Teaching Middle Schoolers About the Game of Life

Volunteer Citizen Teacher Seth Conyers teaches "Game of Life" to 8th grade students in Chicago While the 8th grade students Seth Conyers teaches might not be able to explain the finer nuances of economic theory, the students in the “Game of Life” apprenticeship are financial advisors and stockbrokers in the making! Seth, who was raised on the South Side of Chicago, came to Citizen Schools through his work as an Auditor at Northern Trust. While Seth’s day job may be far removed from the middle school classroom, every Thursday last fall he stepped away from his desk and rode his bike to a middle school on the South Side.

Seth taught an “apprenticeship”, which provided students the opportunity to make their own financial decisions through weekly simulations. Throughout the apprenticeship students were able to choose careers, were given salaries and, through trial and error, made their own decisions about consumption, savings, and investments. Along the way students were rewarded for their prudent decision making with foreign currency!

For his work and dedication to students, we recognize Seth as the December Citizen Teacher of the Month!

Meet Seth...

What was your "aha" or "WOW!" moment from the semester?

One of my favorite moments was watching the students debate the relative strengths of the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch. We were discussing taxes and then one of the students asked about tax policy and before I knew it, two of the students were going back and forth about the strength of the veto power versus the power of Congress to pass legislation without the President’s approval.

What surprised you most about the students and teaching experience?

The students curiosity! I think that we could have had a question and answer apprenticeship. I was also surprised by how much I enjoyed the teaching experience.

Why do you think it's important to provide students with real-world, hands-on opportunities?

I think that the sooner that students are exposed to real-world situations, the more time they have to explore what they want to do when they grow up. I think most of us grow up with very vague notions of career fields like law, medicine, business, architecture without realizing how much opportunity exists to combine things that we are naturally curious about. I think that exposing the students to these things earlier in life allows them to make those connections and find something that they are interested in.

How would you describe the impact that mentoring has on the students and volunteers?

For me, the mentoring experience reaffirmed my commitment to community service. Being in the schools and interacting with the students really made it clear how much our communities need us to get involved. For the students, I hope it helped them see the importance of good decision making. I also hope that it inspired them to take school a bit more seriously and to dream a little bigger.

What advice would you give future volunteers?

Do it. It’s a big commitment, but it’s worth it and the students need us.