by Nicole Mathes
The Garden Hills Community Pyramid
In class, we have been focusing on businesses and components that are essential to the success of those businesses. For the longest time, I have (mistakenly) thought that schools are NOT businesses—they do not sell or advertise goods and services, their main goal is different than striving to increase profits, and they do not have clients. However, after one particular day volunteering at Garden Hills Elementary School, I realized that schools are businesses or, at the very least, have similar systems that make up the overall pyramid of the corporation.
On this particular day, we had a substitute teacher in our class. In fact, ALL of the third grade teachers were at a conference that day, so there were substitute teachers for every single third grade classroom in the school. Substitute teachers are great, but they have a difficult job to perform. They have to hold the respect and attention of the students, maintain a positive learning environment, teach the lessons in an enjoyable and age-appropriate way, and attend to the individual needs of the students, while also following the school’s policies and standard routines. These are not easy tasks to do, especially if this is your first time subbing at a school or there is some confusion over the lesson plans.
The substitute teacher had experience subbing at Garden Hills, but not in the third grade classroom. There was also some confusion over the lesson plans—some of the students said that they had already completed the assigned writing activity, while others said that the class had not yet done this activity. And, since all of the regular third grade teachers were out of the building, there was no one to clarify questions about the lesson. The substitute teacher, my fellow tutors, and I need to rely on the students to help us and trusted that they would tell us the truth. Even though I have been tutoring at Garden Hills for several weeks, the class’s Friday schedules are not always the same. For example, during the time that I come in, they usually do a writing activity followed by a reading activity. However, sometimes they focus on reading in small groups with a tutor/teacher/parent volunteer or practice their spelling words. I do not know their reading level groups by heart and nor do I have a copy of their spelling words—the teacher would normally send groups to me, give me the book to read and/or give me the spelling words to practice. Once again, I needed the help of the students. To my pleasant surprise, they were on their best behavior and worked to help the substitute teacher and the tutors. At the end of the day, the substitute had to take Ms. Perez’s bus duty. She had never done bus duty before. A few other teachers (from kindergarten, second, and fourth grades), helped to explain her duty and find the bus.
Throughout the afternoon I saw many examples of teachers, staff members, tutors, and students helping the substitute teachers, which lead me to thinking about the “pyramid” structure of the school. In several classes that I have taken over my life, I have learned about business pyramids, networks, webs, systems, teams, etc. After this afternoon, I realized that schools have their own pyramid structure, similar to a business. For a business, different departments work together to provide goods and services to a client. In the case of a school, different systems (“departments”) work together to provide a quality education (“service”) to students (“client”). Some examples of different departments in businesses might be marketing, sales, human resource, production, etc. while in a school, the different systems could be teachers, counselors, principals, office staff, etc.
In the attached picture, you can see that the different colors of play dough represent the different systems in a school and that the Crayola markers symbolize the action of working together; the systems are interconnected. Together, all of these smaller, distinct systems work for the good of the whole community, or the “client” (represented by the ping pong ball at the top). In this case, I think that the community at Garden Hills would be the students. However, you can see that the community is interconnected with each system within the school, meaning that members of the community can also work to help the systems. On this day, not only did the other teachers and staff at the school work to help the substitute teachers , but the students (the “community,” the “clients”) worked to support and aid the substitutes, who could be considered the teachers in this case. Businesses often have changes in leaders, bumps in the road, problems with employees, or other challenges to overcome. Despite these challenges, the employees must work together to improve the production of goods and services, while also continuing to carry out the goal of the business. In this case, our third grade classroom had a change in the “leader.” It was important that everyone—students, volunteers, tutors, principals, teachers, office staff, etc.—work together to continue to carry out the mission of the school. Just like a business structure, the “pyramid” structure of Garden Hills is vital to its success and ability to provide a quality and enriching education to the students in the Champaign-Urbana community.