Blueberry’s Iceream and education processes… An unlikely combination, you would say. But this story narrated by James Vollmer, author of the book Schools Cannot Do It Alone, and creator of the viral video series “The Great Conversation’ mentions how one encounter turned him from a hard- headed businessman to a fervent proponent of public education. Vollmer believed that schools could be run efficiently with zero error and TQM just like his blueberry Iceream manufactured with the finest ” premium” ingredients. He believed proudly in his arrogance that schools and educators were inefficient and resistant to change.

While addressing a group of resistant teachers, he was dumbfounded when one of them challenged him: What would he do, this razor sharp teacher asked, with a batch of inferior or non- standardized blueberries? Caught in a trap of his own making, he very honestly said that he would reject them. The teacher than sharply reproached him saying that to apply the same yardstick to children, as to raw materials in production is a huge injustice. Schools take in all kinds of children – education is hardly a standardized sterilized process – it involves embracing the differences- the very cornerstone of differentiated learning.

This story throws up multiple perspectives. Are educators absolved of all accountability? Are students’ ingredients or consumers on their own right? Shouldn’t education move with the times? Is profitability incompatible with quality and empathic education?

Fatima Agarkar, co- founder and visionary extraordinaire, explores unusual and refreshing perspectives thrown up by this topic with her usual panache. Take a look!

The Blueberry Story
A trending TedTalk video shared on our internal KA EduAssociates work chat got Usha Vasudevan and I into a discussion about what the lady pointed out to the corporate leader. While the narrative beautifully highlighted how embracing we are as a teacher community to children in our classrooms with all their unique abilities, at times it does get challenging to implement the corporate strategies like Total Quality Management (TQM) or Zero Defects as suggested by the corporate leader at BlueBerry ice-creams. As teachers, catering to different needs – high ability learners, learners with needs and the usual ‘happy-go-lucky’ ones for a common learning outcome may not be as easy as a product line.

But here’s where we are losing the battle and giving up in my opinion.

There is a lesson in this for all of us to reflect and incorporate -why can’t we seek inspiration and find sustainable solutions to address our needs? Why can’t we understand that when the concept of Zero Defects came into the manufacturing sector, it was not easy, there were acceptance challenges and look what it did to the whole customer service focus? There was a disruption that forced the industry to re-think and emerge using strategies that have shaped the reality we enjoy happily enjoy today.

What can we do as educators for the future of education? For starters, let’s embrace the differences as a wonderful mix of personalities that we can all learn from. We need to celebrate these differences as in these differences lies the future of our world. That child who was labelled ADHD may be leading a large conglomerate in the future and providing empowerment to many, so make that child’s journey a happy one by catering to those needs. The child who’s always off the mark first up with zillion ideas, needs supporters in the future to implement those ideas and perhaps serves as an inspiration for those who prefer to remain silent in the classrooms and like to follow.

By harnessing the energy of the classroom variance allows the education industry to be more creative, and more innovative! So while it is easier to point out our ‘working’ challenges, it is time we learn from other industries and remain motivated with some ideas.

I am not for a moment suggesting that we create a McDonald like of effect in our classrooms with ‘Zero Defects’, I am suggesting that we differentiate our learning programs to enhance each child’s learning and for that we simply need to understand that sustained professional development and training will enable teachers to constantly ideate and step away from their classrooms to work on those strategies.

Many schools claim that they follow this – I do not mean learning stations or grouping children basis of their ability and assigning specific goals, I do mean setting goals for every child. I also mean being inspired by the thought that every child can imbibe other qualities provided there is a platform.

I also feel using this wonderful mix of abilities in our classroom to combine their strengths into one common project and allow children from time to time, focus on their core strengths. This leads to healthier socio emotional learning and a happier outcome for all around.

Perhaps therein lies the spark we are all looking for …..

Let’s be inspired!

An Award winning educationalist (K-12), on the Advisory Board of several schools & edutech companies, she’s a veteran of 3 educational start ups and the Founder of ACE. Pioneering change-maker, she’s passionate about revolutionalising education. |