Being a teacher is a funny thing at times. Our job is to basically impart the knowledge that’s in our heads to those of the kids’, while showing them how to discover things on their own and also, while we’re at it, to impart a lifelong love of learning.
All in 48-minute chunks of time. Too easy.
I’m currently teaching my year 9 English students how to do comparative writing. It’s a fairly demanding task, where they select 2 short stories that deal with a certain theme,(Relationships, Personal Growth or Change), and they write an essay on how each story examines the theme through 3 of these lenses: setting, characterisation, meaning or the authors’ choices in the language they used.
The kids need to compare the two stories in each paragraph – there’s no easy-peasy look at one story in the first paragraph, then the second story in the second paragraph and then one final paragraph comparing the two. Oh no! Each of the three paragraphs has the two stories in them, comparing a lens through which the theme is explored.
It’s a leap for 15-year-olds to do this and some of them are panicking. Their exam is in a week.
Explaining how to do something new is a bit like sifting flour. You have to work at it a bit until all the flour is through the holes. During the first explanation of how to write this task, a certain percentage of the kids ‘got ‘it. They may be kids who are already ahead of the game in my subject. Often, they’re the kids who process information in a similar way that I do, so my way of explaining meshes with how they already think and so it makes sense.
The next time I ran through how to do this task, I tried to do it a bit differently. I used words and phrases that I hadn’t used the first time, and this, plus the repetition of the concepts, meant that more kids understood how to write it.
This left the stragglers. The kids who either choose not to listen because they don’t want to do it, the chronic procrastinators or the kids who are genuinely wanting to do well but they simply can’t seem to grasp how to put this essay together.
With these kids in mind, I typed up 5 of the best comparative essays year 9 kids have written and I let my current classes read them. Some kids need a concrete example of what to do before they feel confident in giving something a go for themselves.
Sometimes you learn best by observing how other people do it. Sometimes, the best way to learn is by doing, as I wrote about in this post about my students learning to dance. Learning about how to handle money is exactly the same.
Am I the only one, or did everyone’s feed reader explode with new blogs when you first found the FI blogging niche? For around eight years I was into knitting, gardening, humorous and quilting blogs, but within a couple of months, it was all MONEY! THE 4% RULE! F.U. MONEY! RETIRE EARLY!
I was reading everything I could lay my hands on. I was like a human sponge, soaking up every post into my brain that I could. At first, it was all new and exciting, particularly for someone as afraid of numbers as I am.
But then, after a few months, the bones of the material began to be a bit repetitive. After all, there’s only so many times you can read, “Lower your expenses, spend less than you earn and invest the surplus wisely” before you realise that you’ve heard this message before.
However, that’s not really the whole story, is it? If the simplicity of the message is all that people need, we could probably read “The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement” and never need to read another thing. It was written in 2012, for heaven’s sake! Why are there so many bloggers out there that have sprung up in the years between then and now?
It’s obvious, isn’t it? It’s not just a simple matter of laying out the information and expecting people to instantly understand and immediately begin to apply the concepts. If that was true then there’d be about 7 blog posts about FI/RE and they’d exist in perpetuity.
It’s the storyteller that makes the difference. It’s that magical moment when someone reads a post that resonates with them and the concept becomes clear. It’s even more powerful when the post prods someone into action.
The thing is – this connection happens between all kinds of different people. It’s not a ‘one size fits all’.
There’s an FI blogger (who shall remain nameless) who’s huge in this niche. People love them and billions (probably) of people read them every day. Lord knows I’ve tried but I can’t get into them. Does that make their writing less valid? Of course not! It just means that the way they write doesn’t hit a chord within me. It doesn’t affect them at all and it doesn’t affect me. I just tiptoed silently away and chose to read other people who DO resonate with me.
The core actions of the FI movement are so simple. There’s really nothing to them. Quite frankly, they’re boring. It’s when people weave them through the accounts of their lives and explain and teach what they’ve done that it all becomes interesting.
Some people like everything laid out in front of them – total transparency with income, outgoings, investment decisions and debt. Slide a post with a spreadsheet and multiple graphs in front of them and they’ll gurgle with joy.
Others are more caught up with lists. A blog post with a title like “The 4 essential points for getting out of debt” and they’ll click onto it faster than a politician’s promise on election day. Some people love to tick things off a mental checklist.
Other people are more tied to the narrative. Humans are hard-wired to like stories and some people prefer to see the FI concepts in action, with bloggers sharing their personal stories of how they used (or abused) the concepts in their own lives. Read a blog like this for long enough and you’ll start to feel a relationship with the writer. You follow along with the stories they share about their lives and maybe feel, “If s/he can do it, so can I!”
The point is – there’s such a smorgasbörd of options for people to partake from. There’s a wealth of information all stemming from the 3 key steps:
1. Cut your expenses.
2. Spend less than you earn.
3. Invest the surplus wisely.
Exactly like my poor little year 9’s grappling with their comparison essays, we all arrive on this learning path to FI with key skills to grasp. The skills to master in our financial lives are different with everyone, but the key to success is to find the material that is packaged in a way that speaks to you and then run with it.
If I had to name 3 FI blogs that, when I see them pop up in my feed reader I click on them instantly, they’d be The Escape Artist; jlcollinsnh and Lifelong Shuffle. They speak numbers and investing and all that dry stuff in ways that I enjoy reading – it’s like taking medicine with a lolly chaser to take the bad taste away.
Just wondering. I’ve named 3 blogs. What would yours be?