SWiTCHing Up Education

KAS-03

Today we have our first interview on EduCoup with 24-year-old Jaime Lee, founder of ‘Kids at SWiTCH’ , a weekend program in Chatswood, Australia that looks to foster entrepreneurial traits, financial literacy and initiative in kids from age five to ten by employing fun and engaging methods. Jamie told me how ‘Kids at SWiTCH’ differs from mainstream education, about the philosophy behind the program and her thoughts on  education in general.

Some of the main criticisms EduCoup has directed at mainstream education are of the practices of standardized testing , excessive rote learning, and a lack of humanity in the way kids are taught – not to mention the absence of action based learning, and peer-to-peer learning. ‘Kids at SWiTCH’ tackles all these issues head on. Jaime explained the format of the classes, and gave some of her take on what’s wrong with the kind of education many of us consider the norm.

The concept:

“Within a mini-economy, the children apply for jobs according to their interests and passion. When these kids are enjoying their jobs, work becomes a learning experience rather than just a means of making money. My mission was (and is) to not only foster financial literacy in each of my “kids”, but do so in a way which translates their instinctual passion and sense of play into a sense of unshakeable purpose.”

Learning by doing:

“Do you still remember when we were kids and we imagined ourselves as photographers, fire fighters, teachers and police officers? Well, I simply wanted to emulate that feeling and to bring that imaginative world into reality for kids. Instead of teaching them “about” the world, my goal is to teach them “within” a world that is filled with possibilities. Hence, I’ve created the concept of a mini economy.

In this mini economy, the children apply for jobs according to their interests and passions. I believe it is through intrinsic motivation that real learning can occur. When children enjoy their jobs, work becomes a learning experience rather than just a means of making money.

The children have ownership over their money. They set financial goals for themselves and can choose whether they want to spend their money at the shops or save it at the bank. However, every week the children are charged with rental fees for things such as their chairs as part of their daily expenses. If don’t pay, they sit on the floor. Currently, I have two six-year-old kids who have already bought two chairs, and they are now renting them out to their friends at a higher price!

Through tangible and vivid experiences, the children quickly learn that buying assets such as chairs, beanbags and shops can help them generate passive income. During the course, the children are also faced with a variety of economic circumstances, such as inflation, deflation, paying taxes and losing their jobs. This process allows the children to understand the importance of making investments and to create a second source of income.

My goal is to empower them. I want them to feel like they’ve taken command of a body of material and can actually do things with it in the real world. I’m not interested in teaching them the skills to ‘survive’, but the skills to ‘thrive’.

Different creative thinking styles are fostered here. The creation of classroom businesses/shops give children an abundance of opportunities to learn from their own experiences and apply their knowledge in new ways. I also love involving children at an early age with the joy and benefit of giving. One of the kids’ favourite activities is to exchange letters with our Sponsor Child, Alvin. Mr 9 once said this to me, “Jamie when I have more money, I want to help a lot of people.”

Mentally I am empowering these kids to look for opportunities to be the architects of their own learning. Emotionally I am helping them to see that they are capable of making enormous contributions to society. And socially I am mentoring them to work together and to take their play seriously.

Here’s a website that Mr. 8 has created by himself(We here at EduCoup recommend checking this site out. Mr. 8, or Divyesh Malhotra, should be very proud of the work he put in to get it online.)

He is now in the process of adding a shopping cart onto it. From my observation, when these kids are given the opportunities to discover their passion, they become audacious in trying new things, and they move, learn with a much stronger purpose.”

Get Up One More Time Then You Fall:

“At 23, straight after I graduated from university I took a steep learning curve and got straight into the unknown. The first information day for Kids at SWiTCH wasn’t quite working. Whilst, the room was packed with supportive friends and family, none of the potential clients actually attended. Everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong. The weather was terrible, the location was inappropriate and my speech was too long. But with every mistake and failure came an opportunity for me to learn. My mentor comforted me with this quote, she said “you’re going to fall down, but the world doesn’t care how many times you fall down, as long as it’s one fewer than the number of times you get back up.” And through this experience, I recognized the importance of being able to drill down to identify issues and problems, and solve them before anyone knew of their existence.”

“My first two clients were from referrals. These two mums wanted me to personally teach their children – not because I had the most experience as a teacher, but because they knew I would do whatever it took to defend their unbounded imagination, curiosity and creativity.”

Jamie had eight students for the first term and has had emails of gratitude, invitations to lunch, and requests to host birthday parties from the parents of those children. Sometimes the kids are enjoying themselves too much, and don’t want to come home.

“It’s been 10 months since the start of Kids at SWiTCH, and currently we run four ninety-minute weekend classes. It brings so much joy to me knowing that it has become a place which kids don’t think of it as a school; it’s now has place of innovation, creation and contribution, one which they yearn to visit every day.”

Putting Art And Heart Back Into Education:

“I see education as an art, not a science and it must come from the heart. It’s so important for teachers to realize that in years to come, their students may not remember much about what they’ve taught them, but they’ll always remember how they’ve made them feel.

If there’s one thing that I could do to change our education system I’d add more quality “listening time” into a teachers’ day. A time where teachers can listen to the students’ stories, finding out about their hopes and dreams, and becoming acquainted with their aspirations. Often, it is through listening that I was able to lead based upon what I’ve learned. Learning is reciprocal, and with this kind of experience, our kids do not need to care about trying to fit in. They are free agents in letting their creative and imagination run wild.

I believe the most important thing a teacher can do for a student, is not to teach them, but to inspire them.”

Swimming Against The Tide:

“One of my close friends once said this to me:

It’s not easy when you’re swimming against the tide. But it doesn’t mean that it cannot be done. Don’t let the world tell you what to do. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go do it. Once you’ve successfully fought against the tide, you’ll have a larger capacity to add value to people, lifting them up and helping them to become a part of something bigger than themselves.”

I’d like to thank Jaime for taking part in this interview and sharing the wonderful work she’s doing with ‘Kids at SWiTCH’.

Contact: info@kidsatswitch.com.au

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