Rebels without a pause for thought?
Yesterday, The Guardian published an article in the Teacher Network section of its website, which looked at how the teenage brain functions and how teachers can use that knowledge to help manage behaviour in the classroom.
Although the piece doesn’t go into any great depth, it does offer some interesting thoughts on four key themes: that teenagers are inclined to take risks; that they find it hard to get sufficient sleep; that they struggle to read emotions in others; and that they have less self-control than adults.
At first glance, much of this may seem self-evident (although anyone who has tried to get a teenager out of bed before midday may question the statement about sleep, at least until they read beyond the headline) but the article does offer some useful insights.
For us, the point that stood out most was the first one – that teenagers are risk takers. Because the pre-frontal cortex of their brain is still developing, teenagers understand risk but haven’t yet developed the self-control to not take risks.
As the author points out, “Taking risks and choosing difficult tasks is one of the benefits associated with having a growth mindset. If teachers guide this risky behaviour by encouraging pupils to take chances in a safe and secure environment, the students could challenge themselves more.”
This concept of taking risks in a safe environment is something that underpins our own approach to financial education and the development of essential life skills. In our one-day programme, Keep the Cash!, we put teenagers in real-life situations and let them make their own decisions as to how they proceed.
Putting Financial Literacy into Context
We don’t treat financial literacy as a series of abstract concepts because we don’t think this reflects the reality of adult life. We place things in context, so students can grasp how the money they earn has to fund life’s essentials (such as rent, food, travel to work etc.) as well as life’s luxuries (like a giant TV or designer trainers), and that making decisions in one area has an impact upon others.
A good example of this is in their approach to debt. Some students take a very serious approach to reducing their debt as quickly as they can because they think it’s unwise to keep paying high levels of interest. However, what they often fail to realise in their rush to reduce those monthly repayments, is that it is also smart to keep enough cash back to deal with unforeseen problems, otherwise they find themselves having to borrow more money to make ends meet thus undoing all their previous hard work.
They can learn this for themselves in the real world, as many people do, but it benefits them far more if they are allowed to take risks in a safe, alternate reality within the classroom. That way, they can develop a greater understanding of the risks before they have to deal with them in their own lives, where the repercussions can be much greater and far more damaging.
But, as The Guardian article highlights in its second key point, we’ve got to get them out of bed and into class first!