And week 3 comes to a close. I’m thrilled to report that these past 13 days of school have been filled with community building: morning handshakes, high fives, hugs, quilt-making, story-sharing, game-playing, self-portraiting, and appreciating. Of course, that’s been mixed with our fair share of bumping, tripping, mean words, snatching, and yelling. But we’re working on actively responding to our inevitable mistakes. The message being that we all make them, and we are lucky to have opportunities to recognize them, fix them, and learn from them. (Side note: I was in my classroom this afternoon, and I heard one of my kids tantruming in the after-school program. I don’t know what the initial incident was, but I can infer that this child did something disruptive and was then asked to sit out from the activity. His response was to wail, “I made a mistake!! But it was a mistake!! I want to fix it!!”)
Last Friday we had a class conversation about what jobs students can do to help our classroom run smoothly and safely. The kids came up with 8 ideas, and I asked them to spend the next week thinking about who should do which job. How should we decide?
We returned to the conversation today. Last year, I randomly assigned kids to jobs and I rotated them a couple of times per month. This worked fine, but there wasn’t much buy-in from anyone. This year, I wanted to figure out a way to give kids more control over the filling of jobs, and I wanted to make the entire process more intentional. But of course I also didn’t want to end up with a messy, angry conversation filled with “I want” and “That’s not fair” and and and.
I opened the conversation by reminding the kids that we have been really getting to know each other over the last 3 weeks, and I gave some examples of activities that have helped us do that. I then posed the question of whether anyone had noticed something about another student that showed that he or she would be a great fit for one of our jobs. The kids ran with it. There were lots of nominations for OTHER kids! Quite amazing for our young friends who are still largely egocentric. “I think that Alejandro should be the pledge leader because this morning I was standing next to him during the pledge and he said the whole thing.” (Another side note: I’m so glad that I can hand over the job of pledge leader to a student.) “I think that Desiree should be a Teacher Helper because she listens a lot.” “I think that Markus should be a chair put-er up-er because he is really careful.”
We decided on most of the jobs this way, and then there were a few jobs left, so we opened it up to self-nominations. One boy said, “Well, I really want to be peace-keeper because when people are arguing it really makes me sad and it’s hard to concentrate so I can help them and I even tried to do that already this year.” One girl said, “I want to be lunch cleaner because I help my grandma clean.” Each time, I posed the question to the group of whether the self-nominating student’s reasoning seemed sufficient. There were a few questions along the way, but in the end, all jobs were filled.
And the amazing part: NO ONE, not one kid, ended the conversation upset. Some kids didn’t get jobs this time. Some kids didn’t want them. A few might not have fully understood the conversation. Regardless, I think that the transparency of the process made all of the kids feel as if they had been treated fairly. Voices were heard. Power to the [little] people!