When the cook in the Wahlwies school declared she could no longer supply rolls for the breaks due to lack of time, we see our opportunity: we will set up a company! Many classes have already practiced doing this in various projects. The difference this time is that this company belongs to all of us, we bear the risk of profit or loss. As the class teacher I am blessed in this process with trusting parents who are willing to embark on an adventure and thus our enterprise is not blocked by any veto. All 32 children and myself will invest 20 euros each as start-up capital. We have to make do with this money to finance a kitchen, undertake market research and advertising, buy the initial ingredients and make up any losses we might make. Will it be enough?
Chief executive buttering rolls
While an entrepreneurial and technically gifted boy takes on the task of commissioning a sales stand from his local joinery, a generous father rings me who is impressed by the project. He is familiar with the industry and donates brand new knives, chopping boards, display baskets, napkin stands and a whole lot more …
One of the conditions is that the work must take place without additional work by the parents and in parallel to main lessons: 40 tasty, fresh filled rolls have to be ready for sale for the main break. This means that the kitchen is in a corner of the classroom next to the blackboard; all the children are given instruction in hygiene and begin by discovering together what the work will involve and what skills are required. A week has to do for this, thereafter the sales have to start.
What do customers want to eat? How should it be presented? How many different kinds of roll should we offer? What profit do we expect? What will actually happen with the profit?
Each day we concern ourselves with these planning questions, always in the discussion group and without any significant instructions from the teacher as to what we should talk about – that is another condition. Then we also have to decide who does what. We identify purchasing, preparation, sales, accounting and management as individual areas of work. Who wants to be involved were? Oh – 13 children want to be managing director!
Will that work? No, that will not of course work. We agree on four managers. But how will they be determined? A thoughtful boy finally comes up with the answer: “Everyone who has volunteered for another task should choose the managing directors!” Everyone agrees to this proposal and in the end all the posts are filled. Work can start. It only takes two weeks before the managing directors complain that they do not actually have enough to do and ask for more comprehensive tasks. So they are integrated into the other teams and now things are truly buzzing.
Team work before school even starts
The five pupils in the purchasing team go to the organic shop in the village on their way to school in the morning (all our products are organic and regional – another condition) and collect the ingredients: 40 fresh rolls and all the other things that are needed: salami, mozzarella, butter, sliced cheese, fresh cheese, pesto … When they get to class the things are put away (we have a large fridge, of course) and accounts reimburses them the money they have spent. The four bookkeepers have to enter the purchase amount, file the receipts, pay out the money and prepare the till for the sales. It is now ten past eight. Now most of the non-local pupils have also arrived. Today’s preparation team (there are four teams of four children each) ties back their hair, goes to wash their hands and puts on their aprons. Everyone stops for a moment for the morning verses. Then, while the rest of the class sings, recites or plays the recorded, the kitchen team organises itself and starts to work.
Making Waldis for break time – while the others learn
Our company is called waldi2go. Each roll is a Waldi and there are six different types: Meat Waldi with salami; Cheese Waldi with sliced cheese; Waldi Italiano (our bestseller) with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil; Fresh Waldi with fresh cheese and herbs; Fitness Waldi with eggs, salad and mayonnaise; and finally Sweet Waldi with chocolate spread and banana.
All of them have to be reliably prepared and presented in an appetising way. Depending on the temperaments in the preparatory team, the kitchen work can take between 45 and 75 minutes and has to be done as quietly as possible – after all, the work is done at the front of the class and there is a lesson taking place. And the teacher in full flow at the front of the class must not be interrupted either. Any problems that arise – “The mozzarella is finished!” or “We’ve forgotten to boil the eggs!” – must be resolved in a whisper and within the team. The supreme imperative is quality and hygiene. Our meanwhile numerous customers expect tasty break time Waldis on time!
Sales, counting the money and cashing up
Ten minutes before the break, three children from one of the sales teams (there are three of them) put on their T-Shirts printed with our logo, wash their hands, pull the sales stand into the playground on its wheels and set up our display. The cash float is prepared, plastic gloves for serving also, the pre-ordered Waldis for the caretaker, secretary and chief executive have been put aside and we’re ready to go.
Each Waldi costs one fifty. That is very cheap if you take the cost of our ingredients into account. A small slice of organic salami costs 13 cents alone, and there are three of them on our Meat Waldi! But there are nevertheless some customers who would like them cheaper. We have of course to respond to them in a friendly but firm way. After all, we want them to come back tomorrow. On most days all the Waldis are sold within fifteen minutes. If there are any left, the sales team goes out again with our mobile sales tray in the second break. There are always grateful takers at the staff room. Indeed, there is much praise and respect for the pupils from the teachers in general. That is not necessarily a given. After all, this activity has an impact on concentration in main lesson and the odd thing is occasionally forgotten altogether. But everyone is in agreement: what is being learnt here is so many-faceted and valuable that it more than compensates for what is missed out on. As class teacher, it is my responsibility to make the side-effects of the project be as harmonious as possible and I succeed in that thanks to the outstanding cooperation from all sides with the minimum of effort and stress.
At the end of break, the children in accounts count the money, enter the amounts into our ledger and make sure that the purchasing team has enough cash for their purchases next morning. The preparatory team has left the kitchen clean and tidy so that lessons can take place for the rest of the day without disruption. Every Friday is cashing up day: what were the takings, what the expenditures, how high is our profit, what needs to be discussed? Were there conflicts among us, was there praise or criticism from the customers? Is there anything we need to improve in our processes? The group engages in constructive discussion, decisions are jointly taken; I, as teacher, only have one vote among 33 like everyone else.
The teachers order 30 Waldis in advance for their teachers’ meeting each Thursday. Can we manage that? Of course we can! Who can remain behind on Thursday to prepare the rolls after school so that they are as fresh as possible that evening? The ones who were kept in because they forgot their homework several times during the week. And when no one has been kept in? Then there will surely be enough volunteers! And it does indeed work! The pupils are so enthusiastic and identify to such an extent with our company that there is never a shortage of willing helpers. Who can stay on today? Who can quickly go to the shop during break? Who will take the dish cloths home to wash them? Children always volunteer and do their tasks quickly and reliably.
Two girls who don’t hesitate to complain, and who do not always find social interaction easy, stand out in particular: each of them has volunteered to work in two teams and has developed an excellent overview of the needs of the company as a whole. They have good ideas about how to improve the recipes, suggestions about advertising, and love to negotiate with adults. The only difference this time in the negotiations is that they do not – as in the past – spill over into an argument but, because the girls are representing our company after all, are conducted politely and constructively.
As the summer holidays approach, one thing is clear: waldi2go is a great success, including financially. Obviously we only make a modest profit because of our low prices. But the school community loves our Waldis, the village shop makes more than 300 euros in turnover each week because of us, our kitchen and all the other investments have been paid off – and there is something left over! At the end of the school year everyone gets their investment back plus a dividend of 15 euros. There is enough cash to carry over as the foundation for the next school year and everyone feels: what we are doing and achieving here cannot be measured in monetary terms.
About the author: Sven Saar is a class teacher at the Wahlwies Free Waldorf School in Stockach