Real Stories from the Real World Classroom experience.
As the Expanded Pilot Program moves forward, and more and more students are using the RWC model, we will invite teachers to send in stories of experiences their students have had in learning. These stories will be an inspiration to us all and a perfect illustration of what happens when you bring the real world into the classroom.
*Student names have been changed.
Gambling never pays
Jonathan was one of my most academically bright students. Because he always scored high on his tests he earned lots of good raises and had a high base salary and was doing well financially in the class as well. One week while playing Life Happens Jonathan had an idea of a way that he could “gamble” in the game. He wanted to keep drawing scenarios in order to get a big pay-off. I told him he could draw as many as he wanted, and could stop any time, but he had to keep everything he drew.
As the game went on, Jonathan got some good sticks and some bad, but was completely oblivious to the net loss/gain as he was so caught up in the excitement. I noticed a number of student who had been keeping track of the numbers getting really nervous. Early on, most of the class were cheering him on and encouraging him to keep going. But after a while more students were urging him to stop.
When all was said and done, between increases to his budget and cash out of pocket, Jonathan had lost over $11,000. It completely depleted his savings and he eventually was forced to sell his home and move into something more affordable to his new budget.
At the end of class that day, a couple other students stayed behind and asked me if Jonathan really had to pay all that money.
I asked them, “Do you think he would have insisted on keeping the money if he had come out ahead?”
They replied, “Absolutely.”
I followed up, “Then he probably should have to pay up since he lost. You know, I knew he would lose. I am the one who made all the scenarios and so I knew the odds were in my favor. So, why do you think I let him do it?”
They thought about it for a while and then finally one of them replied, “I guess it’s like the real world. The giant casinos didn’t get built because people can go in and get lucky all the time.”
My final question was simple, I asked them if they thought Jonathon had learned his lesson. They didn’t have to think about this one long before they answered, “Probably not. But I sure did. I am NEVER gambling in the real world.”
Mr. Bean, Tomball Memorial High School 2015
Abusing Credit Cards
One of my favorite experiences happened the first year I used the RWC model in class. One of my students, Andrea, came from a fairly well-off family who had given her a credit card for 16th birthday and routinely paid off the balance for her. Consequently, Andrea had no idea how credit cards worked and was never forced to be responsible with her spending. I didn’t learn this until after the fact…
See, when Andrea first started off in class her debt/income ratio was as good as any other student’s. As time progressed however, Andrea habitually put everything on her credit card. If she needed a hall pass, on the card. When she bought notes to use on the quiz, on the card. When it came time to buy Life Grades, on the card. Every time she spent money it was on the card. However, she never made any payments. She just ignored them despite my repeated notices.
As you can imagine, each missed payment hurt her in-class credit score and came with fees and increased rates. Before she knew it, her monthly payment was way more than she could afford. At the same time, her academic performance had dropped off and her income was adversely affected. So with a dropping income and a rising cost of living, by mid-year she requested that I foreclose on her home because she couldn’t find a buyer and couldn’t afford the payments anymore.
We had a long talk, and I actually made her deal with the consequences for a while as we put her on a plan to work out of her debts. She told me later that her biggest take-away from the class was the reality of how credit cards worked. I am so glad she learned that lesson in my class and not in the real world!
Mr. Bean, Tomball Memorial High School 2014
Applying a budget to make a real difference
Ethan was a good student and came from an affluent family. About two weeks after we finished with our unit on snowballing your debts Ethan stayed after class to talk to me. He told me how he was able to make a huge difference at home because of some of the things he had learned in class.
You see, Ethan’s parents apparently made enough money that they didn’t think they needed a budget. One night at dinner, Ethan was talking to them about what we were doing in class and it started a conversation about their own family finances. As it turned out, his parents had never made a budget and didn’t even realize just how badly they were living paycheck-to-paycheck.
As a family, they sat down and went through all of their debts, analyzed their spending habits and Ethan helped them create their very first budget as well as set realistic goals for getting out of debt. When he told me the story, he was so proud and happy that not only were the lessons we were doing in class relevant, but he was personally able to make a difference in his family’s life.
Mr. Bean, Tomball Memorial High School, 2014
A born entrepreneur
Sydney always performed in the top two of her class on every test we took. It got to the point that anytime a student was absent they went to Sydney for what they missed because she took the best notes. One day she approached me during class and asked if I would help her start a business. I asked her what she wanted to do.
She replied, “Well, everyone is always asking me for my notes. So it seems I already have a high-demand product. I was thinking that if students would give me their email addresses, I could just email them copies of my notes right after class since I type them as we go. Then I could charge them a weekly subscription fee to get my emails.”
I looked at her and said, “Sounds like a great plan. What do you need me for?”
She thought about it, and embarrassed said, “I guess I really don’t. I mainly just wanted permission because I know you have print-outs for sale and I don’t want to put you out of business.”
Sydney put me out of business. Within a matter of weeks she was bringing in more money through her subscriptions than I was paying for her in-class salary!
Mr. Bean, Tomball Memorial High School 2014
Buy low, sell high
So, for those of you who are new to the RWC, every class section is considered a publicly traded company with stocks that fluctuate in value based on academic performance and attendance. Earlier this year I had a number of students from a couple of my classes that I noticed were always hanging outside my door in between class periods.
I didn’t think much about it until it went on for a few days and I noticed they were taking notes on who was going in each period. So I started paying attention. They were doing market research! I later found out that they had come up with a system to categorize each of our units and lessons on difficulty level as well as rank each class based on how “smart” they thought the class was. Right before difficult tests they would sell everything they had in certain class periods in anticipation of a drop in the market. Then, right before tests they predicted would be easier, they invested heavily in those same classes because they could get the stocks for a lot less than before and they were predicting a spike.
Their model has worked almost every time and if they keep going like they are, they will end up the wealthiest students I have ever had.
Mr. Bean, Tomball Memorial High School 2016