Showing Students it’s OK to Not to Have it All
Teacher: MaryBeth Bailey
School: Bethel Middle School and Bryant Middle School (Bryant, Ark.)
Subject: Family Consumer Science (A personal finance unit is within the course.)
Grade Level: 7th
State Financial Education Requirement: This year, legislation was passed that requires students in grades 10-12 to have personal finance; the graduating class of 2018-19 will be the first to have this requirement. The legislation specifically states the personal finance skills that should be taught.
Why Personal Finance: For MaryBeth, personal finance is – personal. She began her career as a credit union teller and saw that some of her customers lacked basic financial knowledge. To help, she worked to build relationships with her customers and help them be more financially secure. She did this by explaining the difference between debit and credit, helping customers with checkbook reconciliation and loan counseling.
Also, while working at the credit union, she was working on her masters in teaching and decided she wanted to teach personal finance. When she did, saw that some of her students had no idea what to do. That, she said, “was the spark to ensure kids don’t miss out on an education. Not everyone has the support at home to teach them the life skills – like managing money – they need.”
Why Teaching: When MaryBeth was young, she “used to play teacher all the time,” but she promised herself she would never become a teacher. However, after changing majors five times, and some discussions with her grandmother – a teacher – she decided teaching was in her blood. It also helped that, at the same time, she was working with her church’s youth group that gave her a new perspective on what she could accomplish.
Resources: Like many teachers, MaryBeth uses a “hodge podge” of resources, but her favorites are from National Endowment for Financial Education, Next Gen Personal Finance and Take Charge America. In addition, she pulls from the Jump$tart Clearinghouse. However, for MaryBeth it can be more challenging. There are a quite a number of high and elementary school resources, but not as many for middle school. So, often, she will tweak the resources – making a high school resource less challenging or an elementary school resource more.
MaryBeth’s school year is a bit different than most – she works at two schools and rotates from one school to the other around the Christmas break. MaryBeth said it’s the district she grew up in, but “it hasn’t grown enough to hire two of (her).”
However, while the schools and the students are different, her main goal is the same:
I want my students to walk away with the understanding that they can’t always have everything. We live in a world where everyone wants everything right now. It’s OK to not have everything that you want; it’s OK to have something you look forward to purchasing.
To achieve this goal, one element she focuses on heavily is debit vs. credit. She said her passion for this came from working with her credit union clients – she saw them getting into huge amounts of debt because they didn’t understand the difference. She wants to ensure her students do understand so they don’t live above their means.
To illustrate this to her students, MaryBeth typically starts with a logo game. The students are given a sheet of paper with 30 logos on one side and slogans or tag lines on the other. They then have to figure out the company each represents. The idea is to get students to recognize that the companies they see on television and on the internet want them to spend money.
MaryBeth says, “how we spend our money is how we start the conversation about personal finance.”
She then works with her students about jobs and careers – and even gives them a personality assessment, which shows them what jobs they might be good at. She wants the lesson to be something they can relate to.
Once they’ve chosen a job, the students, discuss net income vs. gross, taxes and average hours worked in a week. They also address how much money to spend on entertainment, housing and other expenses. All of these are then broken down into a monthly budget, which can be eye-opening for the students.
One student told MaryBeth, “now I know why mom says she doesn’t have any money at the end of the month.”