Do Civilians Know What It Takes to Teach?

teacher no control

To shed light on the types of things teachers have to do, we interviewed an Information Technology (IT) consultant whose company launched a financial literacy campaign. As part of the campaign, the company sent its employees out to try their hand at teaching. Here is one consultant’s teaching story:

What is your name; how old are you; what do you do for work?

William Chiu; 26 years old; IT consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) advisory group.

I hear you had a little experience teaching, how did that opportunity come about?

PWC launched 5-year initiative for financial literacy with the goal of teaching 1 million hours over five years. The initiative is to promote financial literacy for students in grades 3-5 over 10 courses. They day I went, we actually set a Guinness World Record for “The Largest Simultaneous Financial Literacy Lesson in Multiple Locations.” The goal for the year was to teach 13,000 hours; on one day, we taught 8,000 hours in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Phoenix.

I taught 5th grade with three other people. The topics we taught were savings, making budget, understanding the difference between income and expenses, and how to save for a big purchase.

What did you think before heading into the classroom? What type of things were you anticipating?

I’ve taught classes before (new hire training, college tutoring), but I’ve never taught elementary school kids. It was definitely scary. It helped that I wasn’t alone. I was actually pretty excited to help teach, because financial literacy is one of those subjects that we all know is important, but there’s not enough emphasis on teaching it in the classroom.

The first thing you remember feeling?

We were transported on a school bus. It’d been a while since I’ve been to school. All the kids were playing outside at recess, and we got a chance to play with them interact before heading into classroom. We played games like handball—they were so competitive.

Being in front of the classroom was a little scary. I didn’t know what to expect. One of the biggest challenges I remember was getting their attention. It takes a lot of energy even though we were there for an hour and shared responsibilities with three other people.

There were about 35 students who each needed attention. Even with four of us, there was not enough attention to go around. They were all so excited and had so many questions; I was exhausted in just one hour.

The teacher was there and sometimes she had to take over. She was obviously an expert. Sometimes we lost control of the class and we wouldn’t know what to do. The teacher helped us get control and focused again.

What was teaching like?

It was rewarding to interact with kids and to know they can walk away with very important life skills.

It was tough to understand what some of the kids have to go though. One of the kids was mentioning someone they knew was killed a few days ago. I understand why it’s tough for them to concentrate on school when a lot of things are going on at school. Definitely an eye-opening experience.

What would have made the experience better?

It’d be nice if we had more time. We crammed a lot of info in one hour. It would help if we had a curriculum to teach throughout a semester. Kids learn more if we spend more time with the concept instead of throwing it at them and expecting them to remember. A lot more interaction—that would be more meaningful .

What were some things you struggled with that you did not anticipate?

Time management—it was easy to get lost especially with the interaction. Students were asking  questions, and I could tell they really liked the session, but we only had an hour. When I looked at the material, it didn’t look like a lot, but it was a lot to go through with the kids.

Did your experience change your perception of teaching and teachers? If yes, how so?

Definitely. I really respect friends who are teaching elementary and middle school. I don’t know how my friends have the energy. I was exhausted in an hour.

What would you tell someone who was about to step into a classroom for the first time?

Preparation goes a long way as far as teaching class with kids. Anticipate for lost time because things happen. Budgeting extra time for activities can make teaching experience less stressful.

The best prep is to talk to teachers about their experience. Ask teachers because they know best practices in classroom. They know not only how to control classroom, but empathize with what kids are going through, and understand the emotions they experience. Every day, we deal with adults; kids are still developing socially and emotionally. Teachers play a big role in that development.

Would you do it again? Why or why not?

I would certainly do it again, and I encourage my colleagues to join next time we do it as we strive to achieve the 1 million hour goal. It was a life-changing experience for me.

Not enough hours in your day? See how Gradeable can help you get your time back!

For more Teacher Appreciation stories, click here.

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