There are many dedicated educators and guidance counselors who go the extra mile every day to ensure that students are prepared for their financial future. IEF is proud to award Michael Goldberg of Martingrove Collegiate Institute (TDSB) with the 2011 Outstanding Educator in Financial Literacy award.
We interviewed Michael on his unique perspective on bringing financial literacy into the classroom. Here’s what he had to say:
1. Why is financial literacy important to you and your classroom?
When I look back on my high school education, I was really into business – but graduated wondering why I wasn’t taught about the basics of financial literacy. It wasn’t part of the curriculum then, and it certainly isn’t for most students today. Unlike driving a car, where you have to get a driver’s licence, there is no pre-requisite for obtaining a mortgage. If you make a mistake when signing up for a mortgage, it could cost you your financial life.
I feel it is my personal responsibility as a business teacher to give my students the information that I lacked in my educational experience. I want to give them as many opportunities to explore and talk about issues around money that are sometimes uncomfortable discussing within a family setting. Looking back on my experience with money, many of the costly mistakes I have made could have been avoided with a little knowledge at an earlier age.
When I teach kids about financial literacy, I know that the lessons learned are important and practical. They are going to use these lessons tomorrow and for the rest of their lives.
2. What do you find most challenging about teaching students to be fiscally responsible?
It’s funny that I don’t necessarily find this topic challenging to teach, but one issue could be the age at which we discuss fiscal responsibility. The most intense financial literacy taught in Ontario classrooms happens in the Introduction to Business course, which is taught at the grade 9 or 10 level. Most grade 10 students that I teach don’t have part-time jobs, so it’s probably hard for them to relate to these money-based concepts. It’s easier to learn about being fiscally responsible when you can directly relate to it.
3. In your experience, what has worked best to engage students on the topic?
I’ve found that talking about any issue related to money hooks students right away, especially when it involves how to make more or save more. The best teaching strategies, financial literacy or otherwise, always involve some experiential component. When I was a student, I loved doing, not reading about. Kids love doing stock market challenges or other co-curricular simulations or events because they get more engaged in their learning. In my grade 12 Financial Securities course, students don’t just talk about financial planning; they build a financial plan from scratch. They pick a real client, survey them, do a risk assessment, create a plan of action and then talk with and update their client on whether the plan is working or not. You can’t get experience like this out of a textbook.
4. Do you have any advice or tips for other teachers looking to introduce financial literacy in their classrooms?
A lot of people think you have to be a money expert, stock market wizard or financial planner to teach financial literacy. I am certainly not an expert. I think if you have a bank account and you pay bills, own or rent a place to live, you’re off to a good start! If you don’t have the knowledge, read up on the topic. There are so many great resources out there to help support us with this important endeavour. (You may personally benefit from this knowledge too!)
It also helps if you’re interested in the topic, and who isn’t? This is a subject that all of us can improve upon. Every year I learn something new about the world of finance from teaching finance. A few years ago, I had a student who asked me if I liked his strategy, as his father challenged him to a stock simulation competition. His idea was to look up stocks that paid high dividends and invest in them. I had never heard of dividend yield at the time, but I told the student that his strategy sounded good. His stocks outperformed his father’s stock selection.
5. What resources have you found most useful in helping to educate your students?
As I mentioned before, there are so many resources out there. Number one on my list (and it’s not just because of this honour I’m receiving) is the Investor Education Fund and all its resources on GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca, such as Taking Stock in Your Future, Fair Play, and the Funny Money presentations. I use all of these resources and more!
Every issue of Moneysense magazine has something of value for those teaching anything related to personal finance. Google Finance is a great resource for all things stock market. I read many personal finance books and the top one on my list is still David Chilton’s The Wealthy Barber. Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s books, TV shows and website are all valuable tools. Lately I’ve used the FCAC (Financial Consumer Agency of Canada), and they have a financial literacy kit called “The City” with an excellent online component.
The Bank of Canada has a great website with lots of resources around money and counterfeit detection, a fantastic inflation calculator and lots of other “big picture” information.
There are other great sources out there. I always look to colleagues. Find other teachers in your school, board, province or the world who are doing the same thing that you are doing. Everyone’s got a unique approach. I also use instructional leaders from my school board.
One word of caution however, teachers should be aware of the sources of information/resources available. Some resources may contain a certain commercial bias that I am not comfortable with, especially in an educational setting.
Lately, Twitter has been a valuable and timely resource. I follow many of the sources listed above and get articles today that friends and family will send me two days later.
Congratulations to Michael Goldberg and the many other educators who help to shape the minds of Canada’s future investors.
You can also follow Michael Goldberg on Twitter at @MrMGoldberg.