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There is work to be done at Bixby! Recycling needs to be put out, the lunchroom needs to be set up…and don’t forget to get it all cleaned up and put away afterwards! Some schools might employ special staff to take care of these jobs, but at Bixby, students help take care of their school. Having to do jobs might seem like it takes away from time spent on academics, but to the contrary, these jobs support and enhance the learning environment at Bixby, from providing opportunities to practice teamwork to supporting focus to giving each child a sense of belonging to a community.
Nobody does a job alone at Bixby; instead, he or she takes care of necessary tasks as a part of a multi-age team. This opportunity to work together to complete an important job with students of different ages, allows kids to identify their own gifts as well as the gifts of others. When cleaning up after lunch, for example, older students might have the strength to stack the big chairs, while younger students clean chairs and tables, and then they all come together again to sweep up every last crumb. In situations like this, students learn to make a plan, pull together, and work efficiently to complete a job. One might say to another, “As you clean each chair, I’ll move it to the side to be stacked.” Kids practice effective ways to motivate each other; it is common to hear one child exclaiming, “Let’s beat our record today!” and “Let’s make the biggest pile of crumbs we can!” Every person contributes, and everyone benefits from completing these jobs well. Learning to work together in the lunchroom provides lessons that translate well towards working together in the classroom, whether it is completing a group science experiment or brainstorming ways to solve a math problem.
Students not only feel a sense of competence in completing a necessary job, they become more competent in other parts of their day from having had the experience. Most jobs involve some aspect of problem solving, movement, and heavy work. When students have the chance to apply number and counting skills to the ways that chairs are set up, it enhances their number sense and pattern identification. The physical aspects of these jobs (lifting chairs, crossing the midline as they sweep or wipe tables down, traversing the stairway several times during a recycling route…) all help to regulate and organize the brain, which in turn supports their ability to attend to problems, and think effectively when it is time for class.
As students work together to take care of the school, they practice our core values of respect, responsibility, and empathy. “Unity is strength…when there is teamwork and collaboration, beautiful things can be achieved.” This saying, attributed to Mattie Stepanek, a poet and peace advocate who published seven books of poetry before his death at age 13, describes something that I see and love at Bixby.
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