Kimiya Haghighi, 17, had a prose problem. As much as her teachers preached concise writing, her sentences remained long and overwrought — the words poured out, unpunctuated, one after another.
Then Aubrey Ludwig, her 11th-grade English teacher at Langley High School, introduced her class to Twitter, requiring that students tweet their responses to a Hemingway assignment in 140 characters or less. Suddenly, Haghighi’s writing was efficient, declarative, even staccato. “It was a total breakthrough,” she said.
Such assignments are coming under new scrutiny as Virginia and other states consider restricting how teachers and students interact on social-networking platforms such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. Officials want to preserve the educational opportunity offered by Ludwig and other teachers but also want to prevent sexual predators from exploiting the casual tone of such sites to build rapport with potential victims.
VICTORIA, Texas — There’s no money in education these days, Aloe Elementary teacher Kelly Lorance will say, unless you’re a fifth-grader in her class.
On any given day, there are hordes of cash spilling from students’ fingers or waded into desks for safekeeping.
One student has $500 saved, and Garrett Weber, scarcely taller than a doorknob, is already a landlord with multiple tenants.
Lorance’s students practice economics every day in their self-created society by earning fake cash, buying and selling everything from pencils to $2 rubber duckies.
“It teaches them everyday life skills that you can’t really teach to them in a lesson,” Lorance said. “I can’t really teach them how to be organized by pulling up a lesson plan. It’s got to be hands on to show them what our society is.”
The concept is simple: Students get paid for earning good grades or odd tasks and use it to pay obligations like desk rent or fees for missed assignments. They can even save their money and buy up other student’s desks, like Garrett does.
He’s a slight, blond-headed boy who wears glasses and quickly interrupts his fellow students as he explains how he’s come to be a landlord.
“It feels like you’re gaining power over someone,” he said.
Garrett bought three of his classmates’ desks, lowered the monthly rent, but still nets $60 at the end of every month. His goal is to have the most money in the room and continue growing his business.
“I want to buy the whole room,” he said.
Every bit of the approach is student driven, Lorance said. Students set the prices for job salaries — a janitor earns $15 while a tutor earns $20 — and so on. Students also set their grading pay scale and can earn up to $3 for an “A” or owe up to $5 for missed work.
The approach comes at an ideal age and in a perfect way, said youth financial literacy expert Lori Mackey.
“Employers reward sales people with commission, and so on, and when you reward a child with money, you’re just teaching them how money works,” she said.
Grade school is an ideal time to start simple financial concepts like compounded interest and how to buy and sell things because teachers have students in one classroom the entire day, unlike upper grades. If students grasp the concepts early, it can prevent them from financial woes later in life.
“The less educated you are with money, the more it costs you,” Mackey said.
With the economic climate deteriorating, Mackey believes financial literacy must start with children now more than ever.
“Our states are falling apart because they can’t manage money. So we, as parents and states and educators, have got to teach financial literacy,” she said. “The only way we can do that is teaching our children to work with money.”
But the love of money also ushers another concept — greed.
When Lorance’s students drop money on the floor, it quickly becomes a free-for-all.
“It’s gotten wilder. Way too wild,” said Destiny Rios, 11, who’s seen her share of money dives.
“Sometimes there’s at least four people bumping heads getting money,” Garrett said.
The money grab is part of the class rules to keep kids vigilant, and if cash is touching the floor, it’s anybody’s dollar.
“If they lose their money, too bad. So sad,” Lorance said. “I’m not replacing it. It’s just like the real world.”
So far, it seems to work.
“Once you drop it, you’re never going to drop it again,” Destiny said.
Lorance even planned for counterfeiting by buying the last and only brand of cash at a sports store.
Overall, the process seems effective though it requires extra effort to manage the 27 students.
Grades are rising, and Garrett is anxious to spend his savings.
She says the tests are not accurate measures of accomplishment, create undue anxiety for students and are used to punish schools.
She gives the example of her sons’ award-winning school, Park Forest Elementary, which last year was put on “warning” status after the school’s special education students fell below the level of progress the state expects on their exams.
“The more I looked at it, the more outraged I became,” Gray said, “This is not something I want to be contributing to (or) something I want my children participating in.”
“Most people are mirrors, reflecting the moods and emotions of the times. Some people are windows, bringing light to bear on the dark corners where troubles fester. The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.”—Sydney J. Harris (via world-shaker)
“I don’t ever want to have to depend on a relationship. I think it’s a really special thing to find love. It’s beautiful. Nothing can match it. But I want to make sure that I find other things in life that I love besides… love.”—Rihanna in the April Issue of Vogue (via vogue)