Collaboration is defined by dictionary.com as “working together, especially in a joint intellectual effort.” Junior Achievement (JA) certainly resonates with that definition, as it bridges schools and the educators that employ them with business professionals and the companies that employ them. Standing in the middle of that bridge are kindergarten students through seniors in high school.
More than ever our youth are saying “don’t just tell me how to do it, show me—or better yet, let me experience for myself how to do it.” The reason they feel this way is that they do what you do everyday. They sort what is relevant to them from what is not. The real question students want answered is “why do I gotta learn this stuff?” Don’t assume that that question has a rebellious tone to it. The question is simply one of curiosity, and an irrefutable way to answer it is through the collaborative efforts of the education community and the business community.
Junior Achievement allows the business professional to bring not only the relevance, but also the experience, to today’s students, who are tomorrow’s workforce. The very fact that the business professional is standing in front of the class makes the dialogue relevant. It is quite validating to a student when someone who earns a paycheck is passing on to them what is important.
Junior Achievement’s curriculum materials combine the firstperson account of “the real world” (the relevance) with interactive, hands-on activities (the experience). When that happens, the teacher, the school, the JA Classroom Consultant (in-class volunteer), their employer and the student are collaborating. The result is a vivid experience which the parties won’t soon forget —especially the student.
The employer’s role in the collaborative effort is perhaps the most critical, for it is the employer that not only allows their employee(s) to leave the place of business to teach JA, but that time away is on the employer’s dime. They realize the return on investment.
But this collaboration stretches beyond the intellectual effort. It touches the fabric of our community socially. Does that sound farfetched? It isn’t, and the reason why is that people are lonely. People want to be friendly, but many don’t initiate well. Junior Achievement becomes a catalyst, spurring dialogue and ultimately friendship, among many parties.
The most obvious is between the JA Consultant and the student. Beyond the nuts and bolts of the lesson, the social skills that are modeled by the adult are invaluable. Many students do not speak to adults beyond their parents, teacher and coach. Adults rarely speak to kids beyond their own, so the learning process is mutual.
Schoolteachers and business professionals’ paths don’t cross very often. A mutual appreciation is developed when the teacher and the JA Consultant collaborate to maximize the efficiency of the Junior Achievement experience. Many businesses want to help educators, they simply don’t know how. There are times when a need seen becomes a need met, and partnerships are formed between the teacher and educator, or the school and the business, that have nothing to do with Junior Achievement, but JA brought them together.
It is easier than ever to isolate ourselves from other people, at any age. When people of varying ages, careers and backgrounds build relationships through collaboration, the pleasant result is a cozier, friendlier and safer community. IBI