Jobs for 2nd graders? Works for me

Published 1:10 am Saturday, April 4, 2015

Once upon a time in elementary school, local attorney Gypsy Smith’s mother was my second grade teacher. I was thrilled to be in Mrs. Morrow’s class. Her husband and my father fished together; her baby boy was in my class at Sunday School.

What I remember most about this sweet lady’s classroom is a bulletin board near the classroom door. On the bulletin board were a number of envelopes which were labeled with tasks. Each of us had a hand-shaped piece of paper with our name on it; and each week, our “hand” get placed in a different envelope, which determined our task for the week.

Perhaps it was to distribute milk in the lunchroom; to take lunch money to the office; or to pass out papers.

I couldn’t list the classroom tasks if my life depended upon it; but I very clearly remember the emotions attached to the responsibilities. We were so proud of our jobs.

When I recently found myself at Andalusia Elementary School talking with a team of teachers and administrators working to implement a school-wide student leadership program by next year, I flashed back to second grade.

A story in today’s special section details the new program, The Leader in Me, which is designed to help every student develop leadership skills. The program uses a student version of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits for Highly Successful People.

Among the strategies, the teachers told me, is for every child to have a school responsibility. Every child.

Just the thought was mind-numbing for me. It seems it would be difficult enough to get through lessons every day, much less make sure each student also completes his or her “job.”

AES second grade teacher Ashley Black, who’s on the Lighthouse Team planning the implementation, said she also first balked at the idea, but has come to believe it can make teachers’ lives easier.

“Like the shoe sheriff,” she said. “You don’t have to stop instruction, if someone is assigned to help tie shoes.”

She also plans to select a person to sharpen pencils, and to pass out books, just to get started on jobs.

Decades later, I have no idea why we had jobs in second grade. Maybe it was a new-fangled idea, or perhaps our teacher was just smarter than most.

But I do know that second graders can take pride in being a helper. I’m looking forward to watching this excited group of educators develop a crop of young leaders.