My Junior Achievement Experience
My first experience at Junior Achievement took place on Friday, February 7th, when I began my first day of field training at Finance Park. I was awe struck by the scale size of the building and excited and nervous at the same time. Being this was not only the first time that I had ever been a part of this program before in any capacity, but also because it was going to be my first chance to prove my skills as a teacher in training. I was so nervous that when I got there, I actually forgot my campus ID in the car, then I almost forgot my own name when signing in. We were then given our assignments and were asked to wait in the lobby. I gathered with the rest of the volunteers while we waited to be called back. Once inside some of our assignments were immediately changed, due to a shortage of help. I was first placed in Build Your Future (BYF), where I was instructed to put my stuff away and take a seat in the center of the room. Each seat held a volunteer tablet which we would be using for the rest of our day. After which I attended my first volunteer orientation where we learned how to sign into our own tablets, went through a brief five-minute system tutorial, and prepared for the school’s arrival. Once the students of Pioneer Middle school arrived, we were asked to stand in the doorway as they entered the building and had their own orientation. I observed that the eighth graders we were working with were remarkability better behaved then some of their fellow classmates in other areas. It was at this time that I was introduced to Mr. Michael Engram, an experienced math / volunteer teacher to help show me the ropes along with his students.
While he started the Junior Achievement introduction speech, he had me reading the volunteer manual. As he handed out a tablet to each student along with a label sticker to write their first name on, I handed him a clip board off the volunteer table that students were supposed to use to sign out their tablets. Which he proceeded to teach both myself and his class how to fill out, while having us pay close attention to what each line was used for. Tom, then along with my help, showed them how to sign onto their tablets to answer a few simple questions which would help to create their virtual profiles. While having me interject whenever I felt comfortable, all the while giving me encouraging notes to help make my experience a little less nerve wracking. Although luckily the students had no idea how nervous I actually was since they were busy doing their work, learning the lessons, and having too much fun laughing at my interjections to notice. The first 30 minutes felt like a lifetime, but once we got a clear rhythm going, the next hour and a half went by quickly. Then, before we knew it, it was lunchtime and we were all instructed to leave our tablets behind as everyone gathered in the cafe. I was lucky enough to sit with Michael who saved me a seat, so that we could continue talking. We talked about my career plans both past and present, as well as about the school he came from. We talked about what traveling was like for them after the Miami University Bridge collapsed. Then he introduced me to one of his fellow teachers who happened to be an Exceptional Student Education teacher at their school. She shared her story with me, and her vast knowledge of information to help me in my future endeavors. After lunch we cleaned up and returned to our stations to finish out the day. After which we asked each student to check in their tablets and gather for a group photo, as I passed out a Junior Achievement world Magazine to each student, we asked them what their final thoughts were in regard to what they learned about adulthood. The answer was unanimous no thank you, I never want to grow up, or I intend to stay at home with my parents forever. After they left, we gathered in the center one last time to fill out a survey with our final thoughts, and to receive the staffs and teachers’ final thoughts about us before leaving for the day. Finally stopping at the front desk to sign out and initial our reaction forms before leaving the building.
After returning on Friday, February 28th, I was then placed in Wells Fargo center area with a fellow classmate, where we set up. Only this time, I was the experienced one and she was the novice. I then proceeded to go over the training manual with her, taking as many pictures as I could to help me prepare to take extensive notes later. We both then counted and laid out the seven tablets that the students of Seminole Middle School would be using. After which I attended orientation and sat down next to her, helped her sign into her tablet and prepared for the student’s arrival. Once students arrived, we were asked to stand in the doorway as they entered the building and had their orientation. Again, observing that the eighth-grade students we were to work with were remarkability better behaved then their follow classmates were in other areas. At this point, we greeted them in the doorway, asked them to please take a seat at the table in front of a tablet. Which once accessed, would provide them with their simulated Life Scenario, within the Wells Fargo organization. I then processed to start with a 5 to 10-minute formal introduction by addressing each student individually, having them state their first name and their grade. Followed by having them check out the tablets placed in front of them, which they would be using throughout the day. I also had her pass out name tags and a marker for them to write down their first name, while using our own name tags as an example of the correct way. Once completed we began by both guiding and assisting them with how to sign into their tablets using account numbers given on the back. While using our tablets as an example of where to find the account number.
After which, they were given five minutes to log into their applications to answer a series of questions such as: What is their first and last name? Using drop down boxes to select their gender, school name, teacher’s name, and grade level. After which, they were given six multiple choice lifestyle questions that popped up. Which helps to improve or lower their financial stability, just like in real life. Introducing them to their Net Monthly Income (NMI), and their Monthly Savings. Once completed, we spent the next 10 minutes asking each of them going around the table, to tell us a little about their Life Scenarios. For example, How many of them were married, divorced or single? Who had children, how many, or did they have any at all? What their job title is within Wells Fargo? What they knew about the company they were about to work at? How much was their Net Monthly Income and Monthly Savings? It is through, these series of questions that students learn about how to calculate their Education debt, Credit card debt, how the differences in family size connect to income problems, and current savings. Why we save money, what for, why we pay ourselves first, what the experts recommend we do, and how much they plan on saving this month? While we help, wherever needed. After which, they got to choose a personal avatar to use. Followed by completing the Net Monthly Income worksheet, then calculating it using an on-screen calculator. Once completed with help from us and Junior Achievement staff due to some tech issues, we were able to help them calculate and find their Household Net Monthly Income. Which they would learn to rely on for the rest of the day to calculate their home earnings, expenses, loans, leases, shopping, banking, and spending costs. To which their parents go through daily. Once completed they will be able to check their personal Persona pages for information such as: What their Gross Monthly and Gross Average Income is, know how they were both calculated and where to find them? What their credit score is, how it was calculated, used, improved, how it is affected, as well as know where to find it? If they have any credit card or educational debt how they were calculated, as well as where to find them? What their educational background is? Finally, What are their job responsibilities within the Wells Fargo Organization, and so much more?
Now, for my final five-hour field experience and given the current crisis, I decided to take a virtual tour of Junior Achievement Biztown where I was supposed to work on Friday April 3rd. Unlike the quiet serenity of Finance Park, Biztown is a completely different world and best known for a day of fun, excitement and lots of activity. Here the fifth graders are referred to as Citizens, and they get to call the shots and learn how to run an entire town on their own. Wow, how cool is that to play pretend and actual learn something at the same time, now that sounds like a place I wish existed when I was a kid! As volunteers along with the staff our job is just to support the citizens’ efforts when needed to assist with some of the planning that help make for a successful day. Before coming to this side, the citizens are said to spend countless hours in the classroom. Applying for the jobs they want, learning how much in Biztown bucks they will be making at each position they choose, exploring their roles as a town citizen, while practicing the use of personal bank accounts in their personal business groups. With their teacher’s help, and their BizPrep materials they have already learned to calculate their business budgets, finished bank loan applications, learned to write business checks, manage payroll, pay taxes, write the advertising for the individual businesses they will be responsible for maintaining, all while meeting the needs of their customers. It is of the utmost importance to bear in mind, that citizens will not be walking in and automatically knowing what to do, since it will be their first day as well. This is why we’re counted on to coach, guide, and encourage them. In preparation for the first of two work-break rotations, where they will go to the bank to deposit their paychecks, open savings accounts, or spend the BizTown Bucks they earned in the “JA BizTown economy.”
As they enter town the simulation day begins, everything they have learned and think they know begins to come to life. Their teachers, either hand them their BizPrep material which consists of their business costs sheets, Loan Applications, promissory note and business ads, or brings them directly to each section. At this point, the most important thing is that we make ourselves aware of the paperwork and how it is used. As the room begins filling with excited chatter the citizens get a first look at the town, they will be responsible for running. Next, the staff will have citizens either sit or stand as they deliver the morning welcome and give direction on how the day begins. At this point, we have already had our welcome and short intro to the roles for which we will play as support staff to the citizens of BizTown. Standing in front of our store fronts eagerly awaiting our chance to welcome our fellow citizens to town, with check list reminders in tow! While looking out upon this simulated town which holds a variety of different businesses including a bank, a restaurant, its own radio and television station, supply center, retail stores, and a working town hall. Each of which vary in function but bare a number of likenesses in the business startup and key tasks. For the purposes of this online portion, let’s say we have been assigned to Town Hall, here we have first both welcomed and had my fellow City Hall employees gather around the conference table for a quick meeting before the first Town Hall Meeting. Since we have been instructed on how important it is to have their attention focused and on task, but still ensure they have fun while learning at the same time. I would have at this time had the chosen reader for Town Hall both go over and practice their opening speech to help them become both familiar and comfortable reading it aloud before having to read it in front of their peers at the opening Town Hall Meeting. Here is where we will be looking on as the CEO’s or CFO’s of a number of businesses read their prepared speech. At some point later in the day, someone may ask, “My instructions say I need to go to the bank for a loan, can I go now? When do I get to go shopping?” or I’m getting hungry, when do I get to have lunch?”
In each area is a variety of coding systems to assign the breaks students will take in a certain order later in the day. Students in each section will take these breaks by order of the colors Red, Yellow, or Green. On this side, everyone gets two breaks that are matched to their job titles. Students in this business section, are expected to take turns in a certain order to go to the bank, shop and eat lunch. Students Schedules are said to vary and binders, bulletin boards, papers or laminated schedules are used by them. It will be the BizTown staff that will show where to find the volunteers schedules, but we must never forget that every area will have our schedule and the staff will be there to help find it. It is stated in their BizPrep paperwork how this is to be used. So, citizens must both read and make themselves familiar with the rules of their positions within town. Many questions will be asked and answered throughout the day with help from ourselves, staff, our guides, and their BizPrep paperwork. These questions can vary from, “Do you all know your jobs? to Do you all know exactly what you are going to be doing today?” If the answer is “no” to either of these, just remember that a listing of all job titles and descriptions can be found for each student. Which also gives them their tasks for that day, and the beginning of the day makes the perfect time to go over it. By showing our citizen how to use it as part of their business startup, and how it will help the CFO’s, CEO’s, the Mayor, town government or council, how to get everything off the ground, so to speak. So that they will all know what their goals are for the day, and Junior Achievement staff is always on hand as per usual to help, answer any questions that we cannot, or just simply to check on our progress. They are even able to step in for us in an emergency if we need to step out for a minute. Throughout the day we are expected to answer many other questions, as well as being able to guide citizens to seek their own answers. These questions may range from, “What do I do with this checklist? Excuse me, we’re here from the Radio Station for the radio ad, who do need to see? The CEO or the station manager? I finished printing these bills now what do I do, I don’t get this? or Where do I put this money after I just got paid?” Weather from their BizPrep material, our volunteer guide or their own physical guides, job descriptions, or checklists that they carry with them. There will always be a way to discover the answers to these and many more questions, right at their fingertips. At some point Payroll will be printed and ready to distribute, and ready to be signed, but for some we may be looked to for guidance on what to do next. Since it cannot be expected that some citizens may think to look at their instructions for answers, it is our responsibility to help them know where to look. The biggest challenge in my perspective seems to be, fight against having to doing the work for them, while instead sharing real life experiences whenever possible that connect to the job at hand. As you can see students will be on the move throughout both their rotations here, whereas back in Finance Park they only had one rotation time actually scheduled for them.
All in all, it was a worthwhile and inspirational experience that I will remember and treasure for many years to come. One that I hope to have the chance to experience again with my own future students. In the few short five hours a day over the two-day period that I have been there, I have learned as much if not more from not only the staff and follow teachers, but also the students themselves about lessons taught in the program. Some of our fellow teachers even allowed us to sit with them at lunch, while providing us with helpful tricks and tips for making our experience even better and brighter. While telling me a little about their own background and experience with not only Junior Achievement, but life as a teacher in general, while allowing me to gain some helpful insights toward my future career path.