Blueprints for Caring: Two-Person Jobs - Teaching Empathy Institute
Teaching Empathy Institute works to establish emotionally and physically safe learning communities for elementary, middle and high school students and the adults who work with them. Working in the Hudson Valley of New York, TEI creates tailor-made programs designed to foster dialogue about social culture building while strengthening the capacity for the infusion of empathy and compassion into all aspects of the learning experience.
Teaching Empathy Institute, SEL, Social and emotional learning, mindfulness, diversity, education, bullying, anti-bullying, k-12, learning, david levine, school of belonging
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Blueprints for Caring: Two-Person Jobs

When a person has success while working with another, that experience takes on an aura of meaning and purpose. When a teacher intentionally provides opportunities for students to take part I meaningful collaborative activities, such as creating a welcoming celebration for a new student or co-teaching a lesson, trust-building is a natural part of the process. The students also are practicing the crucial life skills of planning, negotiation, compromise, listening, and responsibility. Identify for yourself two-person jobs within the classroom. Whenever there is a task to be carried out, make it a two-person job and find two students to work on it together.

I once heard a talk by the late H. Stephen Glenn, co-author of Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World, in which he told a story of how he and his 6-year-old son worked together welding a tie rod to their tractor.  When they were finished, his son said, “Thanks, Dad, for letting me help you fix the tractor.” Glenn responded that he could not have completed the task without his son.  He needed two people to do the job. After this experience, his son would often present his father with a list of all the two-person jobs that had to be done around their ranch. In naming the concept of a two-person job, Glenn taught his son that “when a job takes two, I am sometimes equal to my father, and that makes me very significant.”

Here are some ideas for creating two-person jobs in the classroom:

  • Always send students in teams of two for any errand within the school-sending a note to another teacher, bringing something to the office, etc.
  • Have two students share the responsibility of handing out or collecting papers
  • Assign two students the task of preparing a lesson or presenting to the class.
  • Use the concept of two-person jobs as a way of training students to work in groups. (Before establishing any sort of cooperative learning group, have students work in pairs for a long time, calling this training “Two-Person Job Preparation”.)
  • Assign classroom buddies. When a student is absent or misses a lesson, the buddy’s responsibility is to keep track of what was missed and to teach some of the lesson(s) to the absent buddy.