Friday, December 29, 2017

COOPERATIVE ECONOMICS: Don’t Forget to Teach Your Students the Invaluable Lessons of Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship!

Note - Today is Day 4 of Kwanzaa & I'm examining how each principle correlates with CLASSROOM TEACHER SUCCESS. Today's principle is Cooperative Economics (UJAMAA in the East African language, Kiswahili). Take a read & feel free to comment.

Just before Christmas, 2017, I posted on my Facebook page that I was going to launch my first ever blog page on December 26 to coincide with the start of the Kwanzaa season. In my post, I committed to writing a blog post for educators for each of the seven days of Kwanzaa and that each day would address the principle of the day relative to how it correlates with classroom teacher success. I knew that the principle that would give me the greatest challenge writing would be the one that I am addressing here – Cooperative Economics. For the past several days, I asked myself, “How will I make this principle work since it doesn’t have an obvious connection to classroom teaching success.” Then it hit me…Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship. Many, and I mean MANY students graduate from high school having no understanding of money beyond spending it. I therefore decided that I would devote this blog post to the following three categories as it relates to the classroom teacher:

            • Money Management
            • Leveraging Money
            • Entrepreneurship

Money Management
Let me say first and foremost that as either an elementary or secondary school teacher, I understand that your plate is more than full with endless responsibilities that go well beyond the instructional side of your work. But as full as your plate may be, your students cannot afford to leave your classroom at the end of the school year without some level of understanding of how to manage money. Although you may be an elementary school teacher and money management may be a long way off for your students, you can still plant some seeds now. They have to know that money is not solely for spending. They need to know something about saving, budgeting and investing money. They need to understand how to maintain and balance a checkbook. These are simple yet important concepts you can address in an interdisciplinary format throughout the course of the school year. If we are truly preparing them for life after grade school, managing money has got to be a part of the conversation.

Leveraging Money
Again, the subject areas that we teach are simply not enough. I am known to say that “we teach children first and subject areas secondarily.” I consider that sequence to be a game-changer but so many of us continue to see ourselves as “the Math teacher, the  Science teacher or the English teacher.” I say no, we are teachers of children first! To that end, children need to know something about not only making and managing money but leveraging money as well. As I stated above, they need to understand that there is more to money than spending it. In this case, even at the elementary level, your students need to understand how money works…how “money makes money”…how money grows…how money works for you, even when you are asleep…how to leverage money through debt. I’m not saying that the discussion needs to be intense nor in depth, but I am saying that there is a need to incorporate the discussion into your lessons throughout the course of the school year.

It is my strong contention that the discussion of entrepreneurship is unavoidable at the school level. Your students need to understand that entrepreneurship is yet another means of earning a living and thereby another level of managing and leveraging money. In the two previous sections, I’m talking about your students managing their money after receiving it in a paycheck. In this section, I’m talking about your students independently (or in partnership) owning their own businesses. They would therefore need to know how to manage their money from a different vantage point relative to both, reinvesting their earnings back into their businesses and managing the money that is not reinvested. What’s key here is planting seeds of entrepreneurship and managing the money of a business while they are young.

So many children do not realize the “power” and potential they possess to do virtually anything they set their minds on achieving. In the world of work, the possibilities are endless, but they must prepare for it. Entrepreneurship on the other hand enables them to take full ownership and control of their own businesses. For those of you who teach in economically disadvantaged communities and service underserved students, this conversation is particularly vital. Underserved children in particular need deliberate exposure to all the options and possibilities that exist while they are still in school toward filling the void of what may be absent in their conversations at home. The seeds of business ownership must be planted now which include, in the spirit of today’s principle - Ujamaa, envisioning a future of collaborating with other members of their communities toward investing in their neighborhoods and building up their neighborhoods through the development of viable and much needed businesses and services. Obviously, they won’t all opt to become entrepreneurs but at least with the seeds that you plant, you are giving them something to think about and consider now, and possibly build upon through time.


  1. Another timely post relative to Ujamaa-Cooperative Economics and how it can benefit students in the classroom. For well over 10 years with the assistance of my school counselor Roberta Leveson we partnered with Junior Achievement to introduce a magnificent Financial Literacy program to our middle school students. Our social studies teachers were trained on a curriculum that taught students about investment, budgeting, credit, debt, entrepreneurship, financial careers and so much more related to the world of finance. The program ended with a culminating activity where students were given roles that allowed them to run their own towns. No other school in the district had such a program. Once I left the middle school I instituted the same program for K-5 students. As a matter of fact the program was so successful the mayor of the town that I worked in participated in the culminating activity for 2 consecutive years. Financial literacy programs are vital to the overall learning curve of students. We need to begin these programs early and often, because students absolutely love it and can benefit immensely from a financial education. When students aren't giving an opportunity learn about entrepreneurship, savings and investments,credot/debt etc. we are setting them up for failure. So in my opinion these types of programs are definitely in alignment with Ujamaa-Cooperative Economics.

    1. Wow...I had no idea...outstanding! I happen to know the statewide director of Jr. Achievement...she's doing big things as are you my brother. I appreciate the comment.

  2. This reminds me of something my grandmother told me when I was questioning whether or not I should pursue another level of education. She would say you can’t have a seat at the table if you don’t have chair. We can no longer teach our students what is necessary to maintain the status quo. This is a powerful topic because not only do we need programs like Junior Achievement but STEM education must be a priority for ALL students beginning in preschool. We can begin with money management but it must go beyond that. Look at the effect. Studies indicate that there is a strong correlation between student achievement on math and science test scores and their future earning potential. It is our responsibility to teach the students to think-to know what to do when they don’t know what to do. This is critical thinking. When we increase the students intellectual capital, their economic capital increases and as a result the students will have access to better careers/jobs and will have opportunity to become economically, politically, culturally and socially responsible citizens.

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