By Barb Arland-Fye
“Mrs. Fye, what are we doing today?” a fourth-grader at All Saints Catholic School in Davenport asked as I opened my Junior Achievement briefcase for that day’s lesson. “We’re going to play a game,” I replied, knowing that would generate enthusiasm in the classroom.
I’ve been volunteering with JA for a long time and teaching the fourth-grade curriculum in Deb Frick’s class for at least five or six years. JA tweaks and freshens up its lesson plans from year to year but maintains the basic principles to be taught. The lesson that followed the fourth-grader’s question focused on business problem solving by weighing potential risks and rewards. A volunteer’s guide book provides talking points for discussion leading into the activity for the day, but I also have the opportunity to use real-life examples from my own experience as editor of The Catholic Messenger.
A real-life example presented itself two days before JA class, and I shared the example with the students. Our printer/copier/fax machine broke down on deadline, when we were short one staff member. We depend on the printer for layout, design and proofreading purposes. I had to weigh risks and benefits quickly. We could produce our pages online without the physical pages for proofreading, but risked the possibility of typographical or design errors. Proofreading impacts credibility, which is a core value at The Catholic Messenger. I wasn’t willing to risk our credibility, but understood that the reward of our subscribers’ respect might require missing deadline. That would impact the people who print the paper.
I asked the Davenport Diocese’s Director of Technology, Rob Butterworth, for help. If I need to troubleshoot a computer program, Rob is the go-to guy. He couldn’t fix our printer because we needed a new motherboard, but redirected our computers to another printer in the building and configured the software to reproduce the pages to our specifications. I thanked Rob profusely, and our staff got to work. A few hiccups in the process resulted in me running down to Rob’s office for troubleshooting, but those issues were resolved. We missed deadline, however. I telephoned Bette, who prepares our electronic files for the press crew, and explained the situation. She responded reassuringly with two words that alleviated the strain of that day: “No problem.” Our paper went to press about an hour late, but it did not impact delivery to our subscribers.
Teamwork is another value I’ve been striving to instill in my JA students, and this personal experience provided an excellent example of people working together for the good of the business. That’s what it takes each week to produce The Catholic Messenger, I told the fourth-graders. But it struck me that something equally important happens on a regular basis in producing The Catholic Messenger: mercy. Rob responded mercifully to my request for help, setting aside other work to troubleshoot our problem. Bette also responded with mercy in her reaction to the electronic files arriving late. I told the students that each of us needs to respond with mercy to one another, as Pope Francis requested when he opened the Extraordinary Year of Mercy last November.
As for the game, the students created origami problem solver catchers after following step-by-step instructions (for the most part!). Some students got the hang of the project immediately and came up to show me their problem solver catchers with great pride. Other students approached with bewildered looks wondering what had gone wrong. The kids who constructed the problem solver catchers with ease eagerly offered to assist their peers who needed help. Teamwork and mercy … that’s what it takes to play a game or to solve a problem, business or otherwise.
(Barb Arland-Fye, Editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)