Last week I volunteered to take part in Money Day at Furzedown Primary - a school for kids aged 5-18 with special educational needs. I've never taught before and I don't have kids myself so I really did not know what to expect but it was an incredibly rewarding and fun day. Money Day introduces primary school children to the world of work by getting them to write a CV, go to a mock job fair, take part in interviews and experience a day of work. They even get paid a very small amount at the end of the day. My job was to represent a pretend web-design company and teach the kids to build a website.
The day started like this...
All the kids filed in to the assembly hall, clearly very excited and sat cross-legged on the floor. The teachers set the scene about the world of work (with a cautionary word about unemployment too) and gave a run down of the agenda for the day. There were five companies with jobs on offer: garden centre, department store, office, web design and a cafe.
There were presentations from a couple of older pupils that had set up a business selling hand-made wooden ornaments at local craft fairs, another from an ex-pupil called DJ Jack, a couple from the teachers and then my presentation. The best bit was telling the kids that when I asked them 'who da boss?' they had say that I was; on first practice I had forty kids point at me and shout 'You Da Boss!' Crowd control badge unlocked!
They then had to go off and apply for a job at the 'recruitment fair' that had been previously set up. They queued at one of the employer's desks to run through their CV's which described their best qualities, such as 'I like to help people', 'I like playing games', 'I walk the dog with my mum' and I asked each of them a few simple questions: 'why do you want to become a web-designer?' Some of them were very clued up and were mostly only 9! I was very impressed, although one boy responded confidently 'PLANTS! I like plants!' - bless him. I sent this fellow over to the garden centre queue.
I had 5 jobs going: 1 Project Manager, 2 Designers and 2 Developers.
After picking my team and signing our pretend contracts we went back to the classroom. I asked who wanted to be the project manager and a confident chap called Bailey put his hand up, I appointed him and he obediently replied 'Ok Boss!' There was less certainty about who'd be the designer or developer. Playing with computers and taking photos held equal appeal.
Objectives, design rules, users and our backlog
I set our objectives for the day, which were:
- Tell the story of Money Day
- Publish it to the the Internet and tell people
We discussed what makes a good website and a bad website. They all love CBeebies and YouTube; they'd all heard of eBay and Amazon but they reckoned the key to a good website was 1) brilliant backgrounds, 2) clear layout and 3) good information. These became our design rules.
Here's Bailey posing in front of our first card wall.
They very quickly identified that the number one user for this website was going to be their parents, followed by teachers (theirs and from other schools) and lastly their friends. They got to this point unprompted and with real confidence which I thought was remarkable and exactly the answer I would have given.
We then created a backlog of cards, imagining ourselves as parents, teachers and friends and discussed prioritisation. The two cards we prioritised were 'What kids are doing today' and 'comments about Money Day'. The designers quickly went off with the cards, their cameras and notebooks around the school and the developers helped set up the FTP software and create a basic HTML template.
Multi-disciplinary team delivers
When the designers came back they selected some images, we did some pairing to reference the images in the HTML file, added some text (their words) and we were good to deliver our first website. Bailey sounded the bike horn, we high-fived and he awarded the team with stickers - just like real work.
Instant feedback from 'users'
I tweeted that we'd delivered the site and asked followers for feedback. We got some lovely replies back and the kids could not believe that grown-ups with proper jobs had seen their work. It helped that I was able to say 'this person works for Channel 4, this person worked at the BBC...'. They loved it.
What Money Day taught me
Teaching is bloody exhausting. I'll be careful not to take the piss out of teachers getting home at 4pm and taking long holidays. I think I passed out on the sofa even before my nightly fix of Newsnight.
The class room was very similar to my workplace. There was bunting everywhere- just the GDS office - lots of bright colours and cards on walls, stickers, toys, progress charts and circle-time. Actually, the smaller seats suited me quite well given my little leggy-wegs.
And then there's the stuff that people desperately try to fight back. In my world it's the gantt chart, pointlessly long documents and corporate buzz words; in teaching it's words like 'step vocabulary, plenary, WALT' and the rigidity of tests and the National Curriculum over creative learning and singular focus on the children rather than The System.
The kids totally got the Kanban wall by the way and the idea of delivering things incrementally. It made perfect sense to them and I did not need to explain anything twice. In fact one of the teachers said she might start using it to organise their days.
It was great to see that they were excited by the Internet and making things and I would recommend the experience to anyone. I had great fun and all my team would would fit in perfectly well in a workplace like mine. I'm sure their parents would be proud.