Our public school system is an epic fail regarding teaching students to thrive in the real world.
Hope is not lost. There are some basic things ALL teachers can utilize in their classrooms regardless of what subject they teach.
Having about 20 years of experience in the classroom allows me to speak confidently about these methods and their effectiveness.
Teachers can help prepare their students for success in life by emphasizing these five points:
- Teach students how to work in a group – Few great businesses were built by a one-man-band. If students are going to learn how to build wealth, they first need to know how to play nicely with others. This also forces them to branch out and expose themselves to different ways of thinking. Confirmation bias is a destroyer of wealth. A simple technique is to have students count off 1-5. All the number ones will be in one group; the twos will make up their own group, etc. This will assure they cannot work with only the people they know, and provides possible connections they never would have had if they stayed in their comfort zone.
- Emphasize public speaking – Oral projects, in which students must get in front of the class and present their case, are ideal. People are influenced most by stories and emotion. While it is very important to have good writing skills, most people will end up meeting the right contacts by their ability to verbally interact with strangers. You might be surprised; some of the worst writers might be the best speakers. Make this skill equally as important as the written word. Remember Steve Job’s magical words of “Just one more thing” at the end of his presentations? This is what sticks out in the minds of the average person, not the complicated software inside his machines.
- Discourage grade grubbing – Very few things were more infuriating to me than students who received a 98 on an exam and then spent their time pestering me about getting another two points. I dissuaded them from this practice at the beginning of the year by telling them a much better use of their skills would be focusing their energies on the students in the class who were barely passing. In life you get what you give. Teaching students to help struggling classmates over their own selfish desires builds invaluable leadership traits that are infinitely more valuable than getting two extra points on a test that will mean nothing to their future endeavors.
- Focus students on what they like to do – Due to intense peer pressure, students will often sign up for numerous Advanced Placement courses in high school. I would always tell them to focus on the one or two subjects they most enjoyed. Nobody is an expert in everything and devoting hours of time to drudgery can lead to many other problems. Most successful people focus on what they like, not on what is going to impress their parents’ annoying, competitive friends at cocktail parties.
- Learn stuff because it gives you joy – “Is this going to be on the test?” is one of the most discouraging questions a teacher can hear. It creates a joyless and soulless learning environment suited for the archaic assembly line jobs of the past, rather than today’s modern knowledge-based economy. Nothing would make me happier than when students took the initiative and brought their outside experiences into the classroom. I will never forget when a student brought in his grandfather’s bombardier uniform from World War II after I taught them about the Battle of Britain. Instilling the habit of life-long learning is the greatest reward. Teaching to the test is a direct pass to life in a cube farm.
These techniques can be implemented by any teacher. By using these methods, the building blocks will be in place for the student’s graduation into a successful career that hopefully will enable them to build wealth for themselves and, possibly others. Emphasizing process rather than outcome in the classroom is the most valuable legacy teachers can leave to their students.
This is just a start to solving this problem. Putting students on this path can lead to wealth and prosperity in the future; and may open the door to actually developing a rigorous financial literacy program that all would benefit from.
It’s possible the quiet kid sitting in the back row may become the next Warren Buffet after he/she was inspired by this approach and encouraged to do something they love by following a sound, repeatable process that makes the world a better place.
Imagine, the teacher who lit a fire under this financial prodigy may not have even known the difference between a stock and a bond!