Posts Tagged ‘graduation’

Every year since Finance For Youth: The Blog started, I put together an address to the graduating class of that year. Generally, I will give a list of pieces of advice for the graduates to keep in mind as they move forward into the next, most exciting stage of their lives. This year will have some advice, but I want to talk about a couple of lessons that I have learned since I started working with young people directly.

As a teacher, I’m supposed to be the one who gives you all lessons that will carry you from where you are now, through the rest of your life. That’s what I went to school for, and that is what you went to school for. But education is not a one-way exchange. A good teacher who is confident in their own abilities is able to talk about what you have taught us. I hope that I can be that person, because working with all of you has taught me so much both good and bad, that I will take with me forever, and I hope you can take some of it with you too.

You have to keep a thick skin (and a solid jaw)!

Earlier this year, I got punched right in the jaw by a student. It hurt, it hurt a lot. I wound up losing a tooth because of it. Teeth can quickly become a scarce resource. I got hit because a student had been thrown away by every adult they had ever met before me. I came in and presented a different point of view. I cared. Of course, when you spend a lifetime believing that nobody gives a damn about you, someone who shakes that belief becomes a target.

The Lesson:    The lesson I learned here, and one that I believe can serve you well is to take a minute (or even longer if needed) before you jump in with both feet. People generally have a set of beliefs that they will change, but not instantly. Young people are really good at being different and changing things, and sometimes that causes trouble with others. But you can’t walk timidly into every situation: Sometimes you have to take the hit to earn the reward. Do your best to only take the hit when you are sure the reward is worth it.

Sometimes Rock Stars can be quiet!

Over the past few years, I’ve had the fortune of having some colleagues offer me very high praise and very nice compliments. In past careers, I expected this, but I’ve never done anything as important as teaching. In past years, I walked around my office like I was the King, and dared people to challenge me. Now, I find that people respond just as well to someone who walks with confidence instead of arrogance.

The Lesson:    Nobody knows how good you are at what you do better than you do. You have some choices on how to let others know. On one hand, you can jump up on a pedestal and shout into your megaphone about how good you are. People will understand, but they may not always agree. On the other hand, you can take pride in doing your job well and other people will start picking up their own megaphones for you.

Many things are shades of grey, but not everything!

One thing I see daily is an erosion of what I learned about right and wrong. Due to the nature of my job, I’ve been able to see that erosion as it hits children at every stage of development. In Kindergarten, you learn about absolutes and how right is right and wrong is wrong. By sixth grade, you learn that everybody has their own moral compass, and it is wrong to judge others through your compass. By the tenth grade you learn that really right and wrong are subjective in every sense.

The Lesson:    Some of the most important lessons you have ever learned you learned in your earliest, formative years. Don’t be in a rush to supplant the values you learned back then for excuses that you learn today. The fact is that we educators have failed you, and continue to do so every time we help destroy what you have always known to be true.

There are many more lessons that I’ve learned from you, my students. Many of them were learned at a great personal cost to someone, and I try to honor that price paid by remembering and sharing the lessons daily. Some were learned while I was trying to learn something else entirely, and I stumbled upon a pot of gold that is wisdom. Those lessons I try to make available to others in as many places as possible, in the hopes that more people will stumble upon them and in turn share them with others. But one of the most important lessons I’ve learned from my students is that there is only so much education one can stand before you either fall asleep or try to escape. With that being said, congratulations to the class of 2011! You are all stars who have the unique ability to keep getting brighter without ever burning out. Enjoy the next stage as much or more as you have this stage, and look back only through the lenses of fond memory of a time when life was easier than it will ever be again, and only with the full knowledge that life has prepared you for anything you might face from here on out!



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For some readers, this is the most important time of their lives until they get married, buy a house, have a kid, or some other really big milestone.  For some, this is a stressful time when we struggle to find the best, most appropriate gift that has a deeper meaning than “here, take this”.  This post is for the parents and families of graduates.

Okay, in my family, I have people graduating from Pre-School, Kindergarten, High School, and College.  I’m sure there are some graduating from obedience school as well.  This is huge for them.  They’ve worked hard, in some cases harder than they ever have in the past or ever will work again in the future.  You want to give them something to celebrate, but you aren’t sure what.  There are plenty of ideas out there, but I thought I would share a few with you.

Pre-School/Kindergarten:  Okay, I admit that I’m a little skeptical of calling this a graduation.  I mean, it’s freaken’ Pre-School, or Kindergarten.  That been said, I can acknowledge that this is definitely a developmental landmark for children.  This is a time when kids have learned some basic skills, and for many, the first time when they are away from their parents socializing and learning with peers of the same age.  So in that light, why not give a gift.

The important thing here is managing future expectations.  On one side, you don’t want to start down a path where you have to buy increasingly more expensive gifts too early.  You don’t want this “graduation” gift to be seen as comparing with graduation from high school or college.  On the other side, you don’t want to make this the same type of gift that kids get for not crying at the store.  You can also manage expectations by giving gifts that accentuate that they are starting a voyage into education that can last a lifetime!

Marker Board/ magnetic letter board


Magnetic Chalk board/ Dry-erase board:  This item, available at Target for $16.99 is a great way to integrate some of the same experiences that children will find in school.  On one side, there is a marker board.  Since this is the norm at almost all schools, kids can play school, practice writing skills, work out math problems, or draw silly marker pictures.  On the other side is a chalk board for that old-school feeling.  Both sides are magnetic.


Johnny Appleseed by Patricia Brennan Demuth: Book CoverBooks!  Sacajawea by Joyce Milton: Book CoverEither of these books, or thousands of others are a great gift.  Many of these books might be on the reading list for your child’s next school, so you can teach young children about the value of preparation and reading ahead.  Even if a particular book isn’t on a teacher’s list, I guarantee that reading almost any book is going to help young people throughout their lives.  Pictured are two historical books that open the door to children learning American history.  Okay, I admit that as a history teacher, I’m partial to making sure kids learn history, but there are other types of books out there.

One thing about books:  As parents, especially of children this age, YOU have to read all the books you expect your children to read before they read them.  You want to make sure that the book is appropriate to your child’s age level, reading ability (you want it to challenge them, but not be so difficult as they get frustrated and give up), and your morals and values.  For example, everybody loves Charlotte’s Web.  But let’s face it, there are some sad scenes in this book that might be too much for overly sensitive kids.  Do you really want to have to sit and deal with your crying child who now hates reading because he read a book that was sad?  Other books might not jibe with the values you want to teach your children.  The only way to know this ahead of time is for you to read the books ahead of time.

Educational toys:

Toys are fine, but when kids are young you have the opportunity to show them that toys and games can be both fun and educational.  Websites like and specialize in games and toys that are both fun and educational.


High School:  This is probably the big one that most people will buy the best gifts for.  This is where it can also be expensive.  At the risk of pissing of a lot of the young people that I write for and teach, you don’t have to spend a ton of money to make graduation from high school special.

Oh, the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss: Book Cover

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!:  This has been a classic for graduation for 20 years.  It’s whimsical, it’s fun, it gives good life lessons.  Warning:  If you read this book while thinking of your graduate, you may cry.  Make sure you don’t get tears on the book!

This book allows young adults to focus a little more on the young and less on the adult for a while.  We all might know that once you are out of high school, you become an “adult”, and in many cases, have to leave behind a lot of the safety and security that comes with being a child.

This version is a hard-cover deluxe edition.  It is slightly nicer than the regular cover, but both books are excellent for a graduation gift.

Is your kid going to continue on to college, or are they going to join the workforce?  Depending on which, other gift ideas can be pretty cool too.  For the student, you might get supplies, or even donate towards the student’s textbook fund.  Textbooks are expensive.  Even if you can find discounts, they are way overpriced.  For the worker, you can look at things like alarm clocks, watches, pens, or other items.

Experiences:  If at all possible, try sharing in an experience with your graduate.  It could be a family trip somewhere the graduate wants to go, or it could be as simple as a day with the graduate where you reminisce and share conversation.  A time when they are the focus.  If you plan one of these, consider leaving the electronics at home.  Too often they get in the way of communication, and this may be, for many the last time where they can have good communication with the children we love so much.

Again, at the risk of angering some, while a car is a nice thing, it is just a thing.  Unless that car is a junker bought so you and your graduate can work on together, there are other times for a car.

College:  This is a big one.  Even more than high school, when someone graduates from college, they are on their own.  You have done everything you can to raise the precious little one that once slept on your arm into the man or woman who is now ready to take on the world.  You’ve taught them right from wrong.  You’ve taught them as much as possible about money and finance, and ready or not world, here they come!

Housewares:  This is probably the best idea.  If your children went away for college, let’s face it, they had crap!  They scrounged to repurpose furniture.  They probably have stains (you don’t want to know), on every item they own, including furniture and housewares.

A nice watch:  Depending on what they are now doing for a living, very few items say, “You’ve made it!” as much as a stylish watch.  Make sure the watch is practical for what they do.  Your teacher daughter might love a Rolex, but probably wouldn’t be able to wear it to work.  Your lawyer son probably won’t appreciate a novelty watch as much as another, more professional  model.

There are a lot of other great ideas out there as well.  You know your kids better than I do.  You know what they want, need, and would like.  Be creative, and try to get them something that means something to them.


Your graduate is important to you.  They worked hard to get to where they are.  Personally, for parents, I’m not a big fan of cash.  But that is only my opinion.  I know that a lot of kids want the cash, and would actually appreciate it more than any other gift.  If that’s the case, fine.  I think parents have the unique advantage of knowing their kids better than anybody else, and can use that knowledge to give a gift with meaning.  Use that gift that tells your graduate that you recognize everything they’ve gone through to graduate.  Use it to create an even stronger bond between you and your graduate.

Of course, for high school and even college, my suggestions are for “almost as good” gifts.  The best gift you can give to your child graduating from high school or college is FINANCE FOR YOUTH:  THE BOOK!  This is a book that will help them with any of those issues where you might not have been able to cover to your satisfaction. 

Many of the same topics are covered here as are covered in the book, but the book has completely different content.  We talk about getting a job, keeping a job, making decisions about financial institutions, balancing a checkbook, and even a lot of information about buying a car and other topics.  Check out a limited preview on my FACEBOOK  group.  In addition to the Table of Contents and Introduction, I’ve also included the first page of every chapter so you can get a feel for what you will be reading.  Buy a few copies, one for your graduate, one for you, and a third one (at least) for all those graduates you know that you want to get a gift for, but aren’t sure what to get.

Now, for something a little different:  Since the year 2000, this song has been the second most popular song for High School and Middle school graduation ceremonies.  As a teacher, I’m sure I’ll be tired of this song before the month is over, but for now, enjoy!

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Once again I find myself apologizing for not being able to post.  Circumstances that are beyond my control have conspired to make it difficult to post recently.  First, my computer had decided that it is ready to retire to Boca.  Second, I have been ill with what feels like a biblical plague, but is probably just a strong cold, or even a couple of different colds.

There was a third reason as well.  Around this time each year, I give an address to graduating students.  Generally, I try to keep the tone upbeat.  After all, this is the greatest time of some people’s lives.  I try to pass out platitudes and truths in equal portions, passing on some ideas for young people to do before their lives limit opportunities.  This year is a little different because the world is a decidedly scarier place than I have ever seen it.

This year, we have seen hatred, bigotry, and ignorance trump personal opinions and beliefs in the case of (former) Miss California Carrie Prejean.  Just yesterday, the aforementioned ignorant bigots finally won by having Miss California lose her crown for having personal beliefs.  Perez Hilton must be giggling into his Pinkberry.

This year, we have seen poor judgements and decisions rewarded by the government and prudent choices punished.  The housing fiasco is still in full swing right now because certain people in the federal government lied, obfuscated facts, and abused the trust that we as Americans have given them.  Not only were Chris Dodd and Barney Frank not run out on a rail, but they both still have a lot of influence over the economy.

This year, many Americans put personality before substance, and a good man is in a job that he is woefully underprepared for.  The problem is, there are no do-overs.  He bit off more than he can chew, and we get the bellyache.

This year, we have seen the results of cronyism, where almost one out of every ten Americans who are looking for work are unemployed, while a tax cheat runs the IRS.

This year we learned the concept of  “too big to fail”.  It sounds good until you realize that too big to fail also means too small to succeed for everybody else.

This year, because of many of the above mentioned choices, unborn children of unborn children will be paying for mistakes we adults have made.

So you can see, there is precious little that is encouraging to perk you up.  But, since when does that matter?  See, the good side is that you are going to be in charge at some point in the near future.  You don’t have to make the same mistakes we are making today.  You can do what my parents and their parents have tried to do.  You can make the world a better place for your children than it was for you.

  1. Up till now, people in positions of authority have expected you to do as you were told without question or comment.  When you get into your career, many will expect you to do so as well.  Once in a while, when something doesn’t make sense, question somebody.  Do so in a respectful manner, and listen to whatever justification you are given, but don’t go away without an answer that satisfies you, even if you disagree with it.
  2. Take a stand.  Just like Miss Prejean took a stand (that the President, Vice-President, and the majority of Americans share), that ultimately cost her a job, you need to find something that you are so passionate about that you would give up everything else in your life for.  Don’t waste that kind of comittment on something that is not worthy.
  3. Be active.  In your community, in your family, or somewhere else.  Don’t blend into the walls, but stand out (in a positive way) and make people take notice.
  4. Don’t let them see you coming.  Do something out of character when the opportunity presents itself.  I’m not saying do the wrong thing, or the bad thing, but sometimes you just have to do something different.
  5. Read a book that you had to read in school, but this time read it just to enjoy it.  Some of those books were pretty good if they weren’t screwed up by having you try to find all of the plot devices.
  6. Drive a really powerful, “cool” car once.  With many of the laws that are coming out, you might not be able to later.
  7. Play like a kid once in a while.  Run like you’ve never run before.
  8. Make your own list of Qualities of Success and start following them.  This list can be a work in progress.  When things work, keep them, but if they don’t– dump them.
  9. Learn to cook one dish from scratch really well.  As you start your life on your own the temptation will be there to eat “convenience food”.  Sometimes, this is okay.  But if you can cook one dish really well, you can always treat yourself, or impress someone you might want to impress.
  10. Don’t focus on the first part of this post.  While all of it is true, right now there is little you can do about it.  Enjoy this time because it might be the best time of your life.  You only graduate once or twice in your life.  This first one is the most important one because this is also the start of your adult life.

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