The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

How Teachers and Other School Workers Went the Extra Mile

on October 28, 2017

 Last week I wrote about  things I did at the schools where I was principal to create two classrooms at each grade level and insure that teachers had a partner and time to meet together. Today I will describe the innovative projects of two of my teachers and a school custodian that benefitted students’ learning and helped them to enjoy being at school.

 My greatest pleasure in being a principal was working with teachers and other school employees who were eager to do extra work to improve our school and the experiences of its students. Although I could not pay them for their efforts, I could provide them with the time and materials they needed, and make sure they received public recognition and honor.

At my elementary school in Wisconsin one of our grade 4/5 teachers got the idea of opening a school store. When she described it to me it sounded like it would benefit the students who made items for store considerably. Her idea was to use an empty classroom for a school store that would be open one day a week during the noon hour and sell only student- made products. Fortunately, I was able to grant her the time during the school day to create that store, assist students who wanted to make and sell products, and supervise the store operation.

The first parts of the teacher’s new job were to advertise for students who wanted to create items for the store and then to advise them about the practicality of their proposed items and the prices to be charged.  Although no food items would be allowed in the store,* many useful and decorative items were produced and sold. Among the most popular ones were greeting cards, wooden games, decorative magnets, soft sculptured jewelry, embroidered handkerchiefs, and rocks with painted images.

As time went by, the student item makers and the items changed, but the store continued to be popular. Some students never tired of making things to sell and others never tired of buying them. Over time, the most popular items were decorative rather than useful. The desire for a woven bracelet always exceeded that for a workbook cover.

Our store continued to operate and be popular for several years while I was Principal. I don’t know what happened after I left to live and work in Oregon, and another principal took over my job.

At the middle school in Oregon where I next became principal, our math teacher was the one who proposed having a student “Jobs” program and supervised it. Any middle school student willing to work 20 minutes a day could apply for job, which was available before or after school hours and during the school day for those who were not in a class at that time.

Interested students were required to fill out an application form, get recommendations from adults, and go through an interview with the teacher in charge. Those who completed those requirement successfully were assigned to work in the cafeteria, gym, playground, or school hallways by moving things from place to place, serving food, taking away trash, or delivering items to classrooms.  Another possibility was assisting workers in the school office in various ways. The adults at the places where students worked supervised their performance and reported on it to the math teacher in charge of the program.

Students signed in and out of the time they worked in the school office and received points for each day worked. At the end of the school year a raffle of desirable gifts was held for all those who participated. The number of points a worker had earned over the year determined which items he or she could bid for and, perhaps, win. Those who worked the most days were able to bid for items valued at as much as a hundred dollars. Workers who had put in  less time were able to win desirable, but less expensive items, such as magazine subscriptions, hats, tee shirts, decorative pieces, or even bags of candy. Students who had not been workers, or were in elementary grades, also attended the yearly raffles to watch the prizes won and cheer for the winners.

The last program I want to describe was proposed by our custodian at the Oregon school. She was a  smart, child-loving young woman who organized groups of students to help with collecting classroom trash and discarded milk containers from the cafeteria.  Many of those materials had to be cleaned and sorted for trash company pickup. As a result of students’ efforts, our school won an award for the largest amount of re-cycled paper products in our county.

In addition to the special project, our custodian was always available to students who hung around before or after school in order to work with her. She taught them skills and praised them for their work. Because she was such an important part of our school, I arranged to take her, along with several teachers, to a meeting and celebration in the state of Washington as one of our outstanding school employees.










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