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".
‘Tis the season for joyous celebrations – of whatever holiday you may celebrate. And fond memories. Even though Red wasn’t born when this happened, it’s still one of her holiday favorites (yes, she initially thought Black must have been on the “naughty list”) and a reminder of what the holidays are truly all about.
BLACK: I do not know at what age my Christmas memories began, but I do remember being very young and in awe of a very large – and very well decorated – Christmas tree in our family room. I even remember peeking down the stairs late one evening and seeing my mother standing extremely close to Santa Claus. OK, you might not find that an unusual memory, except my family is Jewish.
Apparently, my parents thought it was easier to decorate and give gifts for both Chanukah and Christmas than to try and explain why religiously they only celebrated the "smaller" holiday, although I must have sensed that. (Children usually do.)
And, I remember exactly when I came to the realization that Santa was not real. I was five years old and in the hospital with pneumonia and in the middle of the night, a Santa came by giving out Christmas gifts. I must have sensed his presence because when he arrived at the foot of my bed, I sat up and immediately told him that I could not have any Christmas gifts. He questioned why not (maybe thinking I was going to state I had not been good all year, which probably would have been an accurate statement), and I told him it was because I was Jewish.
He leaned over my bed, pulled away his fake beard, and whispered in my ear, "It's ok – so am I." And, without his beard, I immediately recognized him as one of the doctors who had checked on me several times during my stay. We smiled at each other, knowing that we had a special bond, and he left me a gift.
Now, older and wiser, I have come to the conclusion … Santa does exist. You just have to believe …
For those of you who have followed us for years, you know what’s coming … a naked turkey story. Because as soon as Black wrote it, it became a Thanksgiving tradition.
Black typically doesn’t reminisce, so her memories of a perfect turkey that made for a perfect Thanksgiving (for her) have become the perfect way for us to wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. May your day be filled with family and friends and create memories that will last a lifetime.
Today is Thanksgiving, and I cannot help but wonder why we are online. However, everyone has their own way of celebrating. I know that Red is in the kitchen cooking – and watching a marathon of "The Godfather" movies. Which is perfect as turkeys take such a long time to cook and patience is important when you want it perfectly browned. So inviting, so appetizing, so … naked?
Growing up, our house used to be where everyone congregated for the holidays. Not because my mother was a good cook, or even liked to entertain, but because my parents bought a house on Long Island while the rest of her family continued to live in apartments in Brooklyn and the Bronx. In other words, they had the most room.
Thanksgiving was always a house full of people and everyone always gathered in the kitchen, which made food preparation a challenge. Especially as everyone loved to nibble on ingredients during the process. For the most part, Mom was a good sport about it. But, the closer we got to the turkey being ready, the more food she would move into the dining room, hoping we would follow the food.
I remember one year when the turkey cooling on the counter looked like something from a magazine – it was perfectly browned. Normally, it was splotchy, although you never knew it once my father was done carving it. (Although an engineer, he had dreamed of being a surgeon and every year as I watched him carve the turkey, I would think he missed his true calling.) Anyway, my mother was so proud of this perfectly browned turkey that she would not let anyone near it, and was delaying the inevitable carving.
However, she made the mistake of taking the balance of the side dishes into the dining room and my father must have been helping as my cousin and I snuck back into the kitchen. In a matter of seconds, we had striped that turkey naked. Enjoying the crispy skin (ok, this was well before the days we were told it was "bad" for you) and laughing until my parents returned to see what was causing the commotion.
Mom was less than pleased, while Daddy tried to hide his amusement. My cousin ran to the safety of his parents, while I stood there defiantly asking if could have a wing. To this day, I cannot see a perfectly browned turkey without remembering that Thanksgiving. And, I venture to guess it has become a favorite memory of my Mom's, as well.
So today, at the risk of being warm and fuzzy (which is Red's area of responsibility),
I want to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving … filled with memories that will last a lifetime.
It was one of those mindless questions, “What was your favorite childhood book?” And although I couldn’t answer the question, it brought back wonderful memories of my favorite book while I was still living at home. Which recently turned into a new tradition … and maybe the highlight of my summer …
I can remember it as if it was yesterday – I’d be sitting up in bed late at night, reading (well, more like devouring) a biography of Winston Churchill by William Manchester. At almost 1,000 pages (and weighing in at over three pounds), you’d have thought it a college reading assignment, not something for pleasure.
Although more of a Tudor history fan, I found the biography of Churchill (a larger-than-life, literally and figuratively, character, but I won’t bore you with the details) difficult to put down. And it had my complete attention right up to the last word. But then, I felt disappointed. And a little cheated.Because not only was I going to miss my nightly “date” with Winston, but the book left off in 1932. Now, anyone who knows Winston Churchill knows he’s most famous for his extraordinary role in World War II (1939-1945). But then I was relieved to learn,
I had read the first book in what was a planned trilogy. I couldn’t wait for the second one to be released, and five years later, I devoured that book, too (it was a mere 750 pages), and couldn’t wait for the third and final book. But then the author died. And I thought, well, that’s it.
Fast forward decades later. When Black asked her question, I couldn’t remember the book title, which drove me crazy. Rather than go upstairs and find the books, I got online and discovered the most unexpected, but great, news …
William Manchester had started the third book and, knowing he was going to die before being able to complete it, asked author Paul Reid to finish it. Apparently, it was released in 2012, when I was in the midst of being a single mom with two young children and working on Red & Black, so no time for reading. I immediately ordered it, but I wasn’t prepared for what happened,
Even before “Defender of the Realm” arrived (this one’s over 1,000 pages), I decided this would be my summer project. I’d start over Memorial Day weekend with the goal of finishing by Labor Day. But once I curled up on the couch, after office hours and on weekends, often with a Dunkin’ iced coffee beside me, I was transported back almost forty years. Once again, I couldn’t put it down. But this time, I had a companion. As Moo, my beloved labradoodle, decided that she loved having this “quiet time” with me.
I finished the book shortly after July 4 and realized it would be far more than a wonderful summer memory. It was the beginning of a new “tradition” … making time to get back to being a bookworm. It reminded me of the importance of escaping and recharging my batteries. And spending time with Moo. And based on Moo’s excitement the minute I’d pick up the book, including immediately jumping on the couch to join me, I think it might have been the highlight of Moo’s summer too.