In 2015, I made the transition from teaching marketing to high school students to managing marketing efforts for Omni. There are days I miss the impact I made in the classroom and the connections I made. So, when the opportunity came up this past year to volunteer in my son’s second grade class as a Junior Achievement rep I said yes without hesitation.
The program that they asked me to conduct with the class was “JA Our Community.” JA describes it as a program that “introduces students to the intersection of work readiness and early elementary grades social studies learning objectives, including how citizens benefit from and contribute to a community’s success.”
The program consisted of five sessions and most of the time we allotted one hour of time for each. I added one session to the end, where I provided the class with a pizza party to celebrate the success of completion of the program as well.
Some Key Learnings
• Second grade students are a ball of energy! What a transition it was for me to go from a high school classroom to a grade school classroom. The students were incredibly engaged and wanted to answer and discuss everything. I give major credit to my son’s teacher, Mrs. Koptizke, and all teachers that provide such rich learning experiences, while balancing the needs of so many different students every day.
• While JA gives great curriculum to use, it is important to review it prior to going into the classroom and discuss strategies with the teacher to experience the best success. Their teacher knows them best and can provide some insight into things they think will work and things you may want to tweak.
• If you find opportunities to enhance the experience, go for it. One of the lessons was about voting as a citizen. The JA curriculum offered a scenario you could use for voting, but I asked the teacher for three things that were $50 or less that could improve her classroom. She suggested new Scholastic books, electric pencil sharpeners, or rocking chairs. We discussed our options as a class and students made their case for each one. We then voted on them as a class and the students were extremely excited to watch the process unfold. Rocker chairs were the winner and Omni covered the cost of them to provide a more realistic experience for the students.
• Second grade students are emotionally invested. One of the sessions had each student receive five JA dollars. This session covered how workers make money in a community and this provided a tangible item they could see when discussing how it works. At the end of the session, our classroom teacher walked around as the tax collector and took two of the dollars from each student to illustrate how taxes work. Some students were extremely upset by this, almost to the point of tears in some cases. As one of the classroom aides put it, “kids…that is how it feels as adults too at times.” So true.
• Use examples and keep them moving. I knew from my prior teaching experience that the use of examples is always best. Kids want to know how it’s done and relate it to something. Mrs. Kopitzke also made it clear it would be wise to get the kids up and moving around at multiple points throughout the lessons to keep them engaged. This was invaluable in my planning for each lesson.
I appreciate that Omni allowed me the time to give back in one of my local classrooms. If you get an opportunity to volunteer for Junior Achievement through your organization, I would highly recommend the experience.
Pictured with the second grade class and teacher that completed the program.