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Monday, August 17, 2009

You Have the Right to Remain Silent. . .


In the 80’s and very early 90’s, computers had not yet become a fixture in the classroom, so it was considered quite innovative when my department head bought software for one of the few computers we did have for me to use with my business management students. It was a computer simulation program which allowed up to 10 different “stores’” to operate in competition with each other. I divided each of my classes (I had 5 classes of Business Management) into groups of two and three, and they became managers of their own stores.


Students had to make decision of how much of a product to buy and determine a selling price. Each group entered their decisions into the computer; the computer would process the information and print out sales reports detailing how many sales they made, based on the amount of inventory they had purchased and their sales price, and that of their competitors’. The cycle would then repeat, adding new decisions to be made each time, such as how many employees to hire, employee wages, how much to spend on advertising, and how many of an additional product to purchase, etc.

Each year, I saved this activity for the last quarter of the school year, when it was most difficult to maintain student interest and motivation. This became a very competitive and realistic exercise; students would be stopping in between classes to see if their sales reports had been printed yet, what their profits were, and would hold very secretive strategy sessions within their groups. Motivation and interest were no longer a problem once they got involved in their businesses!

One day, as I was circulating around the classroom, monitoring progress and answering questions, I overheard a pair of students discussing how they might optimize their sales. “You know, if we could get one of the other groups to set the same low price as we do, we might be able to force a couple of groups into bankruptcy,” said one. (Bankruptcy was one of the outcomes if bad business decisions were made.)
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At lunch time, I discussed what I had overheard with the Business Law teacher. He said, “That’s a violation of anti-trust laws, if you ask me. We ought to arrest them.” We discussed it further and came up with a plan. The next day, one of the business law students who had a part-time job as a mall security guard brought his uniform and handcuffs to school with him. At an appointed time, Phil came into my classroom, in uniform, followed by a film crew (one student with a video camera), and “arrested” the two plotters. As he “read them their rights,” cuffed them, and confiscated all their paper work, one of the alleged anti-trust law violators could be heard saying, “I told your this was a bad idea, I told you!” while his partner was hissing, “shut up!’’

A defense team and a prosecuting team were appointed in the law class. The two teams actually spent time researching anti-trust laws, talking to attorneys, and preparing their cases. The remainder of the Business Law class served as the jury and we actually had a trial. Various witnesses were summoned, and cross-examined. When I was called to the witness stand, the prosecutor said, “I call Eva Gallant, alias Eva LaLiberty, alias Eva, the Squealer.” Of course this delighted the students! (My name before marriage to my current husband was LaLiberty, and they all knew that I had been the snitch!


For the two weeks this was going on, the whole school was buzzing about it. (There were a little over one thousand students in the high school. The trial was held in the business law class and was all captured on video, which all five business management classes watched. The jury found the defendants, “Guilty on all counts,” and they were sentenced to 10 days hard labor (which was how many days were left in the school year.).

It turned out to be an excellent learning experience for all students involved, and the last I heard, the “arresting officer” actually went on to become Chief of Police in the town!

30 comments:

Debbie said...

What a great experience for those students! Those are the lessons that really stick with them.

Steam Me Up, Kid said...

Oh that's awesome! Way to be flexible and follow the learning where it takes you!

AquarianJwl said...

Great story! Very cool way to let the students learn & experience "real-life" situations.

Have a Happy Monday! :)

The Good Cook said...

You are an awesome teacher! What lucky students and what a great lesson. If only more educators were like you... imagine...

Jen said...

That was quite an experience for the students....it must have been difficult in some way to give that all up. I hope the students appreciated all you did.

The Toll House Cookie said...

Eva...thanks for stopping by my blog today! I really enjoyed your post today!!! I love teaching in action. Not only did you teach your students-but the entire school with your demonstration. I wish there were more teachers like you out there!!! (I've always been a hands-on learner!)

Dee said...

There is nothing like a teacher who brings real world experiences to her kids. No one who participated or watched that trial will forget it.

When I did my MBA I used my skills as a lawyer in a marketing project. I acted as the judge in a case on copyright. Everybody loved it.

Keeping the class interested and engaged is what it is all about.

Dori said...

Thanks for stopping by and visiting me today. The world needs more teachers like you. Great story :)

Stopping by from SITS

Mountain Mama said...

What a great lesson! I wonder if the business world would be a little different if there were more teachers (and classes) like you.

Thanks for stopping by today.

McVal said...

How funny! Everyone learned a bunch! lol! Your class sounded really interesting too! I was in Junior Achievement in high school or middle school and my dad was one of the advisors. We learned how to start up a business from scratch, finance it, market and sell. It was very educational and I took a lot of information away from that experience. But we never got arrested...

Jenn said...

What a fantastic story. Thanks for stopping by my blog today - SITS is wonderful!

classroomconfessions said...

Love this! I love hearing about the power of good innovative teaching. It's like when my kids think I am off my rocker every year when I tell them they will each write a book of poetry and by the end they are so attached to their books and want to share them with everyone. I would have loved being in your class :)

Stephanie Faris said...

How creative! We did that sort of thing in economics but our teacher wasn't nearly as talented as you at getting students involved and making it fun.

FROGGITY! said...

nice story!

Charmaine @ randalswife said...

That's awesome! I really wish I had a teacher like you in high school! I might have actually gone! :)

Vicente Caldas said...

Hi Eva
Thank you for visit my blog and at commendation. My english isn't such but i'm trying read your posts.
An embrace my dear!

Steven Anthony said...

Wonderful blog. Man I wish you had been my teacher when I was in school, sounds like your class was a riot:)

Helen McGinn said...

Wow, I bet that's a lesson they never forgot. ;O)
Thanks for stopping by my blog, I'm going to go read some more of yours. xx

Anti-Supermom said...

So impressive. You sound like a fabulous teacher.

Canadian Blend said...

That's some good teaching and the type of thing students remember and talk about at reunions.

The Redhead Riter said...

You sound like a great teacher. I wish I had more that were like you!

Meeko Fabulous said...

That is such an amazing example of hands-on learning! We had that business software program when I was in high school too. What an awesome (and memorable) experience you imparted to your high school students. They'll probably remember you forever! :)

crunkyjens said...

Just wanted to say thank you for stopping by my blog the other day! :) I hope you have a wonderful Tuesday!

Kat Harris said...

Eva the Squealer? I love it.

Hey, I left a little award for you over on my blog.

jeanne @ Inspiring Ideas said...

Great story! Sounds like your students really appreciated you and thats a great legacy! Thanks for stopping by from SITS!!

jennie.newland said...

Oh my goodness! It sound to me like you were (are?) a wonderful teacher! I would have loved something like that when I was in school. I am a very kinastetic (i know I spelled that very wrong, but I ment the hands on) type of learner and I would have learned more in those 10 days then I did all year!!! Great Post!

withoutadornment said...

That (and you!) sounds like so much fun! I would have loved to have something like that happen to me in high school!

a H.I.T. said...

What a fabulous class. I bet every student truly learned about anti-trust laws that year, and to this date, will never forget them. It's classes like those that I loved the best.

Kami said...

What a funny story! This takes me back to my own senior year (1994) and the business law class I took. We held a mock trial, too, though I can't remember what it was for...Ah, those last few weeks of HS, what a fun, exciting time! Sounds like you were an awesome teacher!
Thanks for stopping by my blog yesterday!!

K a b l o o e y said...

I always gravitated to teachers with passion and flexibility. You sound like an excellent one.