I’ve been working with teenage girls for over 20 years, the last four years with Rangers. In all that time, I thought I’d done it all, so I was not at all prepared when this year’s Ranger group started planning their year and asked me for a crash course in ‘Adulting 101.’ That alone wasn’t shocking, but when I asked for examples of what they wanted to learn in such a meeting, I was taken aback (and silently very proud of my girls). They listed everything from changing a tire on a car to how to find a doctor when you move out and find yourself in a new town. In fact their list was so long, we had to break up the items over multiple meetings throughout the year.
What I found most interesting was the top item on every girl’s list: how to do my taxes. This led to a discussion of what income taxes were and why they were important, and ended with us adding “tax night” to the schedule for March. Thankfully taxes aren’t something I’ve ever had difficulty with, so last week I picked up a pile of blank tax forms from the post office, printed a fake T4 off the internet, and calculated it ahead of time. I’m glad I did, since it’s been years since I’ve done it the old-fashioned way!
Just before the meeting I found a package of fun erasers at a dollar store, and I used those as incentives. As we worked through the mock tax return, I challenged the girls to find things (such as box 14 on the T4 or the answer to a particular calculation). The first to answer correctly got to pick an eraser. It may have been a simple prize, but it made it more fun.
They had lots of questions as we went along, and we actually ran out of time. I had to give them the numbers to fill in the final steps, just so that they could see the refund our fake girl was getting. It was amazing to watch as their eyes suddenly went huge when they “got it” at the end, and clearly understood why the refund was what it was.
Sure, computers can do it all now, and I know that none of these girls are likely to ever file paper forms (lucky them), but there’s something to be said for working through the process at least once, and seeing how the computer spits out the final numbers. It may not have been the most traditional ‘fun’ night we’ve ever had, but there was something very rewarding about it. I’m glad they asked!
Guest post by Clare Douglas. Clare is a Guider with Pathfinder and Ranger units in Guelph, Ontario, and is looking forward to attending Guiding Mosaic 2016 camp.
what a great idea from the girls….would love to see their list and what you did for each item.