Teaching children responsibility provides lifelong rewards for them and their families. When done in a school setting, it amplifies responsibility throughout the school’s culture.

Teaching children responsibility provides lifelong rewards for them and their families. When done in a school setting, it amplifies responsibility throughout the school’s culture.
That’s a concept a Neosho school counselor has run with, and it’s paying big dividends for Carver Elementary School.
The idea was hatched after Trina Leaf attended an annual Leader In Me workshop in Branson, where discussion centered on allowing kids to have ownership and leadership roles in school.
“They already get to do that in the classroom anyway for years,” Leaf said. “They get to be the line leader or the caboose, hold the flag or whatever. I was trying to think of a way that we could implement it for the entire school.”
It started with assigning breakfast duty, but changes in that program eliminated the opportunity, so Leaf had to think outside the box and approached the librarian, the nurse and the art teacher to look for student job opportunities.
“I made these little vests that the students wear and they have a little name tag on them,” she said. “We have greeters in the morning who greet the students as they come in the back door and the front door. We have the nurse helpers who help the nurse in the morning. They get the ice and plop down the beds and just kind of help her, whatever she needs done.
“We have the little girl or little boy who helps keep the building beautiful. There’s trash (to pick up). Starting out the day, we hang up all the jackets that are left in the hallway. She makes sure there’s not any names on them. If there’s names on them, we get them to the owner.
“We have the librarian helpers. … In the library, they re-shelve books, they check out books, and they help students find books. They have a little checklist of everything they need to do when they first get there. In the art room, she has them sharpen pencils, wash paint brushes, help clean up — they just do it all, and they really seem to enjoy it.”

Applying for jobs
Leaf explained the program to third- and fourth-grade classrooms at the outset of the year and did again mid-year as new students and others can became interested after seeing some of their classmates on the job.
“They have to fill out an application,” she explained of how workers are chosen, “because I want them to know that it’s important, that they can’t just show up at a job.”
New workers are rotated into the schedule every three weeks to provide opportunities for as many as possible.
“I write a letter, and I go to the classrooms to tell them that ‘you’re going to be the new greeter, so in the morning you need to be here at this time.’ They have times that they have to show up, and it’s amazing how serious these kids take these jobs.
“It’s funny because they’ll tell their parents, ‘We have to be there at this time.’ It’s kind of fun to watch how they mature and how they take the job seriously. Not all kids take the job seriously, but a lot of them do. It’s kind of neat to see how they grow.”
About 100 students have worn the vest of a Carver worker this school year, Leaf reported.

Student workers
Librarian Tamie Williams said her late-afternoon workers straighten up and pick up trash, help students find books, sort books, sharpen pencils and more.
“Just little things to help the library run smoother throughout the week,” Williams said. “They are very good kids. They are always there, they’re hard workers, and they are always friendly and very helpful. They are very eager to help, and they never say, ‘Naw, I don’t want to do that.’ They are always right there (with) ‘what can I help with next?’ They are really great kids. It’s a great program that Mrs. Leaf started. I look forward to them coming everyday because they make the end of the day go by so much nicer.”
Having students working spurs others to want to get in on the action. Seeing their classmates stand out as workers, Williams said, she always gets inquiries from students about how they can become helpers and instructs them to see Leaf for an application.
“They see those kids being examples and they want to be just like them,” Williams said. “It’s really amazing.”
Drew Redshaw is one of the library helpers.
“We push in chairs, return stuff to the people who own it, take a sweep of the library, put any books that are misplaced back where they are supposed to go, dust the shelves and help other students find books,” Drew said in describing his job.
“Really good” is how Drew feels after completing his tasks each day.
Hoyt Renfro likes to push in chairs, straighten books, turn off unused computers, wipe tables and bookshelves and clean the Magic Carpet area “because it sounds really fun,” he said. “I’d like to get a job.”
Hoyt determined a library helper would be the most fun of the Carver jobs available.
That’s why Jillian Glore decided to be an art room helper.
“I like doing art, and my grandpa works at Ozark Ink and he’s a tattooist. He likes to draw and so do I,” she said. “I learn from him a lot.”
Sharpening pencils, decorating the bulletin board and many fun tasks are the job description, but one aspect really draws Jillian to her work.
“The fact that it’s after school and we get to be here with the most amazing, special teacher there is in the world – clearly,” Jillian declared. “Ms. Lupini.”
Kadence Sutton filled out an application to follow in the footsteps of a sibling “because I really wanted to work. My big sister worked here, but now she’s in middle school,” she said. “It helps me learn (that) when I’m home, I have to help my mom, too.”
Getting the room ready for the next day is the basic objective of the art helpers, according to Lupini.
“They take papers out of the dry rack when they are done and deliver them to the classrooms,” she said. “They clean tables. They check brushes and see if they are ready for tomorrow. We sharpen pencils. Sometimes we do a bulletin board in the hallway, just kind of whatever comes up that needs to get done.
“It helps me out from just the little things that always have to be done everyday like sharpening pencils. We have 130 kids go through the room a day, so we need to have sharp pencils. We need to have clean brushes. It’s nice to have the papers returned back to the classrooms when they are dry. They’re good helpers.”

At the end of their tenure, workers are rewarded with three “paws,” one for each week, Leaf said.
“That’s kind of their pay,” she said. “I don’t want to bribe them into doing a job, so I don’t tell them that.”
Leaf talked about one boy who came back to her saying he didn’t want the ‘paws’ because he wanted to do the job just for doing it and being paid for it negated that purpose.
“I just thought that was so sweet,” she said. “He just put his heart and soul into it.”
Students throughout the school are awarded “paws” for displaying good behavior. Sometimes entire classrooms are awarded one for being good.
“If there is trash on the floor and they are caught picking it up with nobody asking them, they’ll get a ‘paw,’ Leaf said.
With the ‘paws’ come rewards, as any time a student collects five, they get to spin the wheel.
“On the wheel there are things like free soda, a principal’s treasure box, extra recess, a book from the library that they get to keep,” she said. “They get to spin the wheel, and that’s a big deal for them.”

End game
Leaf’s goal in initiating the program has been realized when they “grow into leaders and realize they need to have responsibilities and to take it seriously,” she said, “because one of these days they are going to be out in the workforce having responsibilities.”