Bills, Bills, Bills
Graduating from high school is exciting, liberating—and, in many ways, terrifying.
We're suddenly in charge of ourselves, responsible for keeping up in class, maintaining a part-time job, and attempting some semblance of work-life balance. Then there's the expenses—the ever-growing list of expenses! As if university wasn't hectic enough, there's the added stress of paying for it all.
Ms. Lindsay Oneil remembers the chaos all too well. It's why she's so passionate about teaching Planning 10, a course which prepares students for that sudden push into real life. "It's relevant to everyone," Ms. Oneil explains, "everything we learn is applicable and practical."
Planning provides the venue for self-discovery, for students to explore careers, programs and universities based on their own emerging traits and talents. Planning also provides students with the necessary skills to help them on their way, skills like writing resumes, crafting cover letters, and acing interviews.
Ms. Oneil welcomes the challenge of teaching these important life skills and is always searching for ways to make these "real life" skills just that—real.
So, when it came time to plan her class' financial management unit, Ms. Oneil decided to find something that would give students a taste of what it's really like, something with real-world choices and consequences. "I wanted there to be actual context," she explains, "for students to apply and practice the concepts before we start learning about them."
With the unit still months away, she introduced the solution.
"For the remainder of the year," the syllabus began, "you'll be a key member of an economic system, contributing as a producer, earner, investor, and consumer... starting now, you have bills to pay."
Students had to start paying rent for their desks—$800 each month.
There was electricity to pay for— a cool $150.
Students could choose to invest or buy insurance, but it would cost them!
There would also be fines for all classroom infractions, eight of them altogether. Students would now have to pay if they came unprepared for class, missed an assignment, or were disruptive. Dishonesty would cost them the most at $500.
Just like in the real-world, students would have to find jobs in the classroom, jobs like auctioneers, economists, insurance agents, or loan officers. Just like in the real-world, students had to apply to these jobs, writing resumes and espousing their strengths. And just like in the real-world, students had to work: loan officers—for example—would approve loans, calculate interest, and manage payments; economists, meanwhile, were tasked with monitoring spending, analyzing it and making recommendations.
There would also be bonuses for all classroom successes. A perfect assignment would score students $200, while a random act of kindness earned $150, just slightly less.
Students would have to maintain their own budgets, track things and make their own decisions:
What can I afford?
Do I need this—or just want it?
Should I rent or buy?
Should I invest?
Do I really need insurance?
Answering these questions would prove pivotal—especially during the classroom auctions! Each month, students would have the choice to spend some of their hard-earned cash on an array of items, or they could save it, investing elsewhere.
It's all up to them.
"Students are so engaged," Ms. Oneil smiles, "they're asking tons of questions and thinking strategically: one of our auctioneers has already sent out a class survey to figure out the items students would want."
Mirroring students' excitement, Ms. Oneil is feeling similarly energized and optimistic. She expects students to falter, to struggle to pay rent or get hit with a hefty, unexpected bill after opting out of insurance. "That's a conversation that will come up," she nods, "but they'll have to figure it out themselves." Through practical application, through the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them now, Ms. Oneil hopes students will avoid expensive mistakes in the future.
By pushing students out of their comfort zones, forcing these tough questions, Ms. Oneil hopes to prepare students for the next stage in their lives. "These are skills and practices everyone needs," Ms. Oneil concludes, "every student will need them."