A classroom job list is must for teachers who value their time. It puts you in the role of manager, and the best managers delegate to make their organization work well. They know their limits and they wisely use the talent in the organization to benefit everyone.
And if you yearn to leave work on time, a classroom job list is the key way to meet that healthy goal.
Don’t steal. Use a classroom job list.
Doubtless, you spent years and money on schooling to become a teacher. Your training focused on the art of education: assessment; education plans; unit and lesson planning; children’s literature; differentiation; teaching math, science, reading, writing; psychology; crisis management; first aid. There were no classes for cleaning tables, sharpening pencils, or picking up the floor, right? If there were, you’d hopefully seek an education program elsewhere.
The point is, we are paid for our expertise. If we spend our time on things that non-teacher-trained folks can easily do, then we are, in truth, stealing time from our students. (Yep. Stealing.) That ten minutes organizing your Finished Work bin? That could have been spent checking in with a student who’s having a bad day. The twenty minutes (or more) straightening up the room after dismissal? What if you used that time to skim today’s exit slips and adjust tomorrow’s science lesson instead? You’d leave work earlier with a calmer mind, knowing you’d checked off some important goals.
A well-designed classroom job list will allow you to delegate those tasks which don’t require your expertise so that you can serve your students to the best of your ability. Additionally, an organized room will do wonders for everybody’s focus, including yours!
A classroom job list that serves you
So where to start? Whether you have a current classroom job list or you have never tried this before, print out this free one-page Brainstorm Sheet grab your favorite pen, and follow along.
Tasks you are already doing
First, brainstorm some simple things you are already doing (or wish you had time to do) that a student could do instead. Here are some examples that might fit your room:
- picking things up off the floor
- clearing work tables (spotless tables do wonders for everyone’s state of mind)
- cleaning every student desk/tabletop using wipes or other cleaning material
- cleaning extra student work tables/areas
- stacking chairs
- erasing the boards
- erasing goals
- putting homework in mailboxes
- putting school flyers in mailboxes
- sharpening pencils (We have a bunch of handheld sharpeners in a tin. This is way less hassle than the electric one.)
- dusting (get a non-feather duster — feathers come from misery — and the kids will be in heaven, dusting everything in sight!)
Next, write down some jobs that would make your room feel and run better, but you don’t get to because of time. Here were a few of mine:
- cleaning the sink area (we fill one of these OXO scrubbers with soap, and the kids go to town!) (Cruelty-free soap, naturally)
- cleaning off any clear surfaces
- organizing clipboards, whiteboard markers, small whiteboards, dictionaries, materials area
- organizing markers, crayons, colored pencils. (Read here to find out how to organize these so you never have to touch them again!)
- washing/drying whiteboard. (I just use water and white cloths. No soap. Then immediately dry with a clean white cloth so there are no streaks or spots.)
Tasks you can train students to do
What are some jobs you could train a student to do? Think of things you do now that somebody else could take off your plate.
- putting up tomorrow’s schedule on the board
- organizing your finished work basket (putting everything into piles of the same work, making sure it all faces the same way, paperclipping it together)
- organizing classroom library
- organizing your indoor recess games section
- checking staplers and tape dispensers and refilling as necessary
Editing a current classroom job list
If you already have a classroom job list, look it over and cross out anything that isn’t truly needed. For example, I used to have Door Holder as a job, simply because that’s what all teachers did. But a colleague told me he didn’t bother with that anymore. My first thought was, “That’s crazy!” But when he told me he trained them to hold the door for the next person as a way to get used to being polite in the world, I thought, “That’s genius!” Same with Line Leader. It might serve the younger set well — I don’t know, I’ve only taught third and fourth — but the older set need to learn that being first has little bearing on anything. This might require a few heartfelt classroom conversations, but it’s worth it.
Look over those jobs you have and see if might serve you to eliminate some.
Creating your classroom job list
So now you have a list of maybe twenty, thirty, or forty jobs. It’s unlikely, though, that it matches the number of students you have. So you have a few options.
- a rotating classroom jobs list
- a permanent list
- a list of possible jobs and your kids decide what to do
This is where it comes down to what works best for your style. I tried the rotating classroom job list for a few years and I found it didn’t work well for me. For others, it’s a must-have.
In my room, we have a system that’s somewhere between 2 and 3. Certain kids have very specific jobs that work to their strengths or needs. For example, the person who does puts up our classroom schedule works quickly and efficiently and has better writing that I will ever hope to have. A student who gets easily overwhelmed works our games and puzzles area, where she can work slowly and methodically, distanced from the hustle and noise of clean-up time. Our kids who need to MOVE tend to stack chairs or wash the tables. One of my students goes through all the passed in work, organizes it for me, and has it on my desk, paperclipped and ready to go so I can correct without fussing over organization.
Selecting the jobs from your brainstormed list
Depending on which option you’ll try, decide how many jobs you want in your room. If you are doing the first or second option, your number of jobs might match the number of students you have. Or, perhaps you want to double up two students on the same job. If you go with the third option, you could include all your brainstormed jobs. Next, check off the jobs on your brainstorming sheet that you want to try out.
I’ve created an Editable Powerpoint so you can display your chosen jobs in your room. (It’s in greyscale, but once you have filled it out you can print it on your favorite colored card stock if you want it to stand out.) Save it in your documents so you can make adjustments as necessary throughout the year and in coming years. It comes with a basic font but you can edit that to whatever fun fonts you have in your powerpoint. Just click on each “Type Here” section and have at it.
The Editable Powerpoint is purposely simple so that you can make it work for your style. For example, the left column could be the jobs and the right side the list of students (which you could change week to week or keep as is.) Alternatively, you could list the job titles on the left and a more detailed job description on the right. Experiment with a few ways to see what works for your classroom. Remember, you can always come back and download it again if you want a fresh copy.
Teaching those jobs!
Many jobs will have to be taught. Responsive Classroom has an excellent guide on Interactive Modeling to get your started.
The first time I realized the necessity of teaching the kids how to do their jobs was when I saw the Table Cleaners revolve around a large table, letting the wipes trail behind them like they were taking a dog for a walk. They truly had no idea how to do it! So we made it into a game. I showed them how to do it and we made it into a workout, using one’s muscles to get the dirt off.
Even after teaching the jobs, you will likely have to reteach every now and again. But it’s worth the time saved in the long run. And the following will result:
- students take pride in their room
- you leave work earlier
- you can focus on your important tasks that only you can do
- your custodians will LOVE you
- the clean, organized room will be like salve to your mind and your students’ minds
And finally …
Remember, this is your classroom. Make the system work for you. And remember too that you can tweak this as you go along or change it entirely. We as teachers value consistency, and that serves us on many fronts! But it’s okay to admit to students that something you tried isn’t working as you’d hoped. When we’re vulnerable and admit that we’re having trouble reaching a goal and then we try something else, that’s a powerful message that they can try and fail too. Involve them in the conversation and be ready to be amazed.
It’s time to hear from you! In the comments below, tell us what has worked in your room. Do you have a classroom job list? What jobs have saved your time? Or which do you think you’ll eliminate? For those who do not have a classroom job list yet, what’s one job that you know in your gut would save you time?
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Have a terrific week, everyone!
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