Monday mornings were especially exciting in my classroom because that’s when students discovered what their weekly jobs would be. They would go straight to the classroom job chart and search for their name and position. Some were thrilled—the “veterinarians,” who were responsible for caring for our pets especially so. Others were more mildly happy—”I like being table captain!” Occasionally, children were disappointed—”Floor cleaner—yuck!” But, no matter what their feelings, all took their responsibilities seriously, because they understood that our classroom worked best when everyone did his job and did it well.
Classroom jobs can help build a sense of excitement, community, and interdependence in a classroom from the very start of the school year. Classroom jobs also teach children responsibility. As Chip Wood has said, “The only way for children to learn responsibility is to have responsibility.” In The Whole Brain Child, Daniel Siegel and Tina Bryson explain how recent brain research explains why this is true—in order to develop decision-making and reasoning skills, children need opportunities to exercise and practice doing those things. Classroom jobs give students such chances, and they also give students a chance to be responsible in a meaningful way: the children know that completing their job helps their classmates or their teacher (or both).
But, classroom jobs only teach responsibility and build a sense of community if they are taught and used effectively. Here are some keys to success for classroom jobs:
- Make sure each job is meaningful and that students understand why jobs matter. Nobody likes to do tasks that seem like busywork. Explain the purpose of each job and how it will help the community.
- Use Interactive Modeling to teach and practice jobs. Don’t assume that children will know what they are supposed to do, even for jobs that seem simple. Students need to see and discuss the details of all but the most basic classroom jobs.
- Make sure all students have a chance to hold the job. If you choose classroom jobs wisely, each will have meaning and important aspects. All children need to have a chance to practice these responsibilities. If you’re not sure that all students can handle a certain job, it may be a sign that you should hold onto that responsibility.
- Reflect on how students are doing with jobs and be prepared to change as necessary. It makes sense to think about classroom jobs before school starts. However, once you meet your new students, their ideas and viewpoints may lead you to change your plans. Over time, reflecting with children about how jobs are going and/or if they need to be tweaked fosters a deeper sense of mutual responsibility.
- When needed, relieve a child of the responsibility temporarily. If a student is not doing her classroom job or is doing it inappropriately, temporarily relieving her of the job is an appropriate logical consequence. “Your job as line leader is to walk at a steady pace and stop at the designated points. I’m going to give you a rest from that job for the rest of today. You can try again tomorrow. I know you can do it as we practiced.”
- Reinforce student success. Children need to hear specifics about what they are doing well with regard to class jobs. “I’ve noticed that all of you have been remembering to do your jobs, and you have been doing them so happily. For example, yesterday I noticed the floor cleaners quickly and cheerfully picking up small pieces of paper and other objects from the floor. Your dedication helps our community.”
What about you? How will you make sure your students and you get the most out of class jobs this year?
Margaret Berry Wilson is the author of several books, including: The Language of Learning, Doing Science in Morning Meeting (co-authored with Lara Webb), Interactive Modeling, and Teasing, Tattling, Defiance & More.
Tags: Building Classroom Community, Classroom Jobs