School is finally out and the start of the new school year is a safe distance away. If you are like most teachers, part of your brain will be thinking about what little things you might improve in your classroom next year and those thoughts will be murmuring at you all summer. One of the things that you might want to think about is how to set up classroom jobs in the fall. Students do better when they feel like they are connected and that their contributions matter. It helps them feel capable. Meaningful work in the classroom helps build a sense of excitement, community and interdependence from the very beginning of the school year.
In general, students are capable of doing much to contribute to the classroom than we expect of them. Get creative in thinking about jobs. Could it be a student who hands out the Band-Aids, monitors the classroom energy footprint, helps monitor the classroom agreements, or welcomes classroom guests? Could you step back a bit and hand responsibilities to students so that you are free to use time more effectively? Of course, it won’t save time at the beginning as you take time for training. But that time will be an opportunity for community building as everyone learns new skills.
- Start making a list of different kinds of jobs your students could do in your classroom.
- Think about how you might get them involved in writing (or drawing) their own job descriptions. These can go in a notebook, so that when you rotate jobs, the new job holder has a list of what to do.
- Help students understand how every job helps the classroom by asking questions. For example, “How would this job benefit our class?” “What would it take to do this job well?” “What would happen in our class if no one did this job?”
- Use modeling and practice to teach jobs. It’s important not to assume that children know what they are supposed to do.
- Change it up. Develop a system of rotating jobs, so that each child gets to do each job during the semester/year.
- Pause and reflect. Reflect with students occasionally on how jobs are going. Revise job descriptions and responsibilities throughout the year.
- Notice student success. Be specific (e.g.: “I notice that all of you have remembered to do your jobs today; I noticed the ‘floor cleaners’ picked up all the paper from the floor – your dedication helps our community”)
- Level up. Think about how meaningful work could be applied to school-wide jobs. Contributions to the whole school build school community.
For more ideas on student jobs check out the list in your copy of Positive Discipline in the School and Classroom Teachers’ Guide.