Friday, September 11, 2009

We Use All the Blueberries

Do educators and MBA's live in different universes? Here's my response.

An MBA was speaking to a group of teachers. She was explaining how she created an expectation of excellence in a bakery she was advising. The specialty of this bakery was blueberry pies. She carefully described how she streamlined the company, eliminated errors in production, improved quality control, dealt with complaints, etc.

When she invited questions from the audience of educators, one teacher raised his hand and asked, "What do you do with the blueberries that aren't perfect?"

The lecturer answered, with a casual smile, "Oh, we discard them. That's the only way to be sure the pies are perfect."

The teacher smiled as well. "You see, that's the difference between what you do and what we do. We have to use all the blueberries."

I don't remember where or when I heard this story. But it has stayed with me because it highlights a major difference between education and business. We in education use 'all the blueberries'.

We are responsible the learning of those students who are a pleasure in class, and also those who challenge us at every opportunity.

And sometimes we're disappointed with the pies. And sometimes we're proud of them. We keep on 'baking', though, and try to adjust to the different 'ingredients' and 'oven temperatures' and 'humidity' and on and on and on with all the other variables that exist in the classroom but not necessarily on the assembly line.

And in Jewish education especially, where our mission is to empower every student to feel valued and respected within the Jewish community, we need to take special notice of the blueberries that aren't 'perfect.'

We can't discard them. We can't have a single student who says at the end of the day, "I'm just not good at this Jewish thing."

Here are a few articles that may help you reach every single blueberry in your class.

Dr. Mel Levine, author of All Kinds of Minds, has a wonderful website with excellent suggestions for identifying the strengths of your students and building on them.

Dr. Thomas Armstrong is a proponent of using Multiple Intelligences theory in education. This framework was proposed by Dr. Howard Gardner of Harvard University, and suggests that everyone is good at something, and we need to broaden our understanding of what constitutes intelligence. You can read more here

For those who are interested, here is a charming video entitled My Best Teacher. Please watch it and think about what elements you can uncover that inform this short piece.

Shanah Tovah, and may you enjoy all the blueberries - even the imperfect ones!


  1. In short: different bakeries; same universe? your clever answer is appreciated.

  2. gorgeous idea regarding the blueberries!!! I may just use that somewhere along my travels . . . thanks!