Monday, August 22, 2016

Meaningful Jobs

A few weeks ago I posted this picture of my jobs board on Facebook, thinking nothing of it other than to share what I'd done while I killed time at school between shuttling John to work and radiation.  I thought, "well, the colors make for a pretty picture."  I had no idea I'd spark a discussion on class jobs.  I had requests to explain the concept of jobs in general, to explain how I managed our jobs, and to explain each of my jobs (them being dance jobs and not typical classroom jobs).  So here we go:

Let me first state that my jobs board is merely a class structure.  The jobs in and of themselves aren't going to save the day.  They're not going to "fix" your class.  The jobs are just one small part of a much bigger picture, one that focuses on building relationships that lead to establishing a class family.  Without that bigger picture, without those relationships, a jobs board is just one more thing hanging on your classroom wall.  If you want to know more about building that family culture please look into Conscious Discipline.  You won't regret it.  

What are the key components of my jobs board?
  • EVERY child has a job.  Every class.  Every day.  Why is this important?  Having a job helps instill self-worth in a child.  It teaches them that they play a vital role in your class family.  Would you feel vital if you only occasionally had a job?
  • Every job is MEANINGFUL.  By this I mean each job is significant and pertinent to my class.  It wouldn't make sense for me to have a pencil sharpener - we really only need to sharpen our pencils twice a year.  However, it makes a ton of sense for us to have a DJ - I need someone to start and stop the music, especially since I'm typically on the other side of the room from the docking station.  
  • Each child gets the chance to do MULTIPLE JOBS throughout the quarter.  Each week we switch to a new job.  This is what works for me and my classes.  Some teachers give their students jobs for a whole semester, while others change them every day.  The important thing is to know your students well and do what works best for them.  
  • We change jobs in a predictable pattern.  Each week we move one job to the right (or down to the next row).  This way children can predict their next job and they know who to go to when they need help (the person who did the job the previous week).  Why does this matter?  We know that the brain is pattern seeking.  They're more at ease with a pattern (and I don't have to repeatedly explain why everyone got the jobs they got).  
  • I probably shouldn't admit this, but the jobs that my students do make my day easier.  I can't remember to take attendance for the life of me, but the Attendance Checker does it every day.  It's her job.  I can't always wade through the mass of bodies to get to the phone when it rings, but the Receptionist can.  It's his job.  
So what does it all come down to?  Developing your classroom jobs needs to be something you are very intentional in doing.  They need to be tailored to your students and your class.  This isn't a one-size fits all, buy the box and move on situation.  Really think about your jobs, tweeking them as needed.  With time your students will start to make recommendations, too (one of mine last quarter suggested that we needed a Researcher during our Dance Through the Decades elective, and they were RIGHT!).  

But you still want ideas, right?  So here's a list and explanation of each of my current dance jobs:
  1. Electrician - responsible for turning the lights on/off as needed (this happens more often than you might think during a 40 minute class period)
  2. Receptionist - answers the phone with "Hello, Mrs. Frasier's room", then delivers the appropriate message
  3. Teacher Helper - my personal assistant, they help with anything that arises and isn't someone else's job
  4. Greeter - they stand at the door and offer each classmate a choice of two greetings as they arrive for elective
  5. Nurse - helps the Doctor (me) when a classmate might get hurt - this includes bringing bandaids from our first-aid bag, bringing tissues, sitting with an injured classmate, etc
  6. Substitute - does the job of anyone who is absent (when the flu was going around this year one of my substitutes got to do 6 jobs in one day!)
  7. Brain Dance Leader - leads our daily warm-up
  8. Kindness Recorder - tracks acts of kindness observed throughout the class period
  9. Wish Well Leader - leads our class in wishing anyone absent well (can also include family members, friends, classmates who need wishing well)
  10. Safe Place Helper - a two part job:  he/she offers to help anyone using the Safe Place and also organizes the Safe Place at the end of class
  11. Attendance Checker - uses the iPad to take attendance at the beginning of class
  12. Messenger - handles deliveries to other classes or the office
  13. Materials Manager - distributes/collects class materials 
  14. DJ - younger DJs start and stop the music on the iPod; older DJs all navigate the appropriate playlists to select music for class
  15. Tapper - at the end of class all students lie down on their backs to calm down; the tapper uses a wand to tap each student on the knee, letting them know it's time to move to the hallway and put on their shoes
  16. Parking Attendant - our school is a BYOD (bring your own device) school, so students often bring smartphones, tablets and laptops to class; the parking attendant manages our device parking lot and ensures that no one leaves their device behind at the end of class
  17. Research Librarian - as questions arise, this student uses their own device or my iPad to find the answer and share it with the class
  18. Celebration Leader - part of being a school family is celebrating the exciting events in life - birthdays, lost teeth, new siblings, etc; this students leaders us through our celebration rituals 
  19. Welcome Back Helper - when an absent student returns on the next day this helper welcomes them back to our class (we have a ritual for this, too - are you noticing a pattern?  we're all about rituals!)
  20. We Care Helper - this student manages our We Care Center, giving notes of encouragement to students as needed
Feeling inspired?  What kind of meaningful jobs can YOUR students do?


  1. What do you do with your grade level classes that you only see once a week? Or do you see all of your classes for one week each?

    1. At this point I do jobs with my elective classes (I see then 4 days a week for about 8 weeks) but not my specials classes (I see them 4-6 times a year). It just doesn't work for us to spend time on establishing jobs when I see then so little.