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".
I'll never forget the day. It was an "almost" ordinary day out on the golf course with my mom and dad during the heat of a Long Island summer. Now, if "Long Island" conjures up images of stately manors on the North Shore (think "Great Gatsby") or beachfront mansions in the Hamptons (think Robin Leach and his popular show "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous"), you can put those out of your head. I'm not talking about some fancy country club golf course, just a regular public course.
I loved the game ever since I learned to play as a teenager, and although I never got to play while at college (Wake Forest, which was renowned for its golf program, with its most famous alumni being Arnold Palmer), I'd try to get out as often as possible when I was home. I wasn't a phenomenal player but had a decent game and natural talent. And most of the time, I hit it pretty straight, so one of the things I enjoyed was walking down the middle of the fairway, pulling my clubs along (no fancy golf carts on this course), appreciating the day and the sport.
On one (very rare) occasion, my sister came back to New York to visit, as she moved out of state as soon as she graduated from business school. She also played golf, but unlike me, who relied on natural ability and played for fun, she worked extremely hard at her game, was overly competitive, and played "business golf". The result was that she was a far better player than me, although I was holding my own on that day.
As Black often says, the scorecard contains only numbers, no editorial. And it would ultimately show that she'd beat me, but as we were each walking up one of the last holes toward our respective balls, in the heat of a late summer afternoon, with the sun at our backs, I was secretly hoping that she'd be proud of me. So, after I hit my fairway shot onto the green, I heard her call out to me, and my hopes were high,
Hey, Red! I was watching you hit that shot, and well, I have been watching you all afternoon, and I have to say … you have the whitest legs I have ever seen, or are you wearing white pantyhose?
I wasn't sure whether to laugh, cry, or be angry. Or to just roll my eyes as it really was something only my sister would say. And to this day, I'm not even sure if she had even noticed how close I came to beating her and how well I played – "upping" my game driven by her much better game.
But I also know that I can never look down at my very pale legs without laughing just a little at how a lifetime ago (or so it seems), she was so right. Recently, when she treated me to my first pair of Birkenstocks, I stood in the store trying them on, and before she had a chance to say it I told her … Yes, I do look like I have on white hose.
P. S. – I feel it only fair (pun intended) to have a P.S. for a P.S.A. – Long ago, the harm of the summer sun wasn't as well known, but in the years since, we've learned how important sunblock is. Year-round. So, whether you're a redhead who never tans (I used to cycle between being extremely pale and burning red and back again) or someone who does tan, take care of your skin!
I've always loved stuffed animals. And the softer and plusher, the better. They're like family. Only, in some ways, better, but I won't go down that road. Not today, anyway. Some children outgrow their love for stuffed animals (or do they just stopping admitting it?), but not me. And although I've stopped adding to my collection over the years (ok, make that decades), there are always those favorite ones that are loved just a little bit more, squeezed a little tighter, hugged a little longer.
Well, for someone who has a theater arts degree and more than a passing knowledge of Tudor history, I'd say that one of the most useful things I've learned is … the repair of stuffed animals. Over the years, I've patched up more than my share of stuffed animals, my own and my daughters. I've even gone so far as to do what could only be called a "full fluff transplant" – turning a very large (over four feet tall), but very "stiff", frog won at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo into the cutest, squishiest frog EVER.
But I digress. Well, maybe just a little because I promise this is going somewhere. (I can hear Black saying, "Then get there already.") Recently Black emailed me a video with a note that it made her want to buy a Vermont Teddy Bear. Knowing she's definitely not warm and fuzzy, let alone a stuffed animal person, I couldn't imagine what the video could be about to make her say that. I should've guessed there'd be a Make-A-Wish connection (remember Bernie's Inauguration Day mittens?), and I couldn't help but smile when I heard that the Vermont Teddy Bear Company was renting office space to Make-A-Wish Vermont for $1/year.
I immediately picked up the phone to tell her how I've always been impressed by the company, but before I could say how the video didn't surprise me, she starts telling me about their "Limb Loss and Difference Limb Bear" that not only offer love and comfort but supports the Amputee Coalition. Finally, I'm able to tell her that The Vermont Teddy Bear Company has always been great, especially in unexpected ways,
Decades ago, when I visited Vermont on a regular basis, I was traveling with one of my beloved stuffed animals – a soft, cuddly sheep that I had gotten in England many years prior. She had what I'd call "old-fashioned" eyes (the type they probably don't make anymore because they'd be considered a health hazard), and over the years, one of the eyes got looser and looser. And while I did everything I could, I knew that it was only a matter of time before the eye would fall off.
I was at the Vermont Teddy Bear Store and mentioned the "condition" to the in-house doctor (seriously, they have one). The next thing I knew, I was leaving my "baby" overnight at their "hospital" (which is usually reserved for their bears) to return the following morning to pick up the patient, who now had a beautifully repaired eye that to this day is perfect.
|It's funny. When the New York Islanders were in the semi-finals of the Stanley Cup, your post about how ice hockey brought back warm memories of you and Daddy, brought back a vivid memory for me, too.|
|I have never known you to be interested in ice hockey. Full stop. Or, should that be "full hockey stop"?|
|Cute. And although we both skated as kids, and Daddy tried teaching me the hockey stop, I never could do it. But my memory has nothing to do with professional ice hockey or even skating. Instead, it's how you handled a bunch of high school ice hockey players.|
|I know you cannot be talking about when I considered joining the girl's ice hockey club. Or, how although I was one of the faster skaters, I quit when I realized the girls were not as interested in playing the sport as they were in "taking out" other skaters. Especially those that showed up for practice with figure skates.|
|Of course, you did. But I didn't even know you had done that, and it seems out of character as you've never been a team sports kind of person. When Sawyer was in her figure skating years, there was a girls hockey team at the rink that seemed competitive, and while I knew that plenty of girls played ice hockey, I still would've been scared of her losing her front teeth or getting seriously injured. But that's not the memory.|
|Well, the only other thing I can think of is when we were all at some family-style restaurant, it could have been Friendly's or IHOP, and I "confronted" those big, burly, and smelly hockey players that just could not stop acting, well, like tough hockey players.|
|Exactly! Although I was only a kid at the time, I remember you coming back to the table laughing and Daddy asking, in that loving and bemused way he had when it came to you and your "antics", what you did this time.|
|I cannot remember what led to me encountering them when they walked in, but I was probably coming back from the bathroom. Anyway, I could not stop staring at them.|
|No surprise there, you were pretty boy crazy at the time.|
|Not for these boys. They were loud and obnoxious. And, I was staring because they were wearing full hockey uniforms, including skates! Granted, they had blade protectors on, but instead of looking tough, they looked silly.|
|They must have towered over you. Plus, they probably weighed at least twice what you did.|
|Including the gear, maybe more, as I probably weighed about 90 pounds. Anyway, they saw me staring, and one of them asked, with attitude, "What are you looking at?"|
|I'd bet just about anything that you gave them what I now refer to as "The Look" – that facial expression of yours that's a combination of "Are you kidding me?," eye-rolling, and "silent" sarcasm. I know as a grown woman I don't want to be the recipient of it, but can only imagine what a group of arrogant high school boys would've made of it.|
|Whether it was "The Look" or just me staring at them, they definitely did not like it. But, what did they expect walking in dressed like that?|
|There's no telling, but it's safe to say they probably didn't expect you to respond to their question like you did. But, to this day, it's one of the most memorable things you've ever said and one of my favorites. It was just perfect.|
|All I know is that it seemed the obvious reply … Puck you!|