The best lesson I ever did that almost got me fired!
TAGS: Brian MendlerTeacher Learning Center

Having the ‘birth to death’ special education certification is a double edge sword. Awesome when you are looking for a job (they can put you anywhere at anytime and often they do) and awful once you get the job (they can put you anywhere at anytime, and often they do).

My principal called three days before school started to say I was teaching one section of economics to a bunch of kids that were “not able to handle the ‘regular’ class.” He said, “don’t worry because you can basically do whatever you want. There is no state exam. Honestly, as long as I do not hear from them I will be happy.”

Three weeks later I was packing a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey I purchased at our local public market. Carol walked in.

Her: “What are you doing Mr. Mendler?”

Me: “Sending out this jersey. I bought it for twenty-five dollars and sold it for fifty dollars on ebay. Not bad.”

Her: “Cool. Can you sell anything on there?”

Me: “Just about.”

Her: “You should teach us how to do that during economics. That would be awesome.”

Sometimes, kids come up with great ideas. It was on. That night I sent an email to our staff. “Hey everyone. My economics class is learning how to buy and sell on ebay. Please bring in any items that you have laying around. We will do all the work and pay you the sale price minus ten percent.”

The next day was crazy. All morning teachers were bringing items: hardly used baby bottles, an electric guitar, old college textbooks, clothes, etc… I taught them how to take pictures and upload. We wrote descriptions for each item since nobody is going to buy if you cannot spell properly and have horrible grammar. We calculated shipping before each auction. You have never seen a group of high school seniors so excited to understand how to calculate 10% of $48.76.

Within a week teachers from other schools in the district started bringing us items. My students researched the days and times that ebay had its highest traffic count. This helped determine when to start an auction and if it should be three, five or seven days. At the height, we had about sixty items in my room at one time ready to be shipped. It was awesome.

I was devastated when my principal told me to shut it down. When I shared the news with my class of previously unmotivated, disengaged kids who had become enthusiastic learners (and business people) that we could no longer do this, their disappointment (and mine) turned to frustration and annoyance when the only reason given was “it’s against school policy.” Oh well. At least we got a solid month out of it!