Saturday, February 22, 2014

Leadership and Classroom Jobs

Help Wanted Picture from A Class*y Collaboration

Do you have student jobs in your classroom?  When I first came back to the classroom after being in a central board position, I was hired as the grade six teacher in a new gifted program.  I had the assumption that perhaps the students in my class were too "mature" for classroom jobs.  I also thought I could handle the day to day aspects of running my classroom.  Fast forward several years...and enter a new gifted program in my school board.  

One of the main themes of teaching gifted is "leadership".  I really had to ponder what that word meant, and how I would provide opportunities for my students to demonstrate leadership skills. Last year I implemented a leadership team in my classroom.  The students were given a list of jobs I had created, and were asked to apply for a position they would like.  I sorted through the jobs applications and assigned a job to each student. 

In the beginning my students were quite motivated to take on the initiative and challenge of jobs such as attendance monitor, kindergarten assistant, lunch bin monitor, etc.  The enthusiasm waned around Christmas and we went through the process again, and students took on new jobs.  

By the end of the year, the students were well versed in being a library helper, a Daily Math manager or Absentee Assistant.  The list of jobs kept growing and I realized how much help the students were providing me with.  I always have several jars of candy on my desk. The students asked if they could take a candy if they completed their job for the day.  I had no problem with them receiving "compensation" for their jobs, but I quickly ran out of candy.  We regrouped and discussed that there are other benefits to completing their jobs, including a sense of pride and showing leadership.  I noticed then that most of the students would take a "treat" once or twice a week, but they respected that I could not fill my candy jars every week!  

At the end of the year, I presented each student with a certificate for a job well done.  I felt that the experiment with the leadership team had merit but needed to be modified.  I wanted the students to really feel that they were making a difference in the classroom and the school. I wanted them to take ownership of their jobs.

I spent some time over the summer pondering what had worked with the leadership jobs, and what needed to be tweaked.  One thing the students had really enjoyed was reading the job descriptions and then filling out an application.  I built upon that idea and approached my class with a "draft" list of jobs I thought would be useful to assist with building leadership skills.  I asked for their input and they had some suggestions which I had not thought of.  One suggestion was that we have a "sub" who will fill in for jobs when someone is absent.  Another suggestion was to have a "teacher assistant" who would hand out paper, collect forms, etc. so that I would not have to do all the mundane tasks each day.  I was happy to add these jobs and their descriptions to the list I had.  I also removed some jobs which the students felt were redundant or that didn't meet the criteria for leadership.

The next thing I did was improve the application process to make it more closely mirror a real life job application.  Students still filled out a job application but I also created a reference check form which students needed to ask responsible adult (parent, grandparent, former teacher) to fill out. The form also asked the reference to rate the student's abilities to fulfill the job(s) they were applying for.  I asked each student to apply for a maximum of three positions so that I would have a better chance of matching each student to a position they not only wanted, but that would suit their abilities.

I spent a weekend going through the applications and the references.  It was refreshing to see what parents had to say about their child and to see how honest most of them seemed to be in their assessments.  For students who were applying for jobs outside the classroom (kindergarten assistant, main office assistant, library leader) they had to meet with the teacher/administrator responsible for that area and undergo a brief interview.  Each student was "hired" for a job which they had applied for. 

I created a database and spreadsheet of the jobs the students had applied for and listed their names beside their job.  After making the announcements of the job positions, I posted the lists and schedules on the chalkboard.  Students were able to refer to it to see when and where they had to perform their leadership team job.  I was amazed at how seriously the students took their jobs right from the first day.  In the beginning the students were often referring to the schedules to ensure that they were "making it to work on time", but eventually the schedules were used to assist students in finding someone to "sub" in for them if they were unable to perform their job.  Just like in the real world, if students are unable to make it to their job, they need to find someone who can fill in for them.  They also make their own arrangements to trade when and where appropriate.  There are several students who are kindergarten assistants for example, so they can switch periods (morning or afternoon recess) and not leave the kindergarten teacher without the help they are depending on.

This year the students have been very good about being punctual and they have not asked if they can switch jobs.  I have asked a few times if anyone thinks they would like to change, but most have indicated they are comfortable with their positions and are happy to maintain the jobs they have.  I will revisit this after March break this year, but so far so good!  The feedback I have received from staff has been mixed.  Sometimes I need to have discussion with a student about fulfilling their duties in an appropriate manner, or to suggest to them a different way of going about the same task, but for the most part, the students have demonstrated leadership skills appropriate to their age.

Ontario has mandatory volunteer hours for students in high school.  I am hoping that the experiences I am providing the students with now in elementary school will help build up their confidence for larger responsibilities.  Our school has many high school students return to volunteer and collect their mandatory hours.  It is good for my students to see these older role models providing service similar to that they are responsible for.  I also hope that I am helping my students prepare for the realities of the real world.  In their roles they are working with a variety of students, staff and teachers.  They need to develop their social intelligence as well as their leadership skills.  

If you would like a FREE sample copy of my leadership team package for reference click HERE to download it.  This item is not editable.


Teaching is a Gift


  1. Thanks Erin! I always appreciate your kind comments. Hope all is well with you!


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