That's My Job! Promoting Responsibility in the Preschool Classroom
by Mary E. Maurer
Samantha bounced into the classroom, and after a quick "hi," headed for the job board. Her smile faded when she didn't find her name. Then she seriously studied the class list posted next to the board. She found the last name on the job board and counted the names between it and her own. Then she slowly and methodically counted again and calculated on her fingers. The smile returned. "Three more days!" she shouted triumphantly. "Three more days and I get to be door holder!"
This daily ritual was Samantha's confidence booster and math lesson, but it was my own lesson in just how important it is for everyone to feel needed and appreciated. Samantha was happy and well behaved, when she had a classroom job to do. Her favorites were door holder, quiet monitor, and gardener, but it didn't really matter that much as long as she was "someone special" for the day.
When I first began teaching I assigned jobs to the children to suit my own needs. I had a line leader, a door holder, and a teacher's assistant. These children helped me manage the classroom. The leader and door holder helped me get the class from one place to another. The assistant gave me an extra pair of hands to pass out papers and supplies. It wasn't until I had taught for a few years that I began to see how important the jobs were to the children.
Most of us gain one of three things from our employment: responsibility, rewards, or respect. If we're lucky, we get all three! That's what children are seeking.
A classroom job gives a student the responsibility of doing something useful: helping the teacher, helping their classmates, and following the rules and procedures that go along with their job. For some students this is a chance to really shine! They want to show that they can do a job better than anyone else. They want to show they can be trusted. They want to show that they understand how the "world" (your classroom) works.
A classroom job rewards a student by making him or her feel important. A job gives them status for a day. It takes them out of the group and makes them an individual again. You may think in your heart that every student is an individual and you may make every effort to treat them that way, but let's face it, if you have twenty students there are many times during the day when they have to function as a group and you have to view them as a group. It's only human nature to want to stand out and be different. A classroom job gives a student that opportunity.
You can also reward your helpers by giving them stickers or badges or treats for their hard work!
Having a classroom job earns most students a lot of respect, especially if they do it well. You praise them, other students watch them, and their parents compliment them. We all want to have the respect of those around us.
All of these benefits for students result in a bonus benefit for you as a teacher. It's been my experience that students with a job, especially a job they enjoy, behave better. The rule in our classroom is that having a job is a responsibility and a privilege. If you don't behave well, or you don't do your job well, your job goes immediately to the next person in line for it. That doesn't mean there are no mistakes. Nor does it mean that a student can't earn his job back. Here's an example: Kevin is line leader. He knows that the line leader isn't supposed to talk. He's talking to the person behind him. I warn him once. He continues to talk. I say, "Stewart, will you take Kevin's place until he remembers how a line leader behaves?" The next time we line up, I ask Kevin how a line leader behaves. He tells me that a line leader doesn't talk, and he is allowed to do his job again.
"Not doing your job well" includes abusing your power. If I see the quiet monitor tickling people to make them talk (so they can tell me someone is making noise), or the pet caretaker preventing anyone else from viewing the fish, or the door holder teasing people about leaving them outside, that earns a warning about doing their job well.
Classroom jobs can be an important part of your curriculum. Some of the jobs you can assign to students include the following. I'm sure you can think of others that will fit your particular needs and the needs of your students.
"Engine" or Line Leader - Leads the class to lunch, recess, etc. and sets an example of good line behavior.
"Caboose" or Door Holder - Last one in line. Helps the teacher make sure everyone is present. When we get to a doorway the leader stops, the door holder comes forward, opens the door, holds it until everyone is passed, closes the door and resumes his/her place at the end of the line.
Quiet Monitor - We have two quiet signals in our room. The monitor gets to remind classmates to be quiet by giving them the signals. If a child continues to make noise the quiet monitor gets to tell me who is causing the problem. The quiet monitor also gets to start the "quiet game" if we are in a waiting situation.
Pet Caretaker - This student feeds the fish or other pets and also monitors any "visitors" such as ladybugs, butterflies, or worms that we have in the science center.
Gardener - Waters the plants, clips off any yellow leaves, and plants new seeds for the science center. (This is a good assignment for Fridays.)
Center Monitor - At the close of center time this student makes sure that each center has been cleaned and that all equipment is in its place.
Librarian - This student straightens the books during the day, passes them out during free reading time, collects them when we are finished. (Students read the book given to them by the librarian, then trade with others at their table.)
Lunch counter - This student counts the lunch markers and tells me the total for the day. Then he/she replaces the counters in their box.
Weatherman - The weatherman listens to the news at home, listens to the radio on the way to school, or just looks outside, then reports the predicted weather for the day and makes changes on our weather board.
Other jobs might include snack helper, calendar changer, chalkboard eraser, or music leader. Be creative. Don't be afraid to create your own titles or combine jobs to suit your classroom. Don't have a job for each student, but have enough so that several students are working each day. Six to eight is usually a good number. The goals are to make your classroom operate efficiently and to teach your students responsibility. Remember, everyone benefits when a student says proudly, "That's my job!"
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