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  • Writer's pictureMark Olivito

A Wake-Up Call to High School Principals

Updated: Jul 1, 2022

I like “Wake-Up Calls.” They signify the start of the day. But if you’re like me with the START EARLY mantra, you probably don’t utilize them. There are a couple of professions that need proverbial Wake-Up Calls, they are asleep at the switch or tone deaf to realities of the marketplace.

One of my favorite posts was a “Wake-up Call To Sales” where I profiled a great sales professional that stands out, in a fantastic way among many that are average at best. I affectionately refer to him as “Harry Hustle.”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about another segment of our society in need of the proverbial Wake-UP call: Education. In particular, high schools. Better yet, high school PRINCIPALS.

The buck always starts and stops with the one in charge.

Although it’s been 20+ years since I cut up in high school, I have however volunteered in the high school classroom in 3 different, 8 week courses taught in ’97, 2008, & 2009 with one of the great non-profits, Junior Achievement. Teaching Free Enterprise to the future of our country is nothing short of exhilarating and I highly recommend the experience to give back your talents to those that will soak up an outside voice in the classroom. And if you’re in marketing, there’s nothing better than spending time with today’s younger generations.

It’s hard to relate to the NEW SCHOOL if you’re forever stuck in your OLD SCHOOL ways.

There are some take-aways I’ve had in these experiences that have me concerned; 2 come to mind…

  1. Personal Financial skills are non-existent in the high school curriculum. Check books, basic investments, budgeting, etc. The basics of spending less than you earn. Absolutely no evidence that it is more than a fleeting thought in the classroom

  2. Goal Setting 101 – “College preparatory” is more than learning pre-calc, it’s about setting personal goals and achieving what one wants in life.

If you learn the PROCESS of achievement, the “WHATs” you need to know will take care of itself.

This country is in massive debt and there seems to be no end in sight. We just came through the biggest “debt fueled” housing bubble in our generation. Excessive Debt and poor financial decisions were (and still are) all around us. I’m sure there are exceptions but High Schools aren’t responding fast enough. And bold enough.

Gamechangers exist in all professions.

Here are 4 simple, executable ideas I would start with.

  • Scrap_____ (fill in your choice of Old School Elective that has existed for 50+ years) and insert “Foundations in Goal Achievement” as mandatory curriculum. Nothing complicated, build it around SMART Goals.

    • Specific

    • Measurable

    • Actionable

    • Realistic

    • Time-bound

Scrap another one, and teach the basics of Finance 101: “Earn 30, you better spend less or the ink will be red, and bad”.
  • Utilize Excel in every class.

  • Throw in some basics on the stock market, how companies make money.

  • What living within your means is about.

  • The concept of an emergency fund.

  • Let the leadership oriented kids start optional clubs around these classes, something interesting will emerge…

  • Bring in business and community leaders weekly to bring these lessons to life from the real world. All the principles need to do is ask, maybe even create a “personal board of directors” over-seeing this transformation. This personal board would help hold the principal accountable, keep him/her motivated and continually adjust the approach.

    • Business leaders are notoriously busy, but who could resist a Principles plea to take his/her school to a new level?

Are the above suggestions the “best” suggestions to create the change we need in high schools? Maybe not. What’s important is that SOMETHING changes, that schools become flexible enough to have a real time impact that address real problems. Pick a general direction and move towards a more practical future. In the process, we will equip our younger generation with a fighting chance…

Leadership and change is not always about coming up with the best plan. It is about rallying everyone to a better future.

Like all investments, the greater the runway (time) ahead of you, the better the chance of a positive return. Start with the greatest runway, our younger generation…..

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