This article was first published in 2007, when I was just starting to formulate the idea of jobs. Time flies! I even mention the Realm in this article (2005)!
The whole idea with the jobs, in development now for enough years to have resulted in a total of 61 current jobs, is the fundamental link between success in the TPRS classroom and what Alfie Kohn says about kids’ needs to contribute to the society of the classroom.
If kids have a job in class, they have an identity. If they don’t, they don’t have an identity. Then they have to make one up. It isn’t always pretty.
So, to avoid the ugly, oppositional identities that a few kids will attempt to bring into your classroom next fall, all you have to do is make it clear to them that they will not be allowed to bring that identity into your room.
But if you just tell them that, it won’t work. They don’t know you, and, since they don’t know what kind of identity to adopt because you don’t tell them, they will default to the kind of sometimes faceless, sometimes oppositional, etc. (you know the deal) identities we usually see in place by October.
What kid gets what job all depends on the kids we have in the room. I find that by getting to know the kids, it is better to let the personality of the kid, not the dictates of the teacher, determine the classroom job. Otherwise, it is dictatorial. I really don’t like the way Blaine names a blond woman Rubia. Maybe he doesn’t do that anymore. He shouldn’t be.
But there are other levels to identity building, not just the physical classroom job level. There are jobs that occur in stories. There are so many characters in those classrooms, with so many exciting possibilites at any moment in a story, that kids naturally stay interested in what is going on because they want their character to get into the story.
There is yet a third level of identity building in a classroom that is built around names and the Circling with Props activities found in PQA in a Wink! If a student is a wrestler and his name is Nacho Libre, the chances of him becoming oppositional with the teacher are slim to none. He has a role in the class, and the teacher uses his cool name a lot, whenever the chance comes up in class. So he doesn’t need to get oppositional.
So we see that all sorts of contributory possibilities exist in the classroom – many ways that we beat the kid to the punch, so to speak, by giving them a positive social role in our classroom before they give us a negative one.
There is no in-between role in a classroom, reflecting the statement by Eldridge Cleaver in Soul on Ice that if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.