7 Steps to Set Your Kids on the Path to Financial Success

Kids are growing up, all the way through graduating high school, without ever being introduced to the concept of earning, spending and saving money. Imagine what might happen if you sent your kids off to a foreign country where they don’t know the customs, or laws, and don’t speak the native language. This is like sending them off into the “real world” without teaching them the basics of responsible money management. To expect our young adults to grow up and understand how money works without ever taking the time to teach them is irrational. How can they learn something if not invited to take part in the experience and discussions about it?

Today we live in a busy world where it seems like the days are shorter and yet there are even more duties to be responsible for. Not only are parents still learning to take care of themselves, but they’re also trying to maintain the household for the rest of the family. It’s completely understandable why taking the time to talk about money might slip to the bottom of the priority list. Because the effect is not immediate, it’s easy to justify it with — “Well, they’re still young, they’ll have time to learn it eventually.” The hard truth is — if we don’t invest the time to teach them now, they are more likely to fall into the same cycle of working just to survive and maintain.

…if we don’t invest the time to teach them now, they are more likely to fall into the same cycle of working just to survive and maintain.

The good news is that it’s never too late and the transition can be as easy as starting with a shift in mindset. *The decision* to take control is all you need to start.

To shift your mindset, first realize the differences between a wealthy and a poverty mentality. A wealthy mentality is proactive in the way that we anticipate and plan for our financial futures. Versus a poverty mentality which is reactive in the way that we react to life’s events and emergencies as they happen. More importantly, a wealthy mentality includes the understanding that — no matter where you’re starting from — every single choice you make either moves you toward your financial goals or takes you further away from them.

…every single choice you make either moves you toward your financial goals or takes you further away from them.

Now that we understand why the problem exists, it’s time we do something about it. It’s going to take intentional effort, patience and discipline to instill these responsible money habits. Here are 7 steps to help you get started.

 

1. Realize the Importance.

Money is too important of a topic to be taught passively. Before you can convince the kids of the importance, you must first understand it for yourself. Of course money can’t buy the most important things in life like love and happiness — but the knowledge of how it works is still required to operate and live in the ‘real world.’

The sobering fact is — most schools don’t offer any curriculum to teach these necessary life skills. Once you accept this, the motivation to learn and teach at home becomes stronger because then you understand why it’s important to make it a priority. Especially when considering the growing trend of oversized student loan debt. As these kids grow into young adults and transition from high school to starting college, they innocently walk into financial aid offices and agree to these major financial obligations. These young and eager students sign off without understanding the mechanics and real implications of these loans. If not student, then maybe car or home loans. These are some of the most common financial tools available and yet many people never take the time to truly get to know what they’re signing up for.

Let’s not wait until they are 18 and graduated before trying to have “the money talk.” Start early and encourage building these responsible habits now.

 

2. Have the Conversation.

Now that you understand the importance of financial literacy, it’s time to communicate this to your kids. When starting your family on the path to financial success, you must first consider what type of approach to take and the values you believe in. We all have our own beliefs and feelings about money based on our personal experiences. It’s important to be open and explore these beliefs so you can be intentional when establishing your family’s new money principles. What are some of your family’s needs vs wants? More than just explaining how to spend and save wisely, you should also help them to understand how money plays into the bigger picture of everyday life.

Now, how do you get the kids to understand and care? Open communication. When children are communicated to, at their level of understanding, they can transfer this knowledge into practice and develop it as they mature. You might be surprised at how enthusiastic and supportive they can be when they feel like their opinions matter.

And it’s not like you have to have lecture style teaching moments just to have these conversations — because there are plenty of opportunities in everyday life to bring up these lessons. Organic conversations can take place when in the checkout line and they’re pleading for you to buy something for them. Instead of justifying your ‘No’ with “because I said so” or “we don’t have the money,” try to explain why that purchase isn’t in the budget or explaining what your family’s needs vs wants are. Kids like to know ‘why’, and if you have your reasons to say no, why not share them?

Taking the time to explain not only helps them understand how the budget fits into the bigger picture, but it also helps you by reaffirming your commitment out loud.

…there are plenty of opportunities in everyday life to bring up these lessons.

3. Accept the Resistance.

Let’s be honest, resistance will likely come from several angles. Mainly from the TV, internet and their peers. But not to fret because there are only a few fundamental practices to master to stay strong and build responsible habits:

1. Spending less than you earn

2. Saving for a rainy day

3. Using your income to work for you and make more money

It seems simple enough but the problem is — there are entire industries devoted to get the average person, and their kids, to ignore these basic principles. Whether from marketers trying to persuade your kid that they need the latest trend in sneakers, clothes or toys and electronics. Or from companies dangling high interest rate credit cards in front of your young adults. These temptations distract us from the common sense rules that allow us to keep and use more of our own hard-earned money. Once you accept the existence of these obstacles, then you can plan ahead to conquer them. Pressure to overspend and temptation to want instant gratification is inevitable in our society today. After you decide to take a stand against these roadblocks — then you start to build the confidence needed to overcome. Nowadays it’s easier than ever to stray away from your financial goals because they position these temptations right into the palms of our hands. Between social media and online advertising, we see these ‘wants’ and subconsciously cave in to impulse decisions which can easily sabotage our financial progress. According to research by the Federal Reserve, by the end of 2017 the debt to income ratio for households in the U.S. was nearly 1 to 1. Which basically means we are borrowing just as much as we earn. Disciplined decision-making is more important than ever to achieve your financial goals.

Pressure to overspend and temptation to want instant gratification is inevitable in our society today.

4. Create a Plan.

Preparation will be key once you’ve decided to start on the path to financial success. You can make it easier on yourself by planning ahead and setting a foundation to prepare for the expected resistance and obstacles. This way, you don’t have to spend time every month rethinking how to implement these new habits. When clear guidelines are established, the process becomes automatic and makes it easier for everybody to follow *and* be held accountable.

Financial related struggles are more common than we like to admit. The phrase “living paycheck to paycheck” doesn’t just apply to people who are short on money in between checks. It also applies to those who don’t have a plan for their money and just let it flow in and out paycheck after paycheck. Working just to pay the bills without being intentional with every dollar is reckless, and more importantly results in the loss of power. This is why our financial situations can feel out of control sometimes — because we haven’t taken the steps to take the power back. To achieve the goal of building wealth for your family starts with everyday habits now. Once your goals have been set, only then can you devise a plan to get there. You can strive for financial success all you want but if you haven’t outlined a road map to get there — then how do you know which way to go?

People tend to shy away from accepting the importance of creating a budget because they think having a budget takes away from their ability to enjoy the pleasures of their hard-earned money. Just because you have a budget, doesn’t mean you have to minimize or reduce your standard of living. Instead, it’s more about having a model to follow and being mindful about your spending habits rather than blindly spending every month. If you take the time to create a solid financial foundation (or a budget), then you’ve already done the hard part, and just to ‘stick to the plan’ is all that’s left to do.

Setting a standard budget is great for the adults, but it’s also a perfect opportunity to invite the kids to join in on the fun (evil grin). You might be surprised at how excited and helpful they can be when encouraged to add their input into household matters.

To take it a step further, you could implement a chore system and pay the kids an allowance to go above and beyond their basic responsibilities. I’m not talking about the chores like cleaning their room and clearing the table after meals, because those are non-negotiable and maybe even considered “rent” for living in the house. But we’re talking about paying them for additional duties like doing the laundry, yard work or deep cleaning the bathroom. Think about it like this: you spend money on your kids either way it goes. Might as well let them spend it on themselves, while you get a little extra help around the house and teach them a lesson at the same time. That’s what I call a WIN-WIN.

Working just to pay the bills without being intentional with every dollar is reckless, and more importantly results in the loss of power. This is why our financial situations can feel out of control sometimes…

5. Hands-On Experience.

Even if your kid is already in their transition into the adult world, it’s still never too late to help them to get familiar with basic money management concepts. If your kid is on the younger side, rather than try to give them a crash course in money 101, it would be best to introduce these concepts gradually. This gradual knowledge is best taught in the form of hands-on experience.

To become fiscally responsible adults, they will need to be comfortable with the idea of earning, spending and saving money. The sooner we get them familiar with these practices, the easier it will be when it really matters and it comes time for them to make decisions for themselves. To verbally teach them is the first step, but allowing them to go through the motions and gain experience is how real knowledge is acquired. Guiding them through these simple choices will help them build the confidence to make their own decisions in the future as they grow to become teens and eventually adults.

To give them this hands-on experience, you can incorporate practice into regular life with the decisions you make every day — you don’t have to go out of your way or find extra time to allow for it.

For example, when they get a birthday check from grandma or save up enough holiday cash, this is a great time to go to the bank and open a savings account and start the conversation about earning interest and savings goals. Or if they have their eyes set on something they want to buy, patiently explain how having discipline to save will allow them to buy things with their own money. Maybe you’re planning to buy a big ticket item like a new TV or computer, take them with you and show how you shop around for the best deal. Explain how and why taking the time to make price comparisons is a responsible money habit. Or the next time you’re planning to buy a car, this can lead to discussions about monthly payments and interest rate vs principle.

We go through life experiencing our fair share of financial transactions, every one of them is a teachable moment.

To verbally teach them is the first step, but allowing them to go through the motions and gain experience is how real knowledge is acquired.

6. Role Model.

We can ‘talk the talk’ all day but when it comes down to it, kids model after what they see. When a child sees the examples of an adult — especially their parent — they will pick up these habits and these behaviors could last a lifetime. Research by behavior experts David Whitebread and Sue Bingham from the University of Cambridge tells us that our money habits are formed by the age of 7. This doesn’t mean that they are doomed if they haven’t picked up any good habits yet, but it does mean that it will take intentional effort to instill these positive habits to set them on the right path.

Some parents might feel anxious to accept the responsibility of being the money role model because they’re not so confident about how they’ve handled their own finances up to this point. Or maybe hesitant because they feel like don’t know enough to steer their kids in the right direction. You’re not alone. But realize what you DO have that can put your kids in a better position: Experience. Even if less than ideal, this experience can help steer them in the right direction going forward.

The good news is, even if you’re still working to get your own financial picture in order, you can still show them what being financially responsible looks like. Regardless of your current situation, you can always make the switch to embody a wealth mentality and model it. You could even take it a step further by being upfront with your kid and let them know about your current situation. If it’s less than ideal, share your goals and plans to change it for the better and explain why this is important. If you’re open with your journey, they can see an example of how to conquer and overcome.

…even if you’re still working to get your own financial picture in order, you can still show them what being financially responsible looks like.

7. Be Patient and Consistent.

Like learning a new language, developing good financial habits should be an immersive and repetitive process. Realize that change doesn’t happen overnight, and probably not even over a few weeks. It’ll take patience and discipline to teach something like responsible money habits. Honestly, even with our guidance they still might struggle but not to be discouraged! Simply understand that it will be a development process just like learning any other basic life skill. If you’ve already learned the hard way by making uninformed financial decisions — take the time to pass on these valuable lessons, so they won’t have to make the same mistakes. By teaching basic money skills while they’re younger and building on this understanding as they grow older, they will develop a deep understanding of the importance of financial responsibility.

If you’ve already learned the hard way by making uninformed financial decisions — take the time to pass on these valuable lessons, so they won’t have to make the same mistakes.

Final Thoughts.

The basic rules to achieve financial success — and ultimately build legacy wealth for your family — are no secret. These fundamental principles have been around for centuries and now more than ever, this information is freely available. If you wish to be successful, you must put yourself in the position to learn these principles and apply them. Yes — it will require disciplined focus and intentional effort but don’t let that stop you from striving for all that you desire. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and break the cycle that has been holding us hostage for generations. The problem of financial illiteracy has been ignored for way too long and it’s about time we do something about it.

“Wealth, abundance, financial freedom and serenity requires a journey to travel. Prepare well.” — Rob Wilson

Financial Freedom – My Only Hope

Anchored by the message from Jay-Z’s 4:44 album and using quotes from other notable hip-hop artists – this article explores the reasons why people find themselves struggling to appropriately manage their financial situations.

 

These days my favorite approach to a taboo topic comes with a ‘frankly speaking’ attitude. I believe I speak for all of us – the 99% – when I declare: We the People, have the same rights to create wealth as they do – the elite 1%. What do they have that we don’t? A wealth conscious mindset.

I’m about to change the focus from the richest to the brokest. I wrote this opus, to reverse the hypnosis. – Lauryn Hill

A wealth mentality is proactive in a way that it anticipates and plans for future financial obligations. More importantly, a wealth mentality includes the understanding that every single dollar can start the process of building wealth – no matter what income bracket.

 

A poverty mentality is reactive. It leads us to react to events and emergencies as they happen – instead of having financial control of the situation. The idea of working to earn an income just to pay the bills is a major factor in this poverty mindset. To put off saving until you ‘have more money’ is another tragic concept.

Legend has it that even if you suddenly come into a large sum of money – whether it be lottery, inheritance or whatever – a wealth mentality is still necessary to manage your newfound riches. Exhibit A: MC Hammer.

 

And Hammer went broke so you know I’m more focused. – Jay Z

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It’s no wonder why these seemingly secret laws of wealth are not as common as they should be. I won’t dig too deep into my handy dandy bag of ‘conspiracy theories’ but I will say in the words of a DJ named Khaled – They don’t want us to win!

I can’t recall a time during my basic education when I was introduced to any curriculum that talked about money or personal finance topics. Economics, maybe. And If I remember correctly, even that subject seemed to relate more to the macro or societal view of ‘how money works’ – rather than the impact on the individual.

Either way that class was still questionable. If your Government/Economics experience was anything like mine, it was taught by that coach who conducted class with the lights off, overhead projector on, and screen ready for whatever movie was on the agenda for the day.

I know all schools, districts, cities and states aren’t the same. Maybe your teacher-coach had time to squeeze in personal finance topics between commercial breaks. But mine never got around to it.

We’re all screwed cause we never had the tools – Jay Z

The reasons why we haven’t been exposed to this information doesn’t matter because ultimately, it’s our own responsibility to find the answers and put ourselves in a position to succeed. We all know the information is out there – but why haven’t we been more progressive in our approach to obtain freedom and accumulate wealth?

Let’s free the people from deception. If you’re lookin’ for the answers then you gotta ask the questions. – Lauryn Hill

I know that’s some pretty heavy stuff, but like I said – I like to be frank. I approach it this way because I’ve been there. Okay let me not front, I’m still there. Still working to radically shift my mindset from poverty to wealth mentality.

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I’m thankful for the environment I grew up in that perpetuated this poverty mentality. Because without it I wouldn’t have been SO motivated to break the cycle and liberate myself and my people from these warped views about money.

 

Last night took an L, but tonight I bounce back. I’ve been broke as hell, cashed a check and bounced back. – Big Sean

Granted, our parents did the best they could have given the information they had. But the simple fact is, they didn’t know what they didn’t know. The habits and lessons they learned were probably passed down from their parents-parents who likely grew up in the depression era. Regardless of what your financial situation now looks like, we ALL have the power to start making better decisions to counter the inevitable results from the lack of information.

Generational wealth, that’s the key. My parents ain’t have sh*t, so that shift started with me. – Jay Z

All this fundamental information about the rules of wealth is out there and easily accessible. Living in the Age of Information and the internet leaves few excuses. What’s stopping us from enforcing these rules?

‘Fear’ seems to be one of the common blocks that stop us from going after any and everything we want in life. ‘Fear’ in this case is a false belief that budgeting takes away our ability to enjoy our hard-earned money. Or fearful that following a budget will require us to downgrade our current lifestyle. These are two of the best excuses that support the poverty mentality.

This paralyzing ‘fear’ we have is truly irrational. Yes, it will demand an honest effort to conquer. But what could be SO BAD that scares us to the point that we block ourselves from attaining what we truly desire in life? Think, what’s the worst that can happen? Once we’re able to overcome this ‘fear’ and transmute this energy into FOCUS, the game changes – our mentality shifts.

No one man should have all that POWER. – Kanye West

By developing a well-conceived financial road map, we can decide on our destination and identify the routes to get there. Otherwise, we’re just wandering and living paycheck to paycheck. Not necessarily having to be short on money between checks but, if we have no plan or overall goal for our monies then it just flows in and out – paycheck after paycheck. When does building wealth come into play? This paradigm shift is essential to REdiscover our core financial desires.

Budget Action shows us how to make the shift and start making decisions from this new wealth mentality. “The only platform that provides a Debt Freedom Date instantly.” The word ‘budget’ typically has a negative connotation – almost like financial handcuffs. That’s why Budget Action is ideal, because it offers a practical approach to show us that it doesn’t have to be all bad. We can even put a positive spin on the connotation.

Think of ‘budget’ as a means to achieve our highest financial desires. Budget Action is about creating a custom strategy for building wealth without having to overwhelmingly slash expenses as some other methods suggest. It’s more about understanding your financial lifestyle and setting an indisputable standard to live by.

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If not already wealthy, how do you plan to get there? To have the wish to achieve a level of wealth that we haven’t already, will require you to make choices and take actions that are different from the ones you currently make. Regardless of level of income, budget is how to make YOUR money work FOR YOU – instead of letting it flow.

To secure financial freedom and accumulate wealth – we must take control. To create a budget that sounds and looks good on paper is a great start, but to execute is where we struggle. This is where the shift in mentality is crucial.

By creating this financial foundation we can stop the anxiety we might feel each month when it comes time to pay bills because we already know exactly how we plan to use our money. We the people typically fear the unknown but if we take the time to get to know our finances, it could all be so simple. I believe learning to conquer this fear is the most important benefit in this process because the positive side effects spill over to other areas of our life too.

The Budget Action tool provides a debt free date instantly and after signing up to subscribe to the service, the accelerated debt payoff schedule and savings plan are generated to show the big long term picture. Having this glimpse of light at the end of the financial freedom tunnel is an accomplished feeling in its own right.

 

Financial freedom my only hope. F*ck livin’ rich and dyin’ broke – Jay Z

Money, Sex and Education: A candid conversation about preparing our young adults for the ‘real world’

There are as many different perspectives as there are unique people in this world but all too often, we are presented with one side of a story. I sat down with a teacher friend of mine who was willing to talk about her experience and some hard truths faced with education in America. More specifically, education in the south at a school with 100% of minority (black and brown) students.

There are a number of topics that people might consider “taboo” and shy away from talking about. It’s ironic that some of these topics, namely money and sex, might be the most practical of topics to learn about. Our standard public education leaves these subjects to be learned at home all while the parents might still be learning how to navigate these matters for themselves.

My ultimate takeaway from these conversations is that we would all benefit from taking a more practical, hands-on approach to educating this next generation.

About the Interviewee

Did you always wanna be a teacher?

I did not. My father didn’t graduate from high school. My mom got pregnant – she got her diploma, but barely. My parents went to a segregated school and basically, when they tried to integrate the schools – that didn’t work out for them. I’m from a small town that’s slow about change. [For example], in the year 2000 they still had segregated proms.

Really? Segregated as in, two proms for one school?

Yes! It was just understood. They were both in the same weekend but the white people went to one and black people went to another.

With that said, I really didn’t know what I wanted to be. I just knew I wanted to go to college because that was the way, you know? You go to college and you make money.

At one point before [high school] graduation, the [administrators] were organizing the students based on what college major they were interested in. I remember sitting around staring [because I hadn’t thought about what I wanted my major to be]. Then I heard “If you want to major in education, come over here” and that’s when I realized I was about to go into teaching.

Once I got into education [as a profession], I appreciated it more. I started to appreciate my family not being educated. At 22, I decided to get a Master’s degree. Then while at my best friends’ graduation, I realized I wanted to go all the way and get my Doctorate.

I turned to my sister and told her “I don’t care if I get a doctorate in basket weaving – I’m going to get one! And nobody can take it away from me.” I got my Doctorate in Health Education.

And your Masters was in…?

Educational Leadership and Administration. I thought I wanted to be a principal or an assistant principal but then I realized I didn’t want to be that far away from my students. Nor from the foot soldiers [teachers] who are doing the heavy lifting.

I feel like it’s easy to forget that as a principal. At the time, I didn’t appreciate the way they were treating us as teachers. I felt like they forgot how hard it was to be on the front line.

You’ve been teaching for about 14 years now. If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to your brand-new teacher self?

Honestly, I am so pleased with the way I did things. I trusted myself when it was time to take the leap and move to Atlanta. I was 23 and I had 1 year teaching under my belt, but I felt that I was ready to be in a bigger school system. Ready to do more with the students. Even though I’m still growing, I wouldn’t change anything. I’m pleased right now – learning to be a great leader.

Public vs Charter

So there are private charters and public charters?

For the most part, a charter is a charter. But since we get public funding, we have to meet certain standards to maintain our charter. We’re still servicing kids in the [public school zone] area, so they have a choice whether they go to the charter school or their home [public] school. We do try to align our curriculum with the public-school requirements but the difference is we can choose what to keep or change, instead of being mandated by whichever county. So technically we can’t be considered private but, we do make our own curriculum and have more freedom [than public schools] to make our own choices.

What are some subjects y’all teach that public schools don’t?

We have an African American studies class. We have different forms of Art. I teach an Exercise and Weight Control class. I only have 8 people [max] in these classes, so I basically personal train them every day. I help them reach the goals they’ve set. We have another class called College Success, most high schools have it now. Did y’all have it?

No we didn’t…

It’s a class where they focus on the admission process of college and requires the students to apply to a certain number of schools every semester. They match up students with schools based on their GPA and ACT scores.

You said the charter you work at receives some public funding, where else does funding come from?

We have investors. They’ll come and see our school and will pledge millions. These people with a lot of money, they’re looking for some way to get tax write-offs.

*3 snaps in fierce agreeance*

Tax write-offs all day long.

I mean, education is a business whether we want to admit it or not.

Money

Do y’all offer any money or personal finance class at your school?

We don’t offer anything specific like that. I mean, we offer economics because its mandatory to graduate but that’s about it.

I remember my economics class…it was more macro than personal economics.

I remember economics in school too. We talked about supply and demand, but I don’t think they taught about personal finance and how to individually preserve our future or save money. Like you said, more macro than micro.

What money topics do you think would be helpful for kids to learn in high school? Like budgeting, taxes, loans, investments, etc.

I think all the above. But first, I think you have to start out discussing social classes. You’d have to be careful about how to start that [conversation] because a lot of these kids and their families are considered poor [by most society standards]. You’d have to be careful not to shame them for being in the lower class. Most of my kids [and their families] use food stamps. Some of them, when describing their future, they plan to continue using food stamps. And yet they also plan to have a luxury style car or extravagant house. So you’d have to break it down to help them realize that if they qualify for food stamps, they’re [likely] not making the kind of money that allows them to have these luxury style cars and houses. I don’t think they understand that, so it would help to start with that [foundation].

After you’ve explained the socioeconomics of it, then talk about their goals and how they can achieve those goals. Because at the end of the day, most of us are not born with the [resources] to get everything we want at once. It takes time and focus.

Help them to understand the amount of work it takes to sustain a middle-class life. And possibly upper class. Because most of us don’t wake up like that.

Man. That is so important because as I’m writing this book, I’m thinking about the technical side of financial literacy but you’re right – before we even talk about ‘how’ to be financially responsible, we’d have to explain what it means and the socioeconomics of it.

Yes and help them to understand…because they see rappers that quickly become rich and famous but that’s not real life. I’m not saying they can’t make it because I will never down a child, but I let them know what the odds are. I tell my students all the time – there’s nothing wrong with staying at home [after graduation] but I still encourage them to get out and grow and start making their own plan.

What did you know or think about student loans when you were first introduced to them?

I had a track and field scholarship for my bachelors so [at first] they were for me to have a little extra [spending] money here or there. I started to understand more about debt once I started my masters and my doctorate.

My thoughts? If the student doesn’t already have the means [to pay for school], of course they might have to get into a little debt to progress in their education. But when they accept these loans, they should already be working on a plan for how to forgive that debt. I believe if your education is not going to bring you more [income potential] then I don’t know if that’s a smart move. I hate to say it but… if you’re going to put yourself in more debt and make less money, that doesn’t make sense [to me].

When do you think will be the best time to start teaching kids about money?

I think we should start in high school, an 11th or 12th grade course. We have a whole team of people at my school that helps them find money [for college] and all [the student] has to do is apply for these grants. Our kids get millions of dollars worth of scholarships each year. We could do them one better if we taught them about the importance of money while they’re juniors and seniors – that way they enter the world as adults with this fresh on their brains.

Yes! I know a class like that would definitely have been helpful for me.

So, tell me more about the classes you teach.

I teach [Health and PE] because I felt it was the most outside of the box, without being too far out there.

I get it. The kids need structure (in a sense) but also need enough freedom to explore themselves.

Exactly. I chose it because [when I was in school] I enjoyed health and PE – I felt the most free there. I didn’t feel like I was trapped in a box. Like in math – I knew there was a right or wrong answer. [In health] there might be a right or wrong answer, but we can talk through it or have a dialogue about it.

And it’s applicable to real life – arguably the most practical of all the subjects.

Yeah it is! And when you think about even with the games, winning and losing, or tournaments – we teach life long skills.

Sex Education

I’m glad I picked the subject that I did because in Health I teach a lot of topics. I teach about grief. I teach about stress. I teach about sexual education. I love my job because it’s real life.

I’m thinking back to my health class. I want to say it was like a short insert into one class. I just remember they showed us these graphic pictures saying these are herpes, DON’T get them, and that’s about it.

That’s because they have to offer it to you like that in [public school]. But I design my own curriculum. Because I teach high school, I look at what the standards are, what the expectations are, and subjects to cover. For example, some students will talk about how the person with herpes is “so nasty” and that’s when I explain how simple it is to get them. I tell my students – “I’m here to make you aware. I’m not here to tell you what’s right or wrong. I am here to make you aware of the consequences or what could happen if you make this choice.” I want to be honest with them.

It’s ironic because at one point when they were preaching abstinence, the number of teenage pregnancies ended up being higher than before…

Yeah [because] kids are curious. I do tell them, “abstinence is the only way you can avoid all this, but people slip up.” If they have unprotected sex, they should be able and knowledgeable to have that conversation with their partner. Some of them [students] will say “I can’t have that conversation.” That’s when I’ll say, “Well then you know you’re not ready. You shouldn’t be doing ‘anything’ if you can’t have that conversation.”

Especially because you know these topics are typically the taboo conversations. Even when parents have “the talk,” I can only speak from my personal experience, but my sex talk was “Don’t do it, don’t get pregnant and stay in the books.”

See I didn’t even have that… mine was “well you know what Keisha did to get pregnant, right?”

“[Well] you better not be doing it!”

Exactly.

They never told me anything else. Never told me how to protect myself. I wasn’t active until my senior year and thank God me and my boyfriend at the time were both virgins, and we protected ourselves. But had I known more, I might have been a little more cautious.

So yeah, I love what I teach. I get to have fun conversations like that all the time.

Suggestions to do better

What do you see as the biggest problem faced with education in general?

…I’m trying to find the best way to word it. I feel like we have created – I’m sorry – a generation of students that feel overly entitled.

Oh man, the ‘blue ribbon effect‘.

SO entitled. They feel like the world owes them, and they’re surprised to learn how hard it was to get to where we are [today] as a society, [and more specifically] as women. That came up when we talked about voting earlier today. I heard some kids saying “I ain’t voting, my vote don’t count anyways.”

I had to dial it back to: not only have people fought for us to even to stand in that line as African Americans – but they’re trying to take women’s rights away. [Regardless] if the person I voted for wins or not… if we don’t exercise that right to vote, we [might as well] revert to the olden times when these certain groups didn’t have a voice at all.

We’ve created this entitled generation and I feel like [it would help] if we established smaller schools then we could honestly get to know them, character wise. [So when we see the kid having a bad day, we could approach them with better understanding to] say “Hey – shake it off”. But when we have a thousand kids in a school, some are going to get lost in the shuffle.

I believe we have done them an injustice by just passing them along. Another problem results from the fact [that] we haven’t properly prepared our teachers, and yet we hold them to these testing and work quality standards. Which means the students, how can I say…

…they fall on the priority list!

Yes exactly! My school has AP coursework for all our students. It works out nice for the school meeting their academic goals but half these kids don’t care about AP. They have to take AP exams at the end of the year, so teachers are under pressure to get them to perform because we [the school] have to look good. But [at the same time] we got a million kids that skip class.

We have 99% graduation rate, which is phenomenal… but somehow we’ve taken the accountability off of the children and put so much on us [teachers] and sometimes it’s like we’re doing all the heavy lifting.

I feel that.

I feel like [in order for teachers to perform] something has to give. They want ‘No Child Left Behind’ but you got little ‘Moniqua’ over here who doesn’t want come to school. She comes in class like “Man f*ck you Miss, I ain’t doin this sh*t.” And when I send her out of class for being disruptive, they [administrators] send her right back, so now I’m trying to figure out how to teach the rest of the other 22 kids.

I think we should learn how to put the accountability back on the kids, so they don’t feel so entitled. [Ultimately] teach them how to be successful members of society. I think that’s the biggest problem. We’re putting too much pressure on the teachers and not enough accountability on kids and parents.

AND parents. That’s the keyword there.

Yes, accountability comes from the parent too.

And with the heavy lifting and accountability, we scare a lot of good teachers away because of that.

If you could implement any magical solution to fix this problem, what would it be?

It would definitely be going back to smaller schools. That way we can focus more on the character piece to [better] help those students who might not have that guidance [outside of school]. At the end of the day, we put all this knowledge in their heads but if it doesn’t translate over to real life and being a useful member of society, then how are we really helping them?

We might have those kids that are on the cusp, but they go the wrong way because they see 1 or 2 other kids getting away with stupid sh*t. Smaller schools would help because we could really drive home that character piece. Plus, we’d have more time to build relationships with the families. If I had 100 kids in a grade level, which means my class size would be no bigger than 25 or whatever, I can make those phone calls and make those home visits. But when I have 35 kids in my class, I’m only gonna call when there is a problem.

Smaller schools could also help us draw in the community and draw in the parents more. By involving the parents more, it would help to get our students to buy in. Yeah there still might some kids that get lost in the shuffle but it won’t be as many. In my opinion.

Quality over quantity, I see that.

We have this system that is structured and standard, and yet we have these kids that are individual and unique. It only makes sense that the same approach doesn’t work for all of them.

And [then] we don’t have the manpower to [effectively] serve all the kids that require more time and assistance.

That’s when the snowball effect comes in because there would be more teachers if they paid them what they’re worth and supported them. And if we supported them properly, they could serve the kids more effectively.

What other topics or subjects do you think the kids could benefit from learning about?

We do this thing called restorative circles. Instead of just kicking the kid out [of class], I ask for a circle and within the next couple days before they [can] come back to class, the teacher, student, parents, administrator and the restorative coordinator sit in a circle and talk.

We create a space where everybody can say how [the situation] made them feel. Get everything out in the open and then come up with a compromise that works for everyone. With the parent there, I feel like that will help to better hold them [student] accountable. With these circles we would have a better opportunity to build relationships and it teaches them how to talk through adversity. Teaches how to coexist with people you might not care too much about.

Ultimately, the teachers can teach all day long. But if the parents are not being supportive [of the teachers lessons] at home then it makes it more difficult to get through to a child. And if we were able to build that relationship with the parents, they could address the issue before it even gets to the classroom.

That’s what I would change. It would be a lot of work on my part as the teacher but in the long run it would pay off. What’s two or three parent conferences a month just to make sure my year flows smoothly?

I can see it, in an ideal world.