Monday, February 25, 2019

Why I Love Teaching Financial Literacy

Six years ago my department leader came to me and asked if I’d be willing to take on the challenge
of creating the curriculum for a new semester course in personal finance that all seniors would need
to take before graduating. As any educator knows, teaching a new course can be daunting because
many hours will be devoted to finding, creating, and implementing quality curriculum. My department
leader buttered me up a bit by saying she thought I had the ‘creativity and energy’ needed to get kids
excited about financial literacy- so how could I say no to that? As it turns out, six years and 12 semesters
later, teaching financial literacy has been one of the best experiences I could have wanted as an
educator, and here’s why:

Teaching Practical Skills is Rewarding
As much as I enjoy teaching U.S. history or other topics that fall under the umbrella of ‘social studies’
there’s just something incredibly satisfying about being able to teach practical, hands on skills that I
KNOW my students will use immediately. I’ve never heard ‘when will I use this’ or ‘why do we have to
know this’ from any student in my personal finance classes, no small feat coming from a room full of
(sometimes) ornery teenagers! They can use the skills learned in class immediately in their everyday
lives and when I receive messages from former students who tell me they are using the information
learned in class out in the ‘real world’, it’s incredibly rewarding.

Personal Finance is Fun and Engaging
The topic of financial literacy allows for incredible engagement from students because most are already
earning and managing their finances to some extent. They naturally have lots of questions during class
and genuinely want to know more about each topic presented, which is such an exciting opportunity as
their teacher to build upon that natural curiosity. Whether it’s creating a real budget based on their
current earnings, participating in an ‘apartment renting’ simulation, or trying to guess ‘name brand or
store brand’ during a taste test activity, teaching personal finance also allows for so many fun and
engaging lesson ideas.

Financial Literacy Improves the Community
With student loan debt now in the trillions and financial literacy skills on the decline, it’s now more
important than ever to have quality financial literacy courses in every community. When students learn
how to make smart decisions with their finances, understand the consequences of various financial
decisions, and see the ‘big picture’ of how individual choices can also impact the community on a
broader scale, we all benefit from this increased knowledge of personal finance. My students take what
they’ve learned in class and bring it home to their families, engaging in meaningful conversations about
smart financial choices. As a financial literacy educator, it’s rewarding to know that I am making a
difference in not only the lives of my students, but inadvertently working toward improving the economic
climate in both my local and broader communities.

Self-Improvement Opportunities Abound
I can honestly say that teaching, in general, makes me a more patient, more knowledgeable, and more
well-rounded person. Having the opportunity to teach financial literacy has made a difference in the
management of my own finances. Being asked to teach this course has required that I do a great deal
of research, inevitably improving my own understanding of a wide variety of financial topics. Providing
the best quality education I can for my students has also given me opportunities to hear from a variety
of community members, from investment bankers to insurance agents, each experts in their own fields.
When my students don’t understand something or have questions to which I don’t know the answer, I
expand my knowledge base once again by finding the answers and engaging in meaningful
conversations. I’m constantly being given opportunities to learn and grow by teaching personal finance.

To any teacher who may be presented with the opportunity to teach personal finance classes, I would emphatically say ‘DO IT’!! Although it may seem daunting at first, you will be a better person for it and your students and community will thank you!

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