May 26, 2010
It's amazing what you can do when you try! Take the last week or two for example. Liam has learned that he can live very easily without Facebook now it has been blocked from our computer. Ali has learned that if you hold on for long enough you can bring down an 85kg chap on the rugby field, even if you're only 35kg yourself. And I've learned that being a school teacher is very hard work but can be hugely rewarding and a lot of fun! Yes, for the past three weeks I have had the pleasure of teaching a life skills class to the Year 12 students at the local college. The aim? To teach them smart money habits the Simple Savings way at 16, so that when they leave home they don't end up like I did, broke and clueless at 32. Easy peasy! Or so I thought...
'Now - you're going to need to talk for an hour at a time, can you do that?' asked the Head of Department. 'Can I do that? Pah - you're looking at a veteran of 50 squillion Simple Savings talks lady, I can do this standing on my head!' I thought, but didn't say. As far as I was concerned I had it sussed. The first week would be based on how to be smart with your money, the second week would cover all the daft things people do to throw away their money and the third week would focus on long term goals and how to achieve your dreams the Simple Savings way. I was really looking forward to it! Unfortunately my kids were appalled at the prospect of having their mum parading around their school. 'Now for goodness' sake Mum, don't call the other kids by their names in class, otherwise they'll think 'Hey, how does she know who I am?' Liam gave me a stern warning. Ali on the other hand was more concerned with my looking the part. 'No way Mum, you can't go looking like that!' he rolled his eyes at the sight of me wearing jeans, a hooded sweater and purple baseball boots. He rifled through my wardrobe and picked out a floral blouse and suitably 'boring' shoes. 'THAT'S the sort of thing teachers wear', he advised sagely.
I also sought the advice of 17-year-old Alex on the subject matter I had chosen for the class and whether he thought it would appeal to young people. 'Yep, that looks good', he said. 'But are you sure you've got enough material for a whole hour's lesson?' 'Yeah, this will be heaps to go on!' I said confidently. 'Oh well, as long as you're sure, came the reply. Sure? Of course I was!
The big day dawned and I realised I was terrified. Fortunately I had an enormous desk at the front of the class to plonk all my stuff on, so I could refer to my notes constantly without the students realising I was doing it! The lesson began and straight away I got their attention, just the way the Simple Savings website had first got mine years ago. Fiona has said to me many a time 'Teaching people to save money is easy. Making people WANT to save money is the hard part'. So I went for the tactic that I thought would appeal most to teenagers. In a nutshell, the smarter you are with your money and the more you can save, the less you have to work. You could literally see the lightbulbs going on inside their heads! Just like these teens, until I heard of Simple Savings, I had never had any reason to want to save money before. I knew I HAD to, because I was fast sending us broke - but that had always been the problem - I had never wanted to, until I read the Home Page. If you haven't read the Simple Savings Home Page for a while, go and read it, right now! You'll have to log out to see it if you're logged into the Vault but do read it. It talks about just that, how being smart with your money will enable you to work less and achieve your dreams. Sometimes it's great to just reaffirm with ourselves why we do what we do and why Simple Savings is so darn good.
Anyway, the first lesson was going along swimmingly. We discussed the 'Time is Money' equation and they were horrified to discover that one of their friends would have to work 60 hours at his part time job just to pay for the lollies he bought each week. We talked about wants vs needs when it comes to what we spend our money on and how little bits of money add up to a lot. At this stage one of the students was reprimanded by the teacher aide observing in the corner for texting in class 'I'm not!' he protested indignantly. 'I'm using the calculator function to work out how much I spend on chocolate!' We talked about how to shop around for the best price on things and before I knew it I had gone through the entire lesson plan. There was just one rather large problem. We were only 20 minutes into the lesson - we still had 40 minutes to go! What on earth was I going to fill it with? There was only one thing for it - I was going to have to reach deep into my SS brain and pull out as much information as I could. Those poor kids wouldn't have known what had hit them as I bombarded them with one thing after another, going off on one tangent to the next. By the end of the lesson I don't know who was more exhausted, them or me!
Mercifully my first class finally came to an end. I had a whole new respect for teachers and the amount of work that goes into planning an effective lesson. I had also never had such a sore throat in my life! 'That's why most teachers carry water bottles', grinned the teacher aide. 'That was really good!' he said. 'Just one thing - you don't have to talk ALL the time. Give the kids something to do, so they can put what you're teaching them into practise. It also gives you a chance to rest your voice for a few minutes!' Bingo! Of course! Those poor kids had sat there as good as gold while I had done nothing but ramble on at them for an hour. I fully expected them not to bother coming back the following week but they must have been gluttons for punishment and from then on I made sure I was much better prepared.
By the time we got to the third lesson I was much more relaxed and really enjoying the kids' company. I learned that teenagers are a lot more switched on than we give them credit for and as we discussed their goals and dreams for the future I was pleasantly surprised. Only one student out of 23 had no idea what she wanted; the others wanted anything from their own home to their own veterinary clinic, a trip around Europe and in one girl's case, 'a Dodge Viper and a trip around the world!' We had heaps of fun drawing up a budget using the Bill Payment System. First we went through all the junk mailers, circling all the things they would like to buy once they left home and were earning their own money. I loved listening to all the discussions, especially how they were now seeing all the sales spiel for what it really was! Then we had a go at filling in the Bill Payment System using the average monthly wage and trying to make ends meet as we paid the average monthly bills, based on national statistics. We were all shocked to see just how little was left! It really opened their eyes and made them see how important it was to pay for the essentials first, because then they would know that there was no way they would be able to afford a widescreen television, even if it was 12 months interest free. It was a great way to show that living within your means is possible but you have to use your money the right way round if you want to stay out of debt.
The final lesson was coming to a close and I had really enjoyed my time at the school but there was just one thing I wish I had had more time to cover. I was surprised when I asked the students in the first lesson what they most wanted to learn how to save money on and their answer was 'food'. Unfortunately I had run out of time but there was one thing I could do to help them save money on food that would be more valuable than anything I could teach them in an hour long lesson. I gave them all a copy of the $21 Challenge book. You would have thought I had given them the moon! Since then, both the students and their parents have told me how much they have enjoyed the book. I'd like to think it will end up in the kitchen of their flats or dormitories when they leave home - if their parents will part with it that is!
Another thing that the students have told me is that they thought that learning about saving money was going to be boring, but found that it wasn't at all. I would love to say that was down to my general wonderfulness as a teacher but definitely not! The reason it wasn't boring was because of all the wonderful material I had to share from Simple Savings - and let's face it, the reason we all love SS is because it makes saving money easy and fun, rather than the cumbersome chore people assume it to be. I think I definitely learned as much about teaching as the students learned about saving and while I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, I think I'll leave it to the professionals from now on!
So that's one challenge down and there's another just round the corner! I just took a peek at my calendar and realised that next month is Double Dinners Month. One word - eeeek! I don't know why but I have always been rubbish at cooking in bulk. Correction Penny - be honest, you've just never had the confidence to give it a proper go, have you? *Sigh* 'tis true! Last time I thought I would be clever and make a double batch of Shepherds Pie I ended up with mince and potato soup. I guess maybe I've just never used the right recipes! However it's a skill I would really love to have and this month is certainly a good time for me to give it a go. Ali has just been selected to represent the region at rugby, which will mean three nights a week training and a lot of time travelling. I can see dinner going decidedly pear shaped in the evenings if I don't get my bum into gear and get organised. This is one challenge I'm determined to do really well!