The students make the class for the instructor

By Jasper Smith, GTA Instructor
Another class is now in the books and I must say this one was much different than any other I’ve done thus far. I had yet another eclectic mix of students, which made each and every week a lovely adventure. I think the difference this time around is that I opened up quite a bit more (about my personal + professional life) to this group, which encouraged them to be more open with me. GTA’s tagline is “Make Your Decisions Count” and I didn’t always make the “right” decisions, but was able to come out of all of my questionable decisions unscathed. Preparing them for life was the goal and with each week, my stories were able to drive home the point of each individual activity.
My favorite activity over the course of the 10-weeks was yet again the flea market game. The challenges the students encounter during the activity closely resemble that of real life. The lessons taken from the the flea market game are priceless! The debrief of this game sparked an amazing conversation around budgeting, lifestyle habits, career aspirations and overall just being a responsible adult. I look forward to this activity with every group that I teach.
While I know the students don’t immediately appreciate it , I thoroughly enjoy our vocabulary lessons. One student asked why we cover so many words/concepts like best interest, macro/microeconomics, dominant strategy, supply, demand, opportunity cost, over the course of the 10-weeks. I expressed to her that there are so many things happening around you in the world and while you may not have been aware of them, understanding these concepts/words will enable you to make wiser decisions and perhaps avoid being taken advantage of as you go through life. The young lady also noted that many of the things she was learning at GTA we not being covered in school.
In addition to all of the awesome curriculum activities, it was all of the ancillary events that really made me appreciate the work that I’m doing with GTA. First off, there was a student attending with a disability and his mother sat in during the first few weeks of class to see how he would respond to the group. After the 6th class, she shared with me that her son didn’t have any friends prior to attending GTA. Of course that all changed after I assigned seating during one class. Her son and his new friend are now inseparable!
Next, there was the young man who pulled me aside after class and asked me for advice on how to give a presentation. He informed me that he had been observing my style throughout the previous classes and asked for some tips. I shared a few, like how to keep an audience engaged by speaking to them and not relying solely on his PowerPoint, utilize humor when appropriate, vary the sound of his voice (vocal variety) and make sure to stay within his time constraint. He of course came in next class with a huge smile on his face and said he aced the presentation.
Lastly, there was the young lady who ALWAYS asked multiple questions whenever we were discussing a financial topic. During our lesson on predatory financial products, she was asking how such products could be legal and why do so many people use them. During our stock-market game, she would ask why is investing so important and how can she learn more about investing. Or during our discussion on banking and credit, she grilled me on how a bank stacks up against a credit union and what strategies could she utilize to make sure she maintained a good credit status.
I hope the students enjoyed their 10-weeks as much as I did. As always, I look forward to reviewing the evaluation surveys to see how I really did as their instructor. You never really know if it’s “sinking in” but something always tells me that some of it had to stick.
I can’t wait until my next GTA adventure.