Photograph Courtesy of KIPP Houston Art School

We came across the photo above when updating our "About Education" section, and it brought back such fond memories. You may be thinking, "What? Are they calling those students guinea pigs???" Well, actually, yes. And before you think ill of us, please know that we use the term with great affection, deep gratitude, and utmost respect. And, these eight amazing seniors from the Class of 2010 know that's our nickname for them because ...


We started calling them our "Guinea Pigs" as soon as they volunteered to help us develop our Red & Black Personal Finance and Life 101 program at KIPP Houston High School. It was important they knew this was truly an "experiment" as neither one of us were teachers or financial experts.

It all started at our first speaking engagement, when during Q&A a woman asked why the topics in our book weren't taught in school. The next thing we knew we were sitting in the office of Bryan Contreras, Director of KIPP Through College, and being asked to not only develop, but teach, a semester long course to their high school seniors, during their spring semester. (Yes, the months right before they graduate.) While Red looked like a deer in headlights (we barely considered ourselves authors, yet alone teachers) Black responded as she often does, with a simple:

Sure, not a problem.

While Red went home to carpool and baking cookies, Black did what she does best – use her corporate and business experience to tackle the challenge. So, she requested a "task force" of seniors to help us develop the curriculum because, as she put it:

If it is not relevant, why bother? And, who knows best what is relevant to high school seniors? High school seniors.

Black introduced them to the business concept of a working lunch (which might also be considered a pizza bribe), and we met for five Fridays. We gave them a list of select book excerpts they'd be expected to read each week so we could then discuss what they thought should be included in the curriculum. That first week, they seemed motivated to help – but we weren't sure what to expect.

They came back excited and totally committed, with two of them having read the entire book and the rest having read much more than the assigned excerpts. Luckily, Red had been a straight-A, copious note taking student, although she could barely keep up with their comments and feedback, and conversations among themselves generated by the conversations in our book. You could see their interest in personal finance (and many other Life 101 topics) was strong and genuine, and they explained that learning from the mistakes of others was extremely powerful. One student, after prefacing his comment with apologies, stated:

When I grow up, I don't want to be Red.

We'll always be indebted to our Guinea Pigs for their enthusiasm and suggestions, as using our book as the textbook was their idea, not ours. And through their feedback of the book and the lessons they were already learning from it, which began at those pizza lunches, the answer to how best to "teach" a Red & Black class was obvious to them. It was as simple as a book club. For us, it took a little longer to come to that realization as we were hampered by our own preconceived notions of how lessons are taught in a classroom. So, although the initial intent may have been for us to be the teachers, and them to be the stduents ... we learned from each other.

P.S. – For those of you interested in a more "educational" look at our detour into the world of education, including "feedback" (student quotes, Black's "non-scientific" surveys and KIPP press releases) from our two spring semesters when we "taught" at KIPP Houston High School, please check out "It Started With A Question … It Started At KIPP".

We had barely introduced ourselves when the newspaper editor held up our book, gesturing to our "two-faced" logo on the front cover and said something along the lines of …

Ok, off the record, admit it, you embellished the characters in the book to be more entertaining.

When we finished laughing, we explained …

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Certain days are etched in your memory. All earning a place based on the significance of the event – some good, others bad. I will never forget 9/11. I was out of town on a business trip and when I called my crew chief that morning to talk about the transport of my race car, he asked if I had been watching the news. Obviously, I had not. And, as I turned on the television, I saw the plane crash into the second tower.

I am not one to be glued to the television – nor am I one to be overwhelmed by emotions. But I could not help watching the news, almost non-stop. Looking back, I think it was because I was trying to make sense out of what I was seeing. Watching with horror and heavy heart as the day unfolded, looking for an explanation.

There are many images that still stand out in my memory. Interestingly, the most vivid ones are the ones that reflect how we, as Americas, stood together as a people. The first-responders rushing in while people covered in dust and debris wandered shell-shocked. Poignant pictures of President Bush at Ground Zero. Firefighters and EMTs from around the country working together.

The American people stepped up to help in whatever way they could. Whether it was donating blood or raising money for the victims and rescue workers. Or, simply prayer. People attended impromptu candlelight vigils and participated in moments of silence. We demonstrated our patriotism and belief in the ideals of our country. Of Democracy. People flew the American flag at their homes and even on their car antennas, while others pinned it to their clothing. Not to mention all the t-shirts.

People gathered together. Sometimes to pay tribute to the dead. Sometimes to honor all the first responders. Sometimes to share their grief with others. And, sometimes because they just did not want to be alone. I was stranded out of town as all flights were grounded but did not feel alone. And, although all of us felt differently in what specifically to do in response to the attacks, we seemed to agree that standing together – a sense of unity – provided hope in this horrible time.


Red's Head Red assets.rebelmouse.io


New Year's Eve seems like the perfect time to stroll down memory lane, although I'm guessing your memories are much more interesting than mine.


Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io


"Interesting" is a subjective word. Regardless, are you talking about memories in general? Or, New Year's Eve celebrations?


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Actually, it was just a passing comment. But since you've always seemed to make a bigger deal out of New Year's Eve than I have, are there any years that really stand out?


Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io


Truth is the most memorable ones are the ones spent with celebrating with closest friends versus crowds. In fact, I think I have spent more than half of my New Year's Eves with John and Diana. Although, I will never forget bringing in 2000.
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