Teaching Responsibility in the Classroom
All teachers know that there is so much more to our jobs than just teaching the content. Part of our job also involves molding our students into productive members of society. Perhaps one of the most important parts of that, is teaching responsibility in the classroom.
Responsibility is a big deal to me. Of course I wanted my students to learn the content I was teaching, but just as important to me was that I teach them how to be responsible. Today, I wanted to share with you a few ways that I would help to foster a culture of responsibility in my classroom.
It Starts On Day 1
Teaching responsibility in the classroom starts on the first day of school. It is so important, especially in the first week or two, to emphasize to our students the role they play in our classroom.
Naturally, the first week of school and perhaps even a couple more after that are spent teaching the rules and procedures. This is a GREAT opportunity for you to go ahead and teach your students about responsibility.
As you’re teaching your procedures, make constant connections to why it is important for students to follow these procedures. This is their classroom, and following these procedures makes the classroom a better place to be for everyone. Therefore, it is their responsibility to help make that happen.
Students need to be motivated and understand that the procedures put in place are not only for the benefit of the entire class, but also them personally. Create a personal buy in by emphasizing the ways that taking ownership of the classroom personally affects each of them. You will help set up the rest of the year for teaching your students to be responsible if you hit it hard right off the bat!
Give Your Students Jobs
Assigning your students classroom jobs is one of the best ways to help teach them responsibility. There are so many ways you can incorporate this into your classroom, but personally I used class careers.
In a nutshell, I assigned each of my students one job that they held all year long. I spent some time early in the year explaining each job to them and let them fill out job applications. Then, I spent a few weeks watching and getting to know them before officially hiring them.
I would hire a few at a time based on the skills they had demonstrated in the classroom. Then, I would spend a week or two training them in their job until they knew what they needed to do on their own. After the first 6 or so weeks of school, everyone had a job, and everyone knew what to do.
For more information on my system of using classroom jobs, check out this blog post. If desired, you can also use this system with a classroom economy to help further encourage students to be responsible.
One of my methods in teaching responsibility in the classroom involved me very subtly requiring students to be responsible in order to receive rewards they had earned. You can read about my full classroom management system here, but here’s a quick summary:
I used a clip chart, and at the end of the day my students could get a hole punch in their behavior punch card depending on where they landed on the chart. Once they had 10 hole punches in their punch card, they could exchange it for one of my reward coupons.
The responsibility aspect comes in here: I never reminded them to bring me their punch cards. It was their responsibility at the end of the day to check the clip chart and bring me their punch card. If they didn’t do it, they didn’t get their hole punch.
This is a really simple way to teach students responsibility. It requires them to take ownership of it themselves. But, it’s a really easy thing to get them to be responsible for, because they all want a reward coupon, so they’re motivated to do it!
Allow for Natural Consequences
Allowing students to deal with natural consequences of their actions is another way to teach responsibility. I personally prefer natural consequences to any other type of punishment, but of course they are not always effective or appropriate.
Some examples of natural consequences would be:
- Receiving a lower grade for not completing work
- Failing a test due to not studying
- Showing up to school in uniform because you were talking when the free dress day announcement was made
- Getting hurt while running during class
In my example above of letting my students be responsible for their own rewards, the natural consequence to forgetting to bring me their card was that it would take them longer to complete it. This would delay them getting the ever-so-coveted reward coupon.
Natural consequences aren’t necessarily punishments, but rather the negative experiences directly created by actions. As I said above, natural consequences aren’t always the best solution, but for teaching responsibility, I think they are quite effective. (Bonus points if you can have a discussion with the student about it!)
Hold Students Accountable
Sometimes, more than just natural consequences is needed. For certain responsibilities, you will want to hold your students accountable by regularly checking in on them. You likely already do this anyway, but let me share a few examples of how I did this in my classroom.
First, I’m a stickler for cleaning up at the end of the day. I’m VERY picky! This is one area where I chose to hold my students accountable. I developed a table points system to help motivate my students to take this responsibility seriously. I checked the tables and the floor scrupulously every day before anyone was allowed to leave the room. You can read more about my clean-up system in this blog post.
Another system I used to hold my students responsible is my pencil management system. I gave all students 5 pencils and an eraser in a bag with their name on it. They were responsible for keeping track of their supplies. At the end of the week, they could turn their bag into me. I would go through them and make sure all the supplies were accounted for. If they were, they received a small surprise in their bag on Monday morning! (Read more about my pencil system here).
Teaching Responsibility in the Classroom Is Important
I hope these ideas have been helpful to you and inspired you to help your students learn how to be more responsible. This is such an important life skill that we can easily include in our classroom. Let’s help our students be successful not just in school, but in life!