Has the coronavirus changed the way you’re teaching these days? Of course it has! It seems to have impacted just about everything. But with so many classrooms closing or moving to online instruction, teachers are proving they can adapt to anything. Because no matter the season, education never stops. And now more than ever, your students need to know the truth about smart money principles.
One rock-star teacher who’s learned to make the most of the situation is Greg Carson. He teaches the Foundations in Personal Finance to 9–12 graders at Father Ryan High School in Nashville, Tennessee, where he’s been teaching since 1991. These days, he sees his students exclusively in a digital format. The process may be new, but the class is the same: The Five Foundations are still the focus of his teaching.
“The main thing we’ve been talking through is the emergency fund,” Greg says. “We’ve also touched on the stock market. I tell them, ‘Don’t panic. When the market goes down, people have a tendency to panic. But when it goes down, it’s just cheaper. And it’ll go back up eventually, so just be patient and everything will work out fine.’”
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We love it when a teacher helps spread hope as an antidote to fear! And when it comes to emergencies, there’s nothing in the world like having an emergency fund in place.
“That’s the one I’ve seen as my students’ favorite of The Five Foundations over the years,” says Greg, who’s been teaching the curriculum since 1997. “Even though it’s small compared to the later ones, the students like that starter emergency fund of $500.”
It’s so important to teach young people about saving—and now, during coronavirus time, students are seeing firsthand why they need to have cash to handle life’s troubles.
“They’re learning now that saving is a big deal because of what’s going on around the world. One of the questions I’ve asked them is, ‘How does this all change your thinking economically? What topic from this class have you found to be important?’ And again, what most of them mention is the emergency fund and having money set aside. Now more than ever, they see the importance of that.”
Putting the Foundations Into Practice
We love hearing that these students believe in having an emergency fund. But there’s something else we love even more—hearing that they’re putting the belief into practice.
“Some of them told me they have some emergency money saved,” Greg said. “And because of that, they feel confident to get through all of this.”
Like other teachers across America, Greg is helping give students the confidence they need to face their financial futures—even in the midst of such uncertain times. And he’s been impressed by how well his students have stayed focused during the pandemic.
“They’re taking it all pretty well,” he says of the switch to remote learning. “Switching was a smooth change for us. But I think they’re pretty bored, by and large. I do miss interacting with the kids in person.”
Who wouldn’t? There’s something powerful about learning in person that can really bring the teaching to life! But Greg says he’s also grateful for the interactions he’s had teaching digitally—and for what his students have taught him.
“The stories I’ve heard from my students about what they’ve done to get by really validate the emergency fund and a lot of these concepts. Once we get back in the classroom, I’ll be able to use those.”
Proof of concept and the power of personal experience—awesome ideas, Greg! We also asked him which of The Five Foundations he believes is the hardest for his students to buy into.
“It’s saving for college,” Greg says. “That’s the toughest one. They have a hard time paying cash for college.”
We’ve heard this from other teachers and so many students. And we know the struggle to defeat student loans is real! Americans are up against a $1.6 trillion student loan crisis.1 But avoiding loans while getting a degree is both possible and the smart thing to do. The good news is that when students learn The Five Foundations and follow them in order, they’re setting themselves up to be savers who never borrow money.
A Foundations Founder
Greg’s love for these principles goes way back. In fact, he played a key role in making the curriculum what it is today.
“You could say Foundations started at our school,” Greg recalls. “Back in 1997, I had an opportunity to teach an economics class. But I had never taught economics before. So, I needed a curriculum.”
That’s right! Greg helped get Foundations started. So, we asked him to talk a little more about his backstory.
“Well, for the first ten years of my career, I was teaching mainly science classes—biology and chemistry. But I also had done a history minor. So, I would take one day out of the year just to talk about larger life issues. And on those days, the kids would really gravitate toward the topic of money.”
Money is one life issue that affects everyone!
“Ten years into teaching, all of a sudden, the economics teacher left. That class opened up, and I took it,” Greg said. “That’s when I called Dave Ramsey to see if we could use the Financial Peace University material for our curriculum. And he said, ‘Yes!’ So, I adapted it from the Financial Peace University materials.”
Hey! Smart principles apply in all walks of life, right? In 1997, Ramsey Solutions was still pretty new, and we didn’t have a curriculum designed specifically for use in schools—yet! But Greg helped make that idea a reality.
Life-Change Students Can Apply
Let’s be real. Greg’s one of the giants whose shoulders we’re all standing on as we fight to bring financial truth to students everywhere. So, we couldn’t let our conversation end without asking his advice for other Foundations teachers, both digitally and in general.
“During this crazy time, I’m so thankful for this curriculum and how I can use it to teach my students,” Greg says. “I’d say just enjoy what you do and realize this material is life-changing. It’s more applicable than anything.”
We’re so grateful that way back in 1997, Greg took what started as a once-a-year conversation about money and helped it grow into a year-long course in personal finance—both at Father Ryan High School and nationwide!
We hope you’re having as much success teaching during quarantine as Greg is. If you want some ideas for how to make the most of the curriculum, check out our latest blog on finishing the year strong with Foundations.