Learning responsibility: Sunset students take jobs seriously

Sunset fourth-graders Chloe Gillmore, left, and Sariah Mack work in the library section of their classroom. Wendy Nugent/HC Now

By Wendy Nugent, Harvey County Now

NEWTON—Sunset Elementary School fourth-grader Bentley Holeman moved his arm back and forth while holding onto an eraser, doing his assigned job in his classroom at the chalkboard.

Holeman, along with 21 other fourth-grade classmates, have jobs their teacher, Carla McConnell, used to do.

This helps students learn.

“Every job description begins with the words, ‘Responsible for …’,” McConnell said. “Each student has a responsibility to do their job every day. These are real jobs that need to be done in the classroom.  They were not in place for the students at the beginning of the year, so I was doing all of them.”

McConnell said she led the Pledge of Allegiance, handed out papers, answered the phone, cleaned the chalkboard, monitored students in the hall and settled arguments over who would hold the door.

“Now that the students have taken over all of these jobs, they have learned to be responsible and work together as a team to make our classroom successful,” she said. “They learn that every job is important, and they take pride in their work.”

Jobs include equipment manager, Confetti Committee, paper distributor, traffic control, substitute, administrative assistant, building maintenance and librarian, to name a few.

The equipment manager’s responsibilities include taking recess equipment out, which includes a red tub, wire cart and sidewalk chalk, and bringing it back in. The Confetti Committee’s duties include throwing kindness, greeting people, smiling, making cards for absent students and telling jokes. The librarian keeps the class library tidy, pulls library carts on checkout day, gathers books needing repairs and tells other students when to go to open checkout.

Some jobs are more desirable with students than others.

“Building maintenance is popular because they get to use the hand-held vacuum that my husband bought for our class,” McConnell said. “Confetti Committee is also popular, which is why there are five students every week. Their job is to ‘Throw Kindness Like Confetti’ so they get to tell jokes in front of the class and make cards for students who are absent. Administrative assistant is also popular.  Students are usually a bit nervous at first, but by the end of the week, they are answering the phone confidently.”

The school’s theme is Throw Kindness Like Confetti.

McConnell, who is in her first year of teaching but not her first year in education, received a shoutout within the district for this work.

“Carla is doing an absolutely amazing job both instructionally and in meeting the social/emotional needs of her students,” Principal Debbie Watson wrote in the shoutout. “One example is how she works to build a sense of community and family in her classroom. While most teachers have daily helpers, Carla created job titles that portray the jobs as integral to the success of the class and portrays them that way. The students are taking their responsibilities very seriously, and her class is growing as a team.”

Along with learning, there’s fun, and a sense of importance.

“[Students] really enjoy them,” McConnell said about the jobs. “Our classroom is clean, organized and students get along. There is no need to argue about who should hold the door or carry out the basketballs because someone has already been assigned to those jobs. They do, however, look forward to switching jobs every week.”

To determine which student gets which job, McConnell used the class list. There are 22 students, so she needed that many jobs. Some are for one person, while others have multiple workers.

“Every week students move to the next job in line,” she said. “The jobs with multiple people are spread out so that students repeat them every four to six weeks.”

Although this is McConnell’s first year teaching, she has 20 years of experience working with students as a general education aide at Sunset.

“Two years ago, I began the Teacher Apprentice Program at Wichita State University,” she said. “I worked at Sunset full-time, and I was a student full-time. I graduated last May and started teaching at Sunset in August.”

Just like McConnell taking on this teaching job, students have followed her example with none refusing to do his or her work.

“They like them,” McConnell said about students’ jobs. “They know that they are all important, and I am counting on them to keep our classroom running smoothly.”

Holeman said his favorite job is being on the Confetti Committee because he gets to make cards. He said his current job is his third this year and that he learned it’s fun to have a job.

Another student, Marcos Duran, likes doing traffic control because he doesn’t have to be in line.

“If we look at people, they just want to be quiet,” he said.

Traffic control watches for students being quiet in line.

“I’ve learned that we can all work together helping the teacher and doing different jobs,” he said.

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