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What I Learned as a Volunteer Teacher at Ko School

What I Learned as a Volunteer Teacher at Ko School
Photo by Annie Spratt / Unsplash

For the past year, I taught entrepreneurship once per week at Ko School in Austin, Texas.

Here’s a little video trailer a few students and I put together about the class:

In the very first class, I asked the students what would make the class 100% worthwhile for them.

Everyone had a different background and perspective. Some were shrewd entrepreneurs who’d sold thousands of dollars of inventory (before turning 15!), while others had no idea what “entrepreneurship” meant.

Each week, I’d try to think of new ways to keep them engaged, positively reinforce good behaviors, hold them accountable, and keep them moving forward.

Somedays I would bring in books as rewards. Other days, we’d start the class with a game — like “tell us a story about a picture on your phone” or “partner up and build something together with Legos.”

The first assignment was to “sell something.” It could be anything, just as long as someone purchased it.

The results were hilarious. One student sold a $20 necklace for $80. Another student sold sticks of gum for a total of $0.16.

One of the most memorable classes was when I realized one of the students — who’d been spinning his wheels, constantly abandoning projects to move on to something else — was actually a natural salesman. I asked him to sell me something. He started selling me on everything we could find: a plastic fork, a phone holder, a marker. It was hysterical.

This was the first time I’d taught high schoolers, which initially made me very nervous. Teenagers can be a tough audience.

Adults are easy to present to, because they are courteous and pretend they’re listening. But if you’re boring to a teenager, they will let you know — with sarcastic comments, playing games on their phone, etc.

My friend Azul Terronez (who taught for over 20 years) gave me a fantastic idea:

Ask the students, “What makes a good teacher great?”

We had a great discussion, and I wrote all of their answers down and posted them on the wall:

While I’d love to continue teaching, I recently accepted a full-time offer as Head of Video & Podcast at Book in a Box.

Many thanks to Michael Strong and Letsie Khabale for trusting me to do whatever I thought up each week. I’d encourage all parents to check out what they’re doing at Ko School. It’s incredible.