Fear Less, Ep. 2: How I Got The Nerve To Teach Sixth Graders – and Succeeded

The woman in the blazer stood in the middle of the middle school library and asked for our attention. I took a break from the buzzing anxieties in the back of my mind to listen.

“Now, these kids, they’re 12. So think about it,” she said. “They’re starting to buy stuff. Shoes, Video games, stuff like that. So what should you talk about? They’re going to be interested if you talk about money.”

I looked around at the other 50 volunteers from work, my peers who were no longer talking bank terminology, but rather teaching tips. Thankfully my friend and colleague Camille, who was sitting next to me, made us both multiple cups of potent coffee, so I was attentive.

And the woman kept going.

“And I used to teach sixth graders for about 10 years, and let me tell you, this is the most important thing,” she said, peering into each of our eyes and smiling with big teeth. “When I go in there and do this, even if I don’t know what to say, it’s going to buy me a couple minutes and I’m going to know what to say.”

She was from Junior Achievement and we were the brave souls who signed up to speak in front of a class. Actually, I didn’t know that’s what we were doing, otherwise I likely would have walked past the sign up list.

Even when we heard we would be in the classroom we all imagined the class teacher standing at the front and teaching while asking the three of us to interject here or there, or maybe drawing diagrams on the white board. But the day before we received training and learned otherwise. Apparently the teacher would be hands off and we would have the floor all to ourselves.


So when we walked into the classroom I vividly remembered what that woman in the blazer told us and I spread that smile wide and took a confident glance at every kid in that room. Sure enough, I didn’t know what to say, and neither did my colleagues, but our smiles were a smoke screen that bought us the time we needed to stumble into what was honestly a poor introduction. The students were completely fooled and couldn’t stop raising their hands to ask questions.

The first student question?

“How much money do you all make?”

No comment.

There is a valuable lesson and plenty more details I to share with you. This was a big accomplishment for me, a pretty big fear to overcome, so I have recorded Fear Less, Episode #2. It also includes a focus for these points and additional anecdotes to help develop my point. Please, give it a listen and also be assured that I’m working to add my podcast to iTunes for easier access. I’ll let you know when that is accessible.

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