How A Shoe Can Teach Students Responsibility

A number of years ago a first year teacher asked me for some help.

He told me that his students took all his pencils.

They took all his glue bottles.

And his class set of scissors.

He was angry, frustrated and hurt.

“These students have no sense of responsibility,” he told me.

I agreed with him.

I told him they needed to be taught how to be responsible.

“And how do I do that?” he asked.

“Ask for a shoe,” I said.

“How does a shoe teach students responsibility?” the first year teacher asked.

I told him in my first year of teaching, I heard a presentation by Barbara Coloroso.

She gave an example of asking for a shoe when a student borrowed something.

I adapted her idea to teach students about financial responsibility.

I started to use her idea in my classes.

When a student wanted to borrow a pencil or a glue bottle or scissors, I asked for a shoe.

In the beginning, students would always ask why they needed to give a shoe.

“It’s collateral,” I would answer.

“What’s collateral,” they asked.

I tell students” it’s something you give as a guarantee until you repay a loan. When you give me back my pencil that I loaned you, I’ll give you back your shoe that you gave me as collateral.”

Eventually they get the concept.

Some days, I would have 26 pairs of shoes in front of my desk. (They have a credit limit of two shoes.)

This hands on and real example gives me the chance to talk to them about car loans and mortgages and financial responsibility.

I ask how many of them want to buy a car when they get older.

Every hand goes up.

I then tell them that if they don’t have enough money to buy a car, they may have to borrow the money from the bank.

“If you borrow money from the bank and buy a car, who owns the car?” I ask.

“We do,” they reply.

“No,” I reply back.

“The bank owns your car. They have your car as collateral until you repay the loan.”

“Just like when you take our shoe Mr. Glavac”.


We also talk about credit cards.

A lot of my middle students don’t realize that the money used for purchases has to be paid back.

They also don’t realize that if the money isn’t paid back on time, there’s a penalty.

This gives me a chance to talk about interest rates and the power of compounding interest.

We also talk about mortgages and what the words mort and gage mean in French. (But that’s for another story.)

My first year colleague asked me if it really works.

I replied that 99.9% of the time, it works. You have to teach the students the procedure over and over again until it becomes routine.

There’s always an exception to the rule.

There was one time when it didn’t work.

One student gave up his shoe to borrow a pencil.

At the end of the class, I didn’t get my pencil back.

I know because I had an extra shoe on my desk.

My principal came up to me later that day and asked if I knew anything about a student who was walking around the school wearing only 1 shoe.

I found her.

She got her shoe back.

I got my pencil back.

Try it.

It really works.

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