Fast Article, April, 2000 : LUSENET : M.Ed./International Falls : One Thread

Donna Frederickson UMD Cohort, Int'l Falls

Fast Article, April, 2000

"Down-Home Food, Cutting-Edge Business", pp. 56

I read this article and the article, "Schools that Think", and was trying to decide which one to write on when my husband said, "Gee, I wish that there was an Applebee's here. I'd love to order some of their ribs."

Hardly ever has my husband had a desire to eat at a chain establishment. He always prefers the "ma and pa home cooking" establishment. That started me thinking about the following: How could an Applebee's Restaurant make such an impression on him? What happened that makes him want to go back? How could this be related to a school, that public school in the North that needs to think?

One of my husband's talents is talking and I'll never forget the first time that we ate at Applebee's. My husband started talking to the manager and the manager pulled up a chair, sat down and kept up a conversation, all the while assessing what was happening in the restaurant. My husband loved it! Most managers would say a few polite words and go on about their business with that "please don't bother me again" look. The friendliness of that manager and the article in the Fast magazine on Applebee's corporate philosophy started me thinking. How could this be related to a school?

I would like to see schools become a friendlier establishment, and I would love to see that friendliness start at the top. I don't know of a single teacher who doesn't care, for that is why teachers teach. Administration, too many times, can be too stiff, stern, aloof and unbending. This can be to their own staff as well as the students. Has it been so long since some of them were teachers? Some small gestures would help staff and students feel more appreciated, such as a smile, stopping in a class room to observe a few minutes and give some positive feedback, showing concern as to how things are going, talking up innovative and positive new approaches and encouraging interdisciplinary projects. The atmosphere of an establishment can make it, or break it.

Applebee's believes in being leadership driven. Schools, too, need to be leadership driven. Teachers need time to meet and discuss the scope and sequence of their own departments and how the departments can relate. Leadership must provide that time for progress.

The Applebee Corporation also decorates their restaurants with local flair. Schools need more showcases showing their school's local flair, and not just showcases for sport trophies. Showcases could exhibit exceptional assignments, art, poetry, local history and other accomplishments. The parents would love to come into the buildings and view work. Maybe the parents would have a cup of coffee and a cookie in the cafeteria while visiting the display. Students are great visual learners and browsers. They would love creating and viewing displays. So little wall space is dedicated to nonathletic display. Maybe this idea could go a step farther and have student projects displayed in a public shopping mall where there is a vacant store. Can you imagine the pride a student with poor self-esteem would feel if some of their work could be displayed?

Applebee's believe that smaller is better. They want their restaurants to emit a cozy, close, comfortable feeling. The schools need smaller student teacher ratios in all classes, K-12. A comfortable, cozy setting needs to be in the room and building. Didn't those old one-room schoolhouses with the rich wood and pot belly stove ooze with more warmth than our cement blocks? Community education, recreation committees and clubs need to start focussing on nonathletic activities for students after school as much as the athletic. Give that student who goes home to an empty room a place to be between 3:30 and 5:30 that would encourage creativity, research or reading, provide a cozy place to study and example responsibility with guidance.

Feedback is the backbone of Applebee's success. Schools depend on feedback, too. Schools need to do every thing that they can to get parents involved in the school to encourage healthy feedback and discussion. Plus, there needs to be feedback from the students. They want a voice and they want to be listened to. All students at all grades need time for feedback and discussion.

There were two statements that really struck me. One was "Our restaurants are about more than food," says Lloyd Hill, CEO and president of the company. "They're about inclusiveness, value, comfort, trust and relationships."(p. 56) Shouldn't our schools be about more than education? With the deterioration of the family structure, the school is taking on more roles. Therefore, our school should be more about inclusiveness, value, comfort, trust and relationships. Then, we may have an easier time adding education.

The second statement that Lloyd Hill makes in the article is "The culture of an organization really drives its performance - particularly in the hospitality industry. In our business, you're only as good as the last guest who came through the door thinks you are." (p.58) In education, the school is only as good as that last graduate who came through its doors.

-- Anonymous, April 29, 2000

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