When Students Contribute, They Feel Capable, Connected and Confident

Finding ways for your students to contribute is a powerful positive step towards fostering their belief that they matter and make a difference. ALL kids can contribute….academic excellence is not the only way to shine. Sometimes being trusted to help makes all the difference.  Think of the teen gang leader whose savvy teacher recognized her student’s leadership skills and charisma and asked him to be greeter of the high school class, welcoming each member individually and setting the tone for the period to come. He has said that the day he was asked to take on this responsibility was the day that his life changed course. He felt that he belonged, and that people were counting on him.

There are many potential classroom jobs, ranging from leading class meetings, to being line leader, monitoring class cleanliness, being in charge of lights, to the chief class recycling officer. Each contribution makes a positive difference in the running of the classroom, and builds a class cohesive community.

Involve students in selecting potential jobs to be done in the classroom. Everyone should have a role.  You may be surprised by the jobs that the students think are important to do. Be open minded. These roles can be shifted weekly or monthly. 

Come up with a system to keep the job selection and job fulfillment routine successful.  Every Friday (if shifting weekly) or each last school day of the month if the jobs shift monthly, have the new jobs chosen. Perhaps the jobs are drawn from a hat. Perhaps there is a systematic rotation around a contribution wheel. Perhaps there are applications for jobs which a selection committee reviews and announces successful candidates at job rotation time.

Take time for training. Students are more successful when they understand what the jobs involve and exactly how to do them. Find ways for children to learn about their jobs. There might be a direction binder that lists the details of tasks. When a student has a job for the first time, there could be a job mentor to work with.

Acknowledge meaningful contributions: Take time to celebrate jobs well done and to appreciate student effort in contributing to the well-being of the class through their efforts. Use class meetings to invite students to consider what they noticed when they saw class members fulfilling their weekly jobs.

Contribute to the wider community as an entire class: Brainstorming with your class to find a problem that they perceive exists in the school or in the community. Provide time and space for them to create a plan and implement it. Working together will strengthen the connection your students have with each other and their sense of agency in the community. A Campbell Hill Elementary third grade classroom we profiled in the May newsletter chose the problem of younger kids having difficulty at recess. They decided that their classroom community could make a difference by modeling safe play, mentoring to facilitate problem solving and helping the younger ones to line up when recess was over. Data, teacher feedback and student feedback showed that the contributions of the third graders made a big difference to the kindergartners, AND it also made a huge difference in the way that the third graders viewed themselves.