Unintentional lessons…

Today is the second time this class is making loans via the kiva.org website. I confess the money was donated by their teachers, but it is a learning experience, an opportunity to show how this kind of lending works, to learn about social inequity in the world, to find out about other countries and raise awareness of how other people live. And hopefully it’s a way to encourage the students to make similar donations or loans of their own in the future.

Here’s a post at their class blog last time:

In class we looked at Maimonedes eight levels of charity. The highest level is giving someone a loan or finding them a job, so that they can support themselves and won’t need charity at all. We explored the Kiva.org website and lent money to people in developing countries. This is called micro-lending because it is only a relatively small amount of money.

You can see students’ reflections on why they chose their loans how they made their decisions here on their blog.

There is great excitement when they log in today and see that some of their previous loans had been repaid and there’s even an interview with one recipient saying what the loan has enabled her to do. We’ve topped up the account so that each group can log in and make one more donation before the end of the school year.

The students gather excitedly around computers to explore the site again and choose the recipients of their loans. It’s interesting to see each group approach this differently. One group looks at the world map and chooses a country they would like to ‘invest’ in.  Another is determined to find an individual who needs the loan the most. You can hear the buzz as they discuss and make their decisions.

Then something unexpected happens…

A student calls me over to see why there isn’t enough balance for his group to make their $25 loan. There is a commotion on the other side of the room and it turns out that one student has made a joke of the whole thing and donated the entire $100, leaving no credit for the other groups to complete their loans. The group concerned is laughing and being silly – but only for a moment. They realise what they have done and everything grinds to a halt. The session is over for everyone and what started on a high note has ended acrimoniously.

It is not the end of the world. No-one has actually stolen anything and the money is, after all, still being loaned to a worthy cause. But trust has been broken and worse, there is some denial and much blaming.

Many lessons have been learned today, not only by the students. Most of them have nothing to do with the original intentions of the lesson.

Would you do an activity like this in your class? How would you deal with the unexpected outcome?

5 thoughts on “Unintentional lessons…

  1. Wow. What a powerful, if unexpected lesson. It was quite heartbreaking to go back and read the students’ reasons for choosing who they were going to lend their part of the money to, knowing what had happened. You are right – the money is still being put to good use on a global level. At the local level, trust has been damaged and I worry as much for the kiddo who made the decision as for the rest of his/her peers. How ever to mend that? Well, I imagine it will take some time. I don’t have any concrete suggestions because I don’t know the class, but I imagine that something restorative needs to happen here. The impact of broken trust can be huge in terms of the level or risk-taking and sharing that we want to see in our classrooms. Thinking of you and your students as you work through it. A tough one, but I imagine that it will end up having a very positive effect when all is mended.



  2. Definitely a very clear time for learning and growth. It seems like a good time to deal with responsibility, ownership of actions, and recognition of consequences beyond just personal ones. All students should reflect on the choices they made during that activity, both positive and negative, both why they made those decisions and what the outcome of the activity has been based on their decisions and the decisions of others. Not necessarily in a public manner, because it isn’t about shaming the students who broke the trust (although they should be shown what the other students experienced). I could see it as a good chance to have the group work towards determining how to rebuild the trust. What could those students do to demonstrate that they could be trusted? What would they suggest? What would other students suggest? It’s a chance to look beyond just what personally becomes a consequence, but it means that those other areas or people did not receive funding, but the one chosen DID receive funding and received more. So what happens there? I wish you luck with this unexpected teaching and learning moment.


  3. I can feel your disappointment from a hemisphere away!

    I wonder though, if you, like I have often done, might be expecting too much. I imagine that this is one of your 12yo boys – even at that age, boys can be very, very silly and very… childish. Maybe he simply didn’t think. Maybe he was just acting the twit or ‘big man’ in front of his friends. Maybe he thought it wasn’t serious and could be undone. Who knows.

    To answer your questions, I think it’s a _great_ activity to do with the kids! They were clearly excited by it. Maybe the one or two would have bought in more to the responsibility if it had been their own hard-earned money, but more likely their parents would have just handed over the cash and you’d be in the same situation.

    How to deal with? That’s difficult. The denial thing is a problem. I think I would try to speak with the naughty kids in that group alone and get some admission of fault. Perhaps even a public (written?) apology and explanation. That might help reduce the blaming. Chances of that happening depend a lot on the characters involved. Slim chance, I expect. Maybe the kids themselves can suggest a solution, but the trick will be to damp it down, not stoke the flames.


  4. Perhaps using money donated by teachers made the student feel less connected to the money? Do you think that if that student donated or raised the money they would have acted that way? I’m not sure. Good luck with what comes next.


  5. What a fantastic learning experience. I would definitely think of doing something similar with my students. I think Judith makes a good point about the feeling of ownership and responsibility. Clive has also struck a chord with me as I think that we (I!) sometimes do expect an awful lot of our students who are only 11 or 12 years old. However, it is an impressionable age and a time in their lives when these sorts of experiences have a significant impact.

    Thanks for sharing Edna – you always get me enthused or thinking more deeply 🙂


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