe their pros and cons. Generally, I feel like our students are interested, which is a great feeling that leads me to think we’re enriching their lives in some way.
As I sit here and read the blogs of all the other FLCP teachers, I can’t help experencing a bittersweet feeling. I’m glad that everyone had enriching experiences, but I’m quite sad I didn’t get to partake in them as I should have this semester.
Simply put, I miss teaching. Due to some logistical issues and misinterpretations on behalf of the high school, I was orphaned from my team and students for the entirety of the semester. This gave me a chance to reflect further on the teaching experiences I DID have this term and also provided the opportunity for me to look more strongly into the curriculum of both schools. And while it’s all well and fun doing that, I can’t help but miss teaching. Sure, it’s a little nerving when you’re up there trying to communicate concepts of financial literacy, but the process of learning both between the student and teacher is a reward that just cannot be expressed properly into words. It’s a great feeling when you know you’ve gotten your message across while unexpectedly receiving something in return. Time in the classroom (and coincidentally, time away from the classroom) have truly shown me how much I treasure FLCP and what it’s trying to accomplish in the Philadelphia community.
And while I dwell on the sadness, I can’t help but be excited for next semester, without a doubt.
How can I capture the attention of my students? How can I keep them engaged in the lesson? No doubt these questions are at the forefront of every FLCP teacher’s mind when designing their lesson. Yet, is there a method that can address these questions? Sure, there are things we can do superficially, like giving out candy or snacks or making fancy, flashy powerpoint lessons, but are these things that will solely keep them hooked?
From my experience, the answer is no. That’s not to say that your presentation should be horrible, but from my experience, if they’re not interested in the lesson, then it doesn’t really matter how nice your powerpoint is. This same concept applies to other incentives as well, including food, which could act more as a distraction rather than as an added benefit if the students are simply uninterested. So what method works best in capturing and retaining the attention of students?
From my experience, the answer lies in how you relate to your audience. Students like it when you can speak on things that relate to them. And not just on basic items and necessities either, like food, cars, and houses. I’m talking about a step deeper into interest like music, fashion, and sports. Something that gives them a sense of identity. I pay strong attention to how my students react when I bring up these topics and it’s always nice to see them perk up or chuckle when I mention their favorite music artist or athlete.
If you can somehow close the gap between you and the student, then maybe they’ll be inclined to listen to you because they think you have some important information that can apply to them. With that in mind, my advice is to tie the lesson back to something that they know. Something that’s near and dear to them, something that they enjoy. That adds a dimension that immerses them further into the material. I’m no guru, but every time I’ve applied this philosophy, it’s seemed to be pretty successful.
After a rather interesting first day at Sayre, I was excited and somewhat nervous for the first day with UCity. I will admit, I was slightly worried when I found out only about a third of the expected students were actually going to be there, but looking back, I think the smaller class size really allowed us to connect with each kid and understand what they wanted from the class.
I think what was most surprising for me was how engaged the students were. Going into the first day, I had this preconceived notion that these kids wouldn’t necessarily be interested in what we had to offer them. I was thoroughly proven wrong. These kids were extremely bright and very ambitious. They knew what they wanted, and how this class would help them get there. After the first day, I think I gained a lot of admiration for these kids. Listening to them talk about where they wanted to be in five or even ten years, I sincerely believed that they would achieve those dreams because they were so motivated. I’m not sure if I’ll continue to work with the same group of kids or a different group, but I wish them the best and I believe they will be extremely successful.
Last Wednesday we visited Sayre High School for our official first teaching day. It has been a while since I left high school so I was wondering how it’d be like to be in a high school classroom again – except this time I would be on the other side. After we got to Sayre, we were greeted by a school official who led us into a conference room and told us that Sayre High School was still in the process of implementing this after school program. I understand that some schools don’t the resources to focus on after school programs given the reduced funding and grants. However, I hope that the Sayre High School students will still get to benefit from this financial literacy program eventually.
I am puzzled by the fact that in elementary, middle, and high schools we learn math, science, history, music, arts but not financial literacy. Financial literacy is one of the most overlooked but important skills to be learnt. It also trains good habits that pay off dividends. I hope Sayre High School students will be able to take advantage of this program and I hope the Sayre High School administrators will realize this. Nevertheless, I am still very excited about the first day of teaching and will keep everyone posted! As brought up in the training session, I am ready to see the best in our students and get the best from them
(Given the difficulties the Sayre team has been with arranging things with the school, this post focuses on the last training and its impact on me.)
The last training session made a big impact on the way I thought about teaching, especially in the type of schools the Financial Literacy Community Project targets. I was certainly worried about managing a classroom. I had visions of students running around, talking, and just generally ignoring me as I stood at the front of the room trying to teach. However, as Dymir said, it’s not about controlling the class. It’s about truly investing the students in their education, and this was a paradigm shift for me. He said another thing that resonated with me: “If you expect the best from the class, you’ll get the best. If you expect the worst from the class, you’ll get the worst.” I had thought the best approach would be to communicate the ideas on the simplest level possible, even dumbing down the lessons to achieve this goal. At the training, I reconsidered this notion. Who wants to know that the bar is set extra-low for them? More can be achieved if the students know that expectations are high for them. This also was a fundamental shift in my thinking process about teaching. As I move forward this semester, I’ll be sure to keep the teachings of Molly and Dymir in mind. I’m confident that heeding their advice will help me develop into the best teacher I can be.
It’s a little strange to be returning as a teacher for FLCP. Some parts of teaching seem so much more familiar than the first time around, but others more obscure. I’m definitely more comfortable with interacting with the students — but what are the ways that I can make them truly interested in the important topic of financial literacy? This is the primary question that I’m faced with in the coming semester – a daunting question, indeed.
Yet, I’m not going to let this particular question stress me out — instead, I’ll use it as a motivating factor for future lesson plans in conjunction with other things I have realized since my last days at West Philadelphia High School. The time between semesters has definitely given me a new vision for the kind of classroom culture I want to build — an atmosphere where the students feel like they had a part in building the class, an atmosphere where they feel like they can use what they’re learning outside the classroom. These are ideas that seem so much clearer to me now than when I first started teaching last Spring.
With that in mind, there is a little bit of anxiety that comes with teaching the first lesson to a new group of kids. Am I going to communicate the right message? Are they going to like me? Are they going to respect me? Most importantly, will they learn from me? It’s easy to get caught up in the stresses, but I’m going to keep a positive attitude and strive for the best that I can. We were supposed to have our first class this past Wednesday, but some logistical problems prevented us from doing so. Regardless of where or when we end up teaching, I can’t wait until we get into the classroom!
I was really excited to start planning for high school, but I soon realized that lesson planning is not an easy task. There is so much that a teacher has to plan for the day, and each minute is critical in order to time every task. My first lesson that I was in charge of planning for the high school students was regarding why people should keep their money in banks. At first, the reason to open a bank account seemed pretty common-sense to me, but I actually happened to learn more about how banks work myself! Creating the vocabulary power point and the worksheets enhanced my understanding of how bank accounts work. Learning how to teach about interest stimulated my mind and enriched my knowledge about calculating interest. My education in macroeconomics was refreshed when I was devising an activity to teach students about the formulas for interest.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to teach at Sayre last week, but I’m looking forward to teach students about money matters. I’m very excited to be a part of the financial literacy movement. I wish I had such a great resource to learn about financial issues and how to manage money in high school. However, not everyone is as enthusiastic about financial literacy. The teaching team for Sayre wasn’t able to teach last week because the new principal wasn’t willing to spend school funds on an afterschool program for students; without these programs, there would be no resources for a financial literacy program. I think one of the key obstacles deterring the spread of financial literacy is that people underestimate its importance. Some people may think that handling money is common-sense, but these people may be the ones who are having financial difficulty paying off their loans or constantly paying off their overdraft fees. Growing up, I never really talked about money matters with my parents, and I’ve only recently started to understand where our money goes. I think financial literacy is a crucial step for a student’s development, and the education system needs to start recognizing its merit.
I’m actually super excited to start teaching on Wednesday although somewhat nervous after the speakers on Sunday. I thought they brought up a lot of really good points about investing kids in their education and I’m a little nervous about doing so. I’m also a little worried about connecting with the kids since we don’t have very much time and I really hope everything goes well!