Schools Cannot Do it Alone
"It is only by working together that we will build the schools we need and the communities we desire."
In 2010, successful ice cream businessman, Jamie Vollmer was invited to make recommendations to improve the Iowa school system. In his book, Schools Cannot Do It Alone he describes an experience he had while presenting on running schools like businesses. One teacher asked Vollmer what he would do if the flavoring, nuts and berries he ordered were not up to his standards. He replied that he would send them back as he only used the top ingredients.
The teacher responded, “That’s right! You send them back. We can never send back the [students] our suppliers send us. We take them big, small, rich, poor, hungry, abused, confident, curious, homeless, frightened, rude, creative, violent, and brilliant. We take them of every race, religion, and ethnic background. We take them with head lice, ADHD, and advanced asthma. We take them with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, English as their second language … We take them all, Mr. Vollmer! Every one! And that’s why it’s not a business. It’s school!” (Vollmer, 2010, p. 21)
Each student comes with a unique set of circumstances, abilities and needs, needs that thousands of educators do their best to meet each day.
Vollmer believes the demands placed on educators today are unlike any throughout the history of the world. Moving from the basic reading, writing, arithmetic, science and geography material taught since the 1700s, Vollmer (p. 32-35) lists several of the ever increasing educational mandate beginning in the early twentieth century:
- 1910-1930—physical education, sewing, cooking, industrial and agricultural education
- 1940s—business education, art, music, speech and drama
- 1950s—safety education, foreign languages, sex education
- 1960s—consumer education, career education, advanced placement programs
- 1970s—drug and alcohol abuse education, parenting education, behaviour adjustment classes, character education, special education, environmental education, women’s studies
- 1980s—computer education, global education, multicultural education, early childhood education, teen pregnancy awareness, English as a second language, pre-school and after-school programs, alternative education, anti-smoking programs, stranger danger education, health and psychological services
- 1990s—conflict resolution, peer mediation, HIV/AIDS education, CPR training, grief and loss, inclusion, distance learning, school to work programs, post-secondary options, gifted programming, at risk and dropout prevention programs, gang education, service learning, bus safety, bicycle safety, gun safety and water safety.
After the turn of the century, expansion of the education mandate continued: bullying prevention, wraparound programs, digital citizenship, coding, nutrition, mental health, self-regulation, environmental and entrepreneurial education, dual credit, truth and reconciliation and literacies of all kinds.
With the increase in public expectation and the continually expanding educational mandate, meeting the needs of every student, no matter how complex those needs may be, is a daunting responsibility. Vollmer, however, suggests that “The Great Conversation,” (p. 123) – a method of two-way communication between schools and their communities – can ultimately lead to student and school success. Vollmer’s belief that, Schools Cannot Do It Alone is absolutely correct. The growing expectations on schools can only be met with increased partnerships and innovation involving support from local communities.
As we work together, we can accomplish great things by providing quality educational opportunities for our youth who will soon be leaders, parents and business people. Every child, regardless of their background, financial status or intellectual ability, possesses strengths and talents. It is incumbent upon all educators, schools and communities alike to help all children recognize their strengths, grow their talents and reach their full potential. So, whether it is sharing your voice through school council, providing work experience placements, mentoring, volunteering or sharing your expertise, please get informed, get involved, get invested. It is only by working together that we will build the schools we need and the communities we desire.
Thank you to each of you who support education and your local schools and who help students succeed. We cannot do it alone.
Written by Superintendent Darryl Seguin
Reprinted with permission of The Lethbridge Herald