I recently read a book that compelled some thoughts about how our educational system could soar! The book is “I Love You More Than my Dog; Five Decisions That Drive Extreme Customer Loyalty in Good Times and Bad” by Jeanne Bliss.
Based on her experiences in what she calls “beloved companies”, Jeanne outlines the culture of very successful companies, and she explores how decisions made by those companies build a culture of customer loyalty. She explores the human side of business in a way that drills to the core of every organization; an approach that truly values people; an approach where employees and customers have value; an approach devoid of bureaucracy.
I’d like to take Jeanne’s 5 decisions and talk about parallels to education.
Decision 1 – “Beloved companies decide to believe…they believe their employees and their customers. And they practice this by suspending cynicism.” Imagine what might happen if schools were free to decide to believe in their teachers and their students! What if schools could place the stringent rules in the background and actually believe in and support teachers? What if teachers were encouraged to believe in their students? I submit that our current system of education discourages that culture. Although many teachers do embrace that idea, the system hinders and discourages a fertile learning culture.
Decision 2 – “Beloved companies decide with clarity and purpose…(they) take the time to be clear about what their unique promise is for their customers lives.” All schools have a mission statement, but how many public schools actually decide to create an experience for their students? How many decisions in a school system are about policy, procedure, rules and expectations; and how many decisions directly address creating an engaging culture for student learning? Having worked in a school for over 35 years, I can tell you that the decision scale is tipped toward bureaucracy.
Decision 3 – “Beloved companies decide to be real…(they) shed their fancy packaging and break down barriers between big company, little customer.” Good teachers know how to create a collaborative classroom, and good teachers know that in order to connect with their students, the need to operate at a student level. Good teachers know how to be friendly with their students while maintaining a good teacher/student decorum. Yet the system emphasizes rules and encourages teachers to create a “big teacher/little student” environment. Imagine if teachers could be free to work within a culture where collaboration is encouraged!
Decision 4 – “Beloved companies decide to be there…for customers in ways that are important to them…(they) gladly do the hard work.” Many teachers work hard and are there for students, being sure students understand, not just memorize. But the system promotes strict union rules which can create an atmosphere where such teachers might be ridiculed and admonished because they go the extra mile for students. And teacher unions are NOT to blame! The system creates a culture which places the bureaucracy ahead of the student, and it is the bureaucracy that creates the need for union rules.
Decision 5 – “Beloved companies decide to say sorry…(they) accept accountability when the chips are down.” The American school system equates accountability to test scores! Test scores drive funding and stigmatize schools. This system has very little regard for what students are actually learning and understanding. When we are reminded of the sad state of American schools, we make more rules and enforce more “accountability”. It is time to scrap or completely revise No Child Left Behind; NCLB does not work! It creates more focus on test scores and less focus on learning. Stop and think about how a student might feel when the newspaper publishes school rankings, and their school ranks last!
Finland has the best schools in the world, yet they have the least amount of rules. Finland takes a human approach to learning, and it works!
Jeanne Bliss’s book compelled some thoughts, and it is worthwhile reading for anyone. Sure, the ideas make sense for companies and schools. But really, Jeanne’s book succinctly relates the GOLDEN RULE. It puts people first. And that message is universal!