Privilege and responsibility

independent childWe have jobs in the classroom. The teachers have jobs (subtle ones, and not so subtle ones, like, watching someone use the stapler, using the teacher scissors, helping sad people, giving suggestions, stopping some behavior). The children have jobs. We have a “job board” with “sticks”. On Monday, if you are one of the oldest children, you pick a job and a helper. Your job is to do the task, to help the classroom, and to train the younger child how to do it. This ranges from hanging wet napkins and folding dry ones to setting up dishwashing for snack plates, to feeding the pets.

Each child goes, in the classroom, from incompetent and clueless to competent teacher, in 3 years. I recently watched a five give a lovely, patient lesson in napkin folding: “Bottom to top, and side to side.” with great warmth and kindness. The 2.5 year old was enthralled, as a child can only be by an older child.

The child “who was in charge of napkins” becomes “the napkin leader”, who hands out napkins at lunch. This is a coveted job, that carries prestige, as seen by the children. Over the third year, the oldest children are willing to share the prestige, and often allow their helpers to be the “napkin leader.” This is a fun transition, sharing privilege, because you know what it feels like, and are willing to share it with others.

I could say a lot more about this, but it is another lovely aspect of the multiaged classroom.

At home, make sure that your child feels responsibility for something, so that they can experience the privilege of being competent. Children often feel that they are always needing help/deserving service. Let’s help them graduate to feeling empowered and capable.

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