We proudly support Financial Literacy Month and recognize our teachers and partners across the country in their efforts to further this critical skill set – not only in April, but everyday, all year long. This month we’ll be featuring our teacher ambassadors as they share how they inspire their students to become financially literate using our free digital resources.
Eileen Lennon teaches technology at Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School 74 in Bayside, Queens. She is part of the team that developed the social media guidelines and resources for the NYC Board of Education, and has presented at various technology conferences, including the NYCDOE Tech Summit, EduCon, and the Tech & Learning Summit.
Q: Do you discuss financial futures and aspirations with your students?
A: Yes. I do an exercise with my class where I give each student a monthly income of $200. They have four weeks to pay all the bills I’ve given them without their checks bouncing. I know this is early for them, but I’d rather them make mistakes with $200 in this exercise than make that same mistake later in life with $2,000 at risk. If it becomes second nature to them now, they’ll understand how to handle larger amounts of money. It gives them room to learn and a safe space to make mistakes.
Q: Have your students come up with ideas for how they will make money in the future without prompting?
A: They haven’t done so on their own, but I do have another exercise that I do in class that keeps them focused on the future and helps to prepare them for the career paths they’re interested in. I send them to the Department of Labor website and have them research careers – how much does the job you want pay, what’s its outlook, is the industry growing or shrinking? What’s something you can do today to help you get that job someday?
While keeping them focused on a goal that is seemingly an eternity away, I have them set short-term goals that they can achieve in the present. For example, if they want to work in the medical or engineering field, I say, “Maybe you should focus more on your math classes now to prepare you for that path later.” They might not end up in the careers they choose in this activity, but it gives them some direction – and having direction is better than studying without an end goal in mind.
Q: How do you see FutureSmart helping your students to develop smart habits?
A: EVERFI’s FutureSmart program helps keep them in that future-oriented mindset. It keeps them thinking about making a plan to achieve their goals and reinforces the real world tasks they’ll be doing sooner than they think! I’m teaching them how to balance checkbooks and use spreadsheets, and EVERFI is teaching them critical life skills with their online resources.
I also encourage students to utilize EVERFI programs at home so they can start the conversation of financial literacy and career readiness with their families. A majority of my students are bilingual where their parents do not speak English or are learning English from their children. My goal is to help not only my students to develop these critical skills, but to transfer them to their families as well.