Getting a Headstart: Classroom Chores

Nicole Stockdale, Teachnet Staff

The summer vacation has barely started for most teachers, yet already many feel that they must begin planning for the upcoming year. And, even for those who have a vacation-, school-, or work-free summer, preparing a little at a time is a great way to avoid stress as the end of the summer nears.

There is probably enough work in your classroom to keep you there for hours after you’ve stopped teaching. And that doesn’t even include developing lesson plans or grading papers. You don’t have time to dust your computer and sweep your floor everyday. So let your students help! They are usually more than eager. Plus, the added responsibilities for the students are a lesson in themselves.

Of course, there are several ways to develop jobs in you clasroom. Many teachers feel the more jobs, the better. Patti Tucker, Curriculum Resource Teacher at Waldo Community School in Waldo, Florida usually has 25 "job openings" in her classrrom. Many of her jobs require two or three people to fill the positions. For example, you may need a male and female bathroom monitor or line leader. If you don’t have enough jobs to cover each student, leave an "on vacation" category. Get students accustomed to looking for their name in a specific job category when they come in the classroom Monday mornings. They will have that job all week. When you rotate for the next week, do it systematically, assuring that every student will have the opportunity to perform each job at least once.

One way of making your classroom jobs more like real life employment is by having students apply for them. You provide them with an adequate job description and requrements. They, in turn, write a letter of application to you, describing their qualifications and why they think they are the best students for the job., You choose the most well-suited applicant, and the deal is closed. However, you can make your students aware that they can be fired for not performing their job adequately. In that case, others could apply for the job opening.

Separate jobs don’t necessarily need to be assigned to different people. Instead, you can assign a specific person to do all the jobs for one day. This "Teacher’s Pet" — also called an MVP (Most Valuable Person), POD (Person of the Day), or some variationon of that theme –changes every day. He or she will be line leader, messenger, phone answerer, etc. Also, if more helpers are needed, the Teacher’s Pet may choose who they will be. In order to pick the Teacher’s Pet of the day, you can go through your class roster alphabetically. Or, try having two coffee cans, one filled with tongue depressers for each of your students’ names. Every day, pick out a new name at random from Can 1 and place in Can 2. Once all the names from Can 1 have been used, Can 2 will be ready for the next round. The Teacher’s Pet idea is also good because if a student does not perform well or does not like a specific job, tomorrow everyone is free from that assignment, and someone new is posted. In addition, substututes benefit because they have one person to count on all day.

What jobs can you have for your students? Much of that will be determined by your room, school, and students. But here are some ideas. (Notice that jobs are given an "official" name when possible. This will help teach them some new words and add glamour to their jobs — just like job titles do in the Real World.)

  • Messengers – 1 or 2 students who take anything (notes, attendance, etc.) to another location
  • Teacher Assistants – 1 or 2 students who help in the classroom by gathering materials, passing them out, etc.
  • Line Leader – 1 girl, 1 boy if necessary or desired
  • Line Ender – 1 girl, 1 boy to make sure no one is falling behind
  • Door Holder – Second person in line to hold doors open
  • Bathroom (or "Lavatory") Monitors – 1 girl, 1 boy
  • Census Bureau – 2 students to take attendance (one to check, one to doublecheck)
  • Refuse Collector – Responsible for trash disposal and collection after special art projects, etc.
  • Librarian – 2 students to straighten any book or magazine shelves in the room at the end of the day
  • Horticulturalist – 1 student to water and dust the plants
  • Ictheologist – 1 person to feed (and maybe read to?) the fish
  • Allergy Management – 1 person in charge of dusting at the end of the day
  • Transparency and Board Cleaner – 1 person in charge of cleaning dry erase boards, blackboards, and transparency sheets at the end of the day. Make sure you give them enough time to clean off their hands!