Thursday, April 5, 2012

Learning about Real Life Responsibilities

Our small groups are designed not only to unite students with similar issues and tackle the emotional and behavioral challenges the face, but we also encourage leadership skills and other traits to help our students succeed in life beyond the school walls. Our Bookstore group presents students with a real job opportunity. Students experience different roles at the store, they design marketing materials, set prices and above all learn about real life consequences.

Unlike our other groups, the Bookstore group technically meets two times a week—one for the regular group session and a second time during the student’s lunch/free period to open the store. We don’t gather the students together before the store opens or hunt them down if they’re not there. It’s understood that just like a real job, it is the students’ responsibility to show up and work at the bookstore if they want to participate in the project. And just like a real job, not showing up on time or at all, has consequences. I asked my students, “What happens if you don’t show up for work and don’t call?” “You get fired!” was the unanimous answer.

Of course, we can’t actually fire our students, but we can simulate the experience. If students don’t show up to work at the Bookstore, they’re given a warning. If they miss “work” a second time without a reason, the students are no longer allowed to sell in the bookstore. They will still be a part of the regular weekly Partnership with Children group, but they will miss out on the fun part of selling and operating a real business. On the flip side, students who are always on time and do a good job are rewarded with notebooks or other items from the store. The students in the Bookstore group really enjoy running their own business, but also are excited to have real responsibilities and be trusted. It’s funny, after nearly four years in this school, I’ve never had to “fire” a Bookstore employee. If a student does get a warning, he so worried about losing his new responsibilities that he’s on his best behavior the rest of the year!

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