Talking out of school: Educators on financial literacy
I recently had the chance to talk to early childhood educators at the annual conference of the Texas Association for the Education of Young Children (TXAEYC) in Galveston, Texas. One of my favorite parts of an eventful and inspirational evening came after my speech to these educators, when I took off my lavalier mic and got the chance to pick their brains about financial education in the classroom—what challenges they face and what breakthroughs they’ve had, what works, and what takeaways they might have from the event. They had a lot to say—they’re teachers, after all—but here are just a few thoughts that really stuck with me from just a handful of an impressive bunch.
Richardson, Texas, early childhood education consultant for Region 10 Education Service Center.
“I think about the families that we work with—if you don’t have enough money for basic needs, needs versus wants is not even a conversation. So how can a parent focus on teaching their child financial responsibilities when they feel like a failure because they’re not providing enough for their needs? They may not be able to give them allowance, but they can have conversations—discussing the reality when they are paying bills or even when a notice comes that the lights are going to be turned off. Parents can use those moments to explain money and the value of an education and hard work, how that can equal a better financial future.”
Fort Worth, Texas, associate professor of child development at Tarrant County College, director of Tarrant County College Children’s Center, president of TXAEYC.
“Last spring a little boy came in. He’d just had his birthday party and was all excited about it. And so he hollers at me, into my office, ‘My grandpa gave me a lot of money for my birthday!’ And his mom, as he’s yelling, she’s saying, ‘I told you not to talk about that.’ And he’s looking at her, so confused. And then he just kind of looks at me like, What’s going on? I just said, ‘Nolan, when your mom and I were little, we were both probably taught whatever your family does with money is just to talk about with your family.’ That’s exactly how I grew up.”
Houston, program manager, SEARCH’s House of Tiny Treasures, a child development center for homeless children.
“People aren’t homeless because they want to be. It’s because something in their life didn’t work out for them. I have yet to find one homeless family, one homeless parent that doesn’t love their child and want the best for them. There’s some specific things I will do next because of this event. First, I’m going to put in my newsletter for parents the fact that if you tell your children you’re saving for college—and they don’t need to know how much—that they are more likely to go to college. For families of extreme poverty, that’s so powerful.”
Dallas, regional director at Teachstone, a teacher training provider.
“When I was working in the classroom, I taught K–6 music. The parallel that I make with financial education is with delayed gratification. The children would have to take turns playing guitar. The other person would watch their partner play and offer feedback, and then they would switch. Being able to manage expectations of things that are important to them is a skill that translates over into financial literacy.”
Austin, Pritzker Early Childhood Fellow at City of Austin Public Health.
“The skill of critical thinking must be applied to financial literacy. With young children, that means finding out about their thought process. You start out by asking a child, ‘What do you already know about money?’ And then they will tell you. ‘Okay, so you’re saying that when you put that card in, you get money back. Why do you think that happens?’ And then working from there to introduce concepts that are adjacent to what they’re already saying. Instead of saying, ‘Well, no, that’s not right,’ you say, ‘That’s really interesting! Here’s something that I know.’ Because we all learn by constructing knowledge.”