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TEACHERS.NET GAZETTE
Volume 3 Number 6

COVER STORY
Harry & Rosemary Wong remind us that, "The effective teacher is prepared"...
ARTICLES
The Blueberry Story: The teacher gives the businessman a lesson byJamie Robert Vollmer
A LOOK AT . . . Getting Back to Basics by Alfie Kohn
We Have Achieved Education For All...Now We Seek Education for Each by Bill Page
Revisiting a "Fool's Gold: A Critical Look at Computers in Childhood" by Dr. Rob Reilly
Partner Book Talk Procedures -- Kindergarten Precursor to Literature Circles by Sandy Hamilton
How Teachers Can Benefit From School Choice by Robert Holland
The Tipping Point by Jay Davidson
Best Practice: Establish a "No Putdown Rule" in Your Classroom by Susan Gingras Fitzell
The Words We Use by Tom Drummond
Authoring an eBook in 10 Basic Steps! by Paul Jackson
Online Course with Leslie Bowman Aims to Break the Cycle of Bullying by Kathy Noll
Teaching Gayle to Read (Part 6) by Grace Vyduna-Haskins
Teaching Is A Full Time Profession
In Quebec Many Politicians Do Not See It This Way
by Dave Melanson
Volunteer Recognition Poems from: The Second Grade mailring
Teachers.Net Adds Chatboards for all U.S. States & D.C. from: The Editor
Homeschooling from: ERIC Clearinghouse
True Scientific Literacy for All Students by Stewart E Brekke
Index of Columns
Index of Regular Features
Index of Informational Items
Gazette Home Delivery:

 
About Jamie Robert Vollmer...
Jamie Vollmer is a friend of public education. He is a former corporate CEO and attorney who now works to help increase community support for America's schools and build professional pride among educators. He has spoken to tens of thousands of educators and community members in the last ten years. He has been a keynote presenter at national conferences organized by the NEA, and AASA, and at hundreds of state and district level meetings across America.

Jamie is president of Vollmer and Associates, Inc. in Fairfield, Iowa. He and his partners believe that a vital system of public education is essential if America is to continue to be a great nation. They are committed to the notion that real, lasting educational improvement can only occur if it is understood and supported at the local level - both in the hallways of our schools and the living rooms of our communities. The goal is to halt the erosion of public trust in public schools, and help create the kind of schools our students and our communities need to thrive in the 21st century.

Jamie served for six years as the director of the nationally recognized Iowa Business, Labor, and Education Roundtable, and was an author of its World-Class Schools report. He is the author of the highly acclaimed videos, "Why Our Schools Need to Change", "Building Support for America's Schools", and "Praise for America's Teachers".

He is the former CEO of the Great Midwestern Ice Cream Company - People Magazine's choice as the "Best Ice Cream in America".

Jamie holds a Bachelor of Arts from Pennsylvania State University, and a Juris Doctor from the Catholic University of America in Washington DC.


Teacher Feature...

The Blueberry Story: The teacher gives the businessman a lesson

by Jamie Robert Vollmer


"If I ran my business the way you people operate your schools, I wouldn't be in business very long!"

I stood before an auditorium filled with outraged teachers who were becoming angrier by the minute. My speech had entirely consumed their precious 90 minutes of inservice. Their initial icy glares had turned to restless agitation. You could cut the hostility with a knife.

I represented a group of business people dedicated to improving public schools. I was an executive at an ice cream company that became famous in the middle1980s when People Magazine chose our blueberry as the "Best Ice Cream in America."

I was convinced of two things. First, public schools needed to change; they were archaic selecting and sorting mechanisms designed for the industrial age and out of step with the needs of our emerging "knowledge society". Second, educators were a major part of the problem: they resisted change, hunkered down in their feathered nests, protected by tenure and shielded by a bureaucratic monopoly. They needed to look to business. We knew how to produce quality. Zero defects! TQM! Continuous improvement!

In retrospect, the speech was perfectly balanced - equal parts ignorance and arrogance.

As soon as I finished, a woman's hand shot up. She appeared polite, pleasant -- she was, in fact, a razor-edged, veteran, high school English teacher who had been waiting to unload.

She began quietly, "We are told, sir, that you manage a company that makes good ice cream."

I smugly replied, "Best ice cream in America, Ma'am."

"How nice," she said. "Is it rich and smooth?"

"Sixteen percent butterfat," I crowed.

"Premium ingredients?" she inquired.

"Super-premium! Nothing but triple A." I was on a roll. I never saw the next line coming.

"Mr. Vollmer," she said, leaning forward with a wicked eyebrow raised to the sky, "when you are standing on your receiving dock and you see an inferior shipment of blueberries arrive, what do you do?"

In the silence of that room, I could hear the trap snapů. I was dead meat, but I wasn't going to lie.

"I send them back."

"That's right!" she barked, "and we can never send back our blueberries. We take them big, small, rich, poor, gifted, exceptional, abused, frightened, confident, homeless, rude, and brilliant. We take them with ADHD, junior rheumatoid arthritis, and English as their second language. We take them all! Every one! And that, Mr. Vollmer, is why it's not a business. It's school!"

In an explosion, all 290 teachers, principals, bus drivers, aides, custodians and secretaries jumped to their feet and yelled, "Yeah! Blueberries! Blueberries!"

And so began my long transformation.

Since then, I have visited hundreds of schools. I have learned that a school is not a business. Schools are unable to control the quality of their raw material, they are dependent upon the vagaries of politics for a reliable revenue stream, and they are constantly mauled by a howling horde of disparate, competing customer groups that would send the best CEO screaming into the night.

None of this negates the need for change. We must change what, when, and how we teach to give all children maximum opportunity to thrive in a post-industrial society. But educators cannot do this alone; these changes can occur only with the understanding, trust, permission and active support of the surrounding community. For the most important thing I have learned is that schools reflect the attitudes, beliefs and health of the communities they serve, and therefore, to improve public education means more than changing our schools, it means changing America.

Reprinted with permission from the March 6, 2002 issue of Education Week

Copyright 2002, by Jamie Robert Vollmer

 

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