I’ve been running a financial literacy programme in my classroom for a number of years and it has become a major part of the way my room functions and how I think about teaching. I’ve had a major focus on the development of class companies and incorporating a class economy across almost all curriculum areas that I teach. It is kind of like Young Enterprise meets the classroom on a daily basis.
It initially started as a way for students to develop more independence and have a say about what kind of class jobs we had. This is nothing new as nearly all classrooms in New Zealand have some kind of class chores or helping hands or jobs system. However, I was interested to see what would happen if I added a wage or monetary value to each task. From there the students began coming up with their own ideas for jobs and started thinking of other ways to earn money. Before I knew it students were beginning to hire employees to expand jobs into mini companies. Whenever a new company started students would see an opportunity for more ideas. Students began exchanging money for services and began asking if we could link finances in with other areas of the classroom, like homework, reading and maths. I saw a window of opportunity to really help develop their understanding of money, how it works, and the impact that good and bad financial decisions could have. This led to the development of financial literacy being incorporated into everything that we did in our classroom. Back in those days we did things old school and we used to keep a banking ledger book for student accounts, where transactions were hand written in. I would pay them using money from my class maths kit. Over the years, I have refined how it is run and I scaffold the financial literacy skills they will need across the year. My students also learn how to write application letters to apply for jobs and how to write up a C.V, they learn about employer/employee interactions and conflict resolution, and have lots and lots of fun at the same time. The effect has been astounding and has had a huge impact, not only on their understanding of financial literacy but other areas as well. I have seen amazing positives in my students ranging from improved self-esteem and confidence, better socialisation and communication skills, as well as a marked rise in effort and engagement in lessons. The feedback I have received from parents has also been very positive.
Even though I’d upgraded from the bank ledger book to excel, the process could still have been improved. So, last year I was fortunate enough to work with a small and talented group of developers and designers to create Banqer. Banqer is a website / app that helps support and enhance the teaching of financial literacy by offering a platform and environment to students and teachers that is similar to online banking. It takes all the hard work of managing student money (even though I loved the ledger book) and wraps it up in an easy online interface. Think class money for the digital age. My students are able to access their accounts online at any time. They can switch money between their expenses and savings accounts, pay friends or employees or the teacher, and learn about interest, tax, real estate, insurances and more. Banqer allows the students to watch their money grow and gives them a very firm understanding of how saving early can have real benefits further down the track. It also teaches them how to add references to payments and how to set-up automatic payments. As the teacher I have found that I can monitor and watch what my students are doing with ease. I can see how they are using their money and whether they are making wise financial decisions. This in turn allows me to focus aspects of my financial literacy teaching on areas that need work, such as making sure you have enough money in your expenses account to cover out-goings.
Because I link virtually everything I do in my class back to financial literacy, I use the financial capability progressions to help guide my teaching and offer up scenarios and opportunities for students to experience real-life financial decision making. For example, students in my class pay rent for their desks and they have to pay for wifi and power as well. In order to do so they need to have adequate funds in their expense account and set-up an automatic payment. This means they also have to be earning money to make sure they can cover this cost. The learning alone from this activity is relevant and very real. Another example, is that I pay students for things like publishing a story. When writing, why not treat them like journalists? The students create pieces of work and try and sell them to me to be published on our writing wall. If it is good the students earn money but, just like in the real world, if the work isn’t good enough no-one will pay for it. I obviously judge each students writing against their own ability so everyone has an equal opportunity to earn money by being a journalist. Once again this simple link back to financial literacy has had a major impact in my class. Now some of the most prolific journalists are those who people used to call struggling writers. Both of these examples cover aspects of the Manage money and income financial capability.
There seems to be so much talk around financial literacy at the moment and I can see why. Many Kiwi’s struggle to make sound money choices. Even people I have spoken with have said things like “I wish we learnt how to be better with our money when we where younger”. I truly believe that we as teachers can help the next generation be more financially savvy. My advice is to have fun with money in the classroom. Let the students learn by doing in an environment where it is safe to be wrong sometimes, this is what will make the learning even more powerful. There will be disputes about working conditions or pay but these are all part of developing those crucial key competencies. If we focus on financial literacy now we are setting our students up for future success.
“The main reason people struggle financially is because they have spent years in school but learned nothing about money. The result is that people learn to work for money…but never learn to have money work for them.” Robert Kiyosaki, Author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad
Micah Hocquard - Year 8 Team Leader - Medbury School