Sixth Grade Lesson That Stuck With Me

Nick Fishman

I’ve got to hand it to Mr. Cooley.  He was right.  Mr. Cooley was my 6th grade teacher at Brady Middle School in Pepper Pike, Ohio.  And this guy was off the wall.  He sometimes intentionally, sometimes not gave us a lifetime of entertainment in one school year.

Over and over again, he told us that years from now (then), we would all remember the Mr. Cooley stock exchange. And now I know why I thought about this morning.

The stock exchange was an unbelievable lesson Mr. Cooley designed to teach us how the stock market worked.  He started by printing out fake money that was distributed to each student in equal amounts.  We could the npurchase shares of any stock we wanted as long as it was traded on the New York Stock Exchange.  Shares were purchased at the actual value reported in the Cleveland Plain Dealer that day.  And as long as you had the money, you could buy and sell as many different stocks as you liked.  Like with the real stock exchange the value of our portfolio fluctuated every day.

There was a “central bank” where money was exchanged for stock certificates and vice-versa.  And of course, each student got a chance to be the banker during the course of the lesson.

At the end of the lesson everyone had to sell their entire portfolio.  And that’s where the fun really started.  Students were asked to donate some items from their homes that weren’t being used anymore.  These items would be auctioned off to the highest bidder in class (with the money earned from the exchange). I think Mr. Cooley even got some local businesses to contribute to the cause.

If I remember correctly, stock in Chubb Insurance was exploding at the time.  Huge gains everyday and even a split at one point.  I’m not sure where the tip came from, but a few of us plowed into it.  Then, we all bought stock in our favorite companies (the ones we actually knew), like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola.

I promise I’m getting to the point.  When something was on the line and there was something tangible to be had, we all ran around like Wall Street moguls.  I wanted the donated TV so bad and I was determined to get it.

One day, my cousin Howard was the banker.  And a small group of us decided, that day, there would be a run on the bank. We exchanged shares with Howard, but he gave us quadruple the amount of their worth.  We’d give him a piece of the pie for his efforts.

In the end, I still didn’t have enough to buy the TV.  I’m not sure what I bought when all was said and done.  But I certainly learned a valuable lesson.

And that brings us to today.  We’ve been talking a lot about crimes of opportunity and we know that businesses lose billions of dollars to internal theft every year.  What we did when we were 12 years old reinforces the notion that access to a valuable asset can tempt anyone.  We had something to gain.  We had inside access.  And we had the opportunity with little oversight.

Most of us grow out of the immaturity we displayed back then, but some never do.  That is precisely two of the big three reasons (Violence, Loss, Dishonesty) businesses need to conduct background checks.

So, thank you Mr. Cooley.  You were right.  I definitely remember the stock exchange.

P.S. I’m not the only one who turned away from a life of crime. Howard is a legitimate business man who owns a high end pet hotel in Cleveland and LA.

Nick Fishman
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Nick Fishman

Nick Fishman is the co-founder of EmployeeScreenIQ, a leading, global employment background screening provider, and serves as the company’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. He pioneered the creation of EmployeeScreen University, the #1 educational resource on employment background checks for human resources, security and risk management professionals. A recognized industry expert, Nick is a frequent author, presenter and contributor to the news media. Nick is also a licensed private investigator in the states of Ohio and Texas.
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