The Cult of Pedagogy Podcast, Episode 163 Transcript

Jennifer Gonzalez, host

GONZALEZ: This might actually be the perfect time for this episode. At first I just thought it was a neat idea, something teachers could implement pretty easily, something that would be a nice change of pace from what we usually talk about. 

But by the time I finished talking to my guest today, I had convinced myself that this might actually be the thing that helps wake up a lot of our remote and hybrid classrooms from the white-knuckle, just-get-through-it mentality I think some of us have settled into as the 2020-2021 school year drags into its second half. Just maybe.

What we’re talking about is classroom jobs, jobs we assign to students to help keep our classrooms running. Now I know this is typically something we associate with face-to-face classrooms during normal times, but I was absolutely delighted—and I don’t use the word ‘delighted’ every day—to learn that not only can we assign jobs to students in remote classes, the jobs students do can not only make those remote classes really, really enjoyable, but they can also help students discover passions and develop talents that they can take with them well beyond your class.

My guest today is Thom Gibson, a middle school STEM teacher from Austin, Texas. Thom has basically mastered the art of managing a whole program of classroom jobs, and he’s made that process work for remote learning, too. In today’s conversation, we talk about why setting up students jobs is such a good thing to do, how to troubleshoot common problems with a jobs system, and what some of Thom’s favorite classroom jobs are—once you hear some of these ideas, I promise you’re going to want to try them!

Before we get started, I’d like to thank Kiddom for sponsoring this episode. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that the tools and routines that have traditionally powered classrooms need more flexibility. If it taught us another thing, it’s that piecemeal online tools cannot replace a well-designed, quality curriculum. So how to maintain both flexibility and quality? Is that too much to ask? At Kiddom, they don’t think so. The Kiddom Education Platform houses curriculum, instruction, and assessment in one place – and they partner with top-rated curriculum publishers, like Open Up Resources, Fishtank Learning, and Illustrative Math through Kendall Hunt, so schools and districts can deliver the highest-quality digital curriculum on Kiddom’s flexible platform and continue teaching in any environment. Educators love their teacher-friendly platform with options to engage in discourse online or in-person, and students love Kiddom for how easy it is to see their assignments, and complete their work interactively. Choose from their curriculum menu or import your existing curriculum to bring it to life with Kiddom. Request a demo today at

Support also comes from Kialo Edu. Kialo Edu is a free online platform that facilitates discussions and debates with students—from middle school all the way up to university level. Using Kialo Edu, students break down their ideas into simple pros and cons—individual elements of an argument that come together into a nuanced understanding of the concepts they’re discussing. Whether your students are discussing literature, exploring philosophy or having a debate just for the sake of it, Kialo Edu helps students to express themselves and develop crucial critical thinking skills. It’s hard to keep students discussing and learning together right now, so whether your students are all online at once or split into A/B schedules, Kialo Edu will help you facilitate both synchronous and asynchronous classroom activities. So what are you waiting for? Create a free account at, and try it out for yourself!

I also want to remind you that the brand-new, 2021 edition of my Teacher’s Guide to Tech is now out! This PDF guide was created to help busy teachers make smart decisions about technology—over 450 tools organized into categories, with quick links to videos that show you the tool in use, plus a thick section of tips at the beginning (including a new section on remote and hybrid learning), and a glossary of over 100 tech terms at the end. I make the guide and even I end up using it myself, all year long, as a reference tool. Come check it out at, and just like every year, my podcast listeners can get ten percent off if you use the code LISTENER at checkout. That’s and use the code LISTENER.

Now here’s my interview with Thom Gibson about classroom jobs. 

GONZALEZ: Thom, welcome to the podcast. 

GIBSON: Thank you, Jennifer. It is a pleasure to be here. 

GONZALEZ: We are going to be talking today about classroom jobs, and this has become a specialty area for you. Before we get into it, just tell us a little bit about your work as an educator so my listeners know who you are. 

GIBSON: Sure. I am in my 10th year of education, most of that time in the middle school classroom. Middle school math, science, robotics, advisory, heading up the Minecraft Club. I’ve taught a YouTube video production class. Just all things middle school STEM. Outside of teaching kids, I also teach teachers through PD, through online courses, through my YouTube channel. This year since we’ve been remote, I’ve just been going on Instagram every day and doing a short little story about, here’s the plan for today. We’ll see how it goes, and then it’s like, yeah, that went great, or that did not go great at all. That’s been good to hear from other teachers of, oh, I tried it too and it worked, or it didn’t work, or I modified it this way. So just always looking for opportunities to support other teachers with what I’m finding is working and not working in my own classroom as well. 

GONZALEZ: Cool, cool. One of the things, obviously, that has been working really well for you is classroom jobs. I am going to tell you what my own experience is just so that you have one specific audience member, i.e., me, to talk to when it comes to concerns that people have. I was also a middle school teacher. I, like I think many teachers, was kind of a control freak. So while I liked the idea of giving students jobs, I also knew that if I did it myself, I would do a better job. 


GONZALEZ: So I kind of did everything myself and worked myself to the bone because of it. And the other reason I think that I wasn’t that into it was because I was a middle school teacher, and I didn’t come from the elementary. I found that most middle school teachers either come from elementary or they come from high school, and I came from high school. So I just, I think elementary teachers are very good about assigning all these little jobs and everybody gets excited about it. I just didn’t come from that background. I don’t know. I think I always sort of thought maybe I wasn’t going to get much buy in, and it was more like, let’s just talk about English. I have a gut feeling that had I invested a little bit more into it, I would have had a classroom that ran better. My life would have been easier, and I would have felt more satisfied that I was preparing my students. I’m just letting you know who I am because I think probably, I’m not the most unusual character when it comes to what teachers are like when they think about classroom jobs, although there’s probably many other flavors. Tell us, what are some of the benefits of giving students jobs in a classroom of any age group? 

GIBSON: Yeah. One of the big things that you just said is you were wearing yourself down. When I first started doing classroom jobs, I did teach fifth grade. Some of them were just jobs that I would give arbitrarily to kids. After a while I started thinking, like, what are some of the things that I do in my classroom that — I read Tim Ferriss’ “4-Hour Workweek.”


GIBSON: And he was talking about outsourcing and outsourcing all these tasks. I was thinking, okay. I’m a teacher. How can I outsource some of my tasks to my students? 


GIBSON: Whether it’s writing the agenda up on the board or taking attendance or getting my laptop plugged into the projector and the right website pulled up and the projector frozen on the class website while I’m greeting students at the door. So that was the beginning of how I started to rethink classroom jobs. One of the biggest things that I’ve found was the more that the students feel that this job has some sort of meaning, it’s not just, “I’m the caboose. That means I’m the last person in line. What a great job.” It’s a pointless job. I’m sorry, elementary school teachers. If you’ve got a caboose job that is on-point and doing more than what my caboose job was doing. I feel it helps build a really strong positive classroom culture when the students feel like they are actually contributing in a meaningful way that is helping you as the teacher or helping their fellow classmates with something. Then, even particularly now that we’ve gone remote, I had to rethink a lot of my class jobs, because there wasn’t a physical classroom that we were needing to attend to, and there was only so many virtual tasks that I needed. I had a chat moderator and someone who could help out with tech with another student in the breakout room. I started creating a lot more creative type jobs, where it was like the class podcaster, you know, where they do one podcast a month, or a class newsletter writer, or something like that where it was students creating something that could be shared with the wider audience. So I started seeing what an opportunity to start tapping into the students’ interests with these class jobs as opposed to just getting something done for me. And on top of all of that, in my classroom, the students apply for jobs. So it’s not like me just saying, you do this, you do this, you do this. They’re applying for jobs, and in that process they’re learning job application skills. 


GIBSON: Like, how do you communicate that you’re going to add value to your employer as opposed to just saying, I want this job because it’s the best job. It builds positive classroom culture. It gives an opportunity for students to explore their interests and/or get a task done for you, and it helps students see some of those 21st century skills like applying for a job. I’m doing this in my math class, in my science class, in my robotics class. This isn’t a personal finance class. I’m just incorporating it into my normal, everyday content and able to see all of these benefits from the students having these jobs. 

GONZALEZ: So one of the things, and you’ve sort of alluded to some of these just now as you were talking. I thought it would be helpful to have you go through some of the jobs that you’ve come up with. Some of them really are a little different than what we typically hear about. I asked if you would just choose 10, although what we do have, and I actually forgot to double-check this, but I’m assuming this is publicly available, that we can share this? 

GIBSON: Yes, yes. 

GONZALEZ: Yes, so you’ve got a much longer list of jobs, but you’re just going to share 10 of them, and then people can come to my website and they can see the full list from there. 

GIBSON: Yeah. 

GONZALEZ: Tell me about some of these jobs. 

GIBSON: Sure. That one I was mentioning, the podcast job, that was a new job. I wanted to get into podcasting but didn’t want to do a whole class assignment, because I was like, eh, that seems like a lot. So I was like, what if I just create a podcaster job. The podcaster, they create, or the podcast team, they create one podcast a month under three minutes. So very doable. 


GIBSON: I meet with them early in the month and say, okay, what do you want this episode to be about? It has to include a little bit about what we’re doing in class, but in my math class. So all right, let’s do mathematician of the month. Maybe a math joke, or “this day in math” history, or “this day in science” history, or “this day in technology” history, depending on whatever class it is. Then the first time I do it, usually the students that apply for that job, they have some kind of interest in it, so they’ve either maybe done a little bit of recording, whether it’s music recording with GarageBand or something like that. Even if they haven’t, we would use a website called Soundtrap, which is an online audio recorder. So If you have a couple of students that are doing the podcast, they can create a Soundtrap project online, and they can all collaborate on it, record different parts and decide who’s doing what. Me, I’ve done podcasting. I have a degree in audio engineering. For me, it was really hard not to go in and be like, oh, this really needs a fadeout, and this little intro is too long. But I’m like, okay. I’ll give them the feedback, and then they can improve for next time. They’ll do an episode. They’re working on this on their own time. They just have to have one a month. Then I will host it on SoundCloud, because it’s a free place to put audio files because I don’t want a Google Drive link, because that looks super lame and stale, but SoundCloud has kind of a cool interface for the audio. 


GIBSON: I’ll share that with all the students in my math classes and all of their parents. It’s like, hey, the podcasters have just released Episode 2 of five minutes or less. In this episode you’re going to, you know, and I’m hyping it up a little bit. I’m like, go leave some feedback for them and tell them that you love the episode. It’s serving several purposes there. It’s like now a communication piece to the parents about a little bit of what we’re doing in class, and it’s giving the students an authentic audience. This is not just a sound file that they’re creating, and it’s going on my Google Drive, and then I’m saying, great job. Thanks for doing that. 


GIBSON: But there is an actual audience for this. 


GIBSON: That’s the podcaster job. The athletic trainer is a new job that I implemented this year. They’re responsible for setting a timer at the beginning of class to go off in the middle of class and then lead in about 60 seconds of movement, so that way we can get some movement from sitting on Zoom all day. This is going to be something that I plan on implementing when I’m back in the classroom, and it’s like, okay, everyone stand up. Okay, stretch your arms out. Okay, touch your toes. Do 10 jumping jacks. I tell them, you have permission to be like, everyone, stand up, get up, no sitting down. I don’t care. Turn your cameras on. They try to get hyped up about it. The DJ was another new job that I plan on incorporating after we’re done with remote learning. But they play music for the five minutes leading up to class. At the beginning of the year, I’m like, okay, in Zoom, go to screen share, go to the advanced tab, click on “share audio.” Okay, where do you normally play music? Spotify? Okay. Open up Spotify. Okay, lower the volume a little bit. Okay, I want the volume to be set there every time you play music so that way the music isn’t overbearing, students can still talk to each other when they’re coming in. 

GONZALEZ: So they are doing this for remote too now? 

GIBSON: Yeah, yeah. All these jobs are happening remotely right now. 

GONZALEZ: Gosh, I love that. Yeah.

GIBSON: I tell them, try to just create a variety of music, and then tell us a little bit about the artist and why you shared it. I’ve had students that math isn’t really their jam but they love music. For them to be able to share that passion at the beginning. Like, “Oh, this is a song by an artist called Radiohead,” which I’m like, you’re in seventh grade. How do you even know who Radiohead is? “I love that me and my dad love this song. This is from their album ‘OK Computer’ which was really popular. One of the best-selling albums.” And they’re getting into it. 


GIBSON: I’m like, I love Radiohead. Thanks for sharing that. Another job is the motivational speaker. Every job that I’ve shared with you is a new job that I’ve created because of remote learning. 


GIBSON: Because I didn’t need anyone writing on the board, because I didn’t need anyone organizing my bookshelf or anything like that. 


GIBSON: So the motivational speaker, they record a one-minute screencast every week that I share on motivational Mondays. I get hyped up. They email it to me, and it’s just like a reflection of a quote, an idea. Like, “This is why I really like this quote. It means this to me.” One student has even been like, all right, well, stay motivated, everybody. He ends his video the same way every time, so he’s learning branding without even realizing it. 

GONZALEZ: Gosh, yes. 

GIBSON: I just play that, and I’m like, all right. It’s the time you’ve all been waiting for. It’s motivational Monday, and then I’ll play a little air horn sound effect. Then I’ll play the video, and I liked that being a video, so that way it’s not the student fumbling around, like pull something up. 


GIBSON: It’s just ready to go. They email it to me, and then I have it queued up, and then I just screenshare, and they get so embarrassed. Like, oh my gosh. The visual display artist is another job. This one was something that I used that was more in person that I think could work remotely. The in-person job, they would create posters for the classroom. Instead of me starting the year off with a bunch of posters that just become part of the room and nobody really pays attention to after the first week of school, throughout the year, I’m meeting with the visual display artist once a month and saying, hey, we just had a lesson on the growth mindset. Here’s a poster I found on the growth mindset. Could you create something like this? Do you have any ideas for what this could look like? 

GONZALEZ: Oh, that’s a great idea. 

GIBSON: Okay, great. 


GIBSON: When do you think you can get this done by? Next Friday? Excellent. I pull up an email. I draft it to them. I CC myself, and I say, hey, how’s the poster coming along? I schedule it for two days before the poster is due so that way I don’t have to remember it. They get the reminder. I get the reminder, and then they almost always want to get it on time. Then now with student work, the student has created something way better than I would have created on my own, and it’s reinforcing these lessons that we’re having in math, or these lessons on the growth mindset. The way that I think this could possibly work remotely is maybe if you have a student that creates graphics for your learning management system or your website. That could be your version of the visual display artist. The zoologist, I’m just going to keep going until you want to interrupt me. The zoologist, they take care of the class pet. You might be wondering, who is the class pet? Well it is the zoologist’s pet at home. At the end of the week, we just say, hey, how is Fluffy doing? Oh Fluffy looks so great. Did Fluffy do anything interesting this week? Oh that’s so crazy, Fluffy. You’re so out of control. And then we just have a little class mascot. Really easy job, but it adds a little fun classroom energy there once a week. 


GIBSON: The tech guru. In person, the tech guru would set up my computer. I would literally come into class, and then this is really helpful if you don’t teach in one classroom but you’re moving around. I would set my backpack down, and the tech guru would take my laptop out, they would open it up, I would type in my password. They would pull up the learning management system, they would pull up the class website, they’d turn on the projector, they’d plug my power in, they would freeze the projector on the class website, and then they would, with the frozen instructions on the projector, they would pull up the attendance so my other student job, the attendance monitor, could come up and then take the attendance. That was the job that would happen in person. Tech guru right now is my main go-to. Hey, tech guru, can you screencast the student version of this website so everyone can see what it’s going to look like when they log in? Or, hey, tech guru, this person doesn’t know how to do a screencast. I’m going to send you two in a breakout room. Can you walk them through how to get a Loom going? 


GIBSON: And then they go and take care of that. The KonMari organizing specialist, based on the Marie Kondo method of organizing is another job. This is for your super Type A. I feel you would have been a KonMari organizing specialist in my classroom, Jen. 

GONZALEZ: Maybe, maybe. 

GIBSON: These are the students that everything just has to be in its right place. This is one that’s going to work a little bit more in person. You can have a picture of what this bookshelf should look like, of what this supply shelf should look like, and then you train the student to say, okay, make it look like this every week at the end of class, or at the end of this time of the day. You have a specific time for them to work on it or office hours. Then get feedback from them. Hey, lately we’ve been having trouble getting the supplies, and there’s been this traffic jam, or there’s been this problem. Do you have any suggestions on how we can organize this a little bit better? You’re giving them more voice in their own job, which is something every single one of us wants in any job at any age. 


GIBSON: So just kind of getting that input from them. The assistant grader, this has worked in person and remotely. They don’t actually put grades in my grade book, but in my math class, I have the assistant grader go through a quiz or a test, and they highlight the first place a student makes a mistake, and they have a key for me. Then if it’s a multiple choice, then that’s a lot easier. They don’t write any of the numbers on the test or the quiz, but when I go through and nothing’s highlighted, I can be like, oh, this one’s a 100. I don’t even have to spend time looking at it. Or I can just look through and see what was highlighted. That student does have to sign a confidentiality agreement given the nature that they are looking at other students’ papers. And virtually, the way that this has been working is I’ve trained a student, sometimes it’s kind of tedious. If I have a Khan Academy assignment to go into Khan Academy, pull up that class, pull up that assignment, see what everybody got, move all the grades to my grade book. They go in. They have my teacher Khan Academy account, and I recorded a screencast for them on how to go in, how to find all this stuff, and they send a screenshot of the grades to my email, and then they also email any of the students that have the work missing. Let them know the latest they can turn it in. They learn what a blind carbon copy is so no one sees who that email’s going to. I’m included on that email, but since it’s blind carbon copy, I don’t see who it goes out to, but I can just see it on the grade book. That helps in my workflow a little bit. Then the last job that I’ll mention here is tutorial creator, another new job for this semester, this year. I implement it in my robotics class, which was a student, they would be making screencast tutorials about coding, little coding skills and little coding strategies that we have been learning in coding and robotics that I could put up on our learning management system saying, “Hey, how do you connect your LEGO EV3 with Bluetooth to your computer? Oh, go check out the tutorial” that the student had created. Not every class, that would make sense, but that is some of the jobs, and you can kind of see how a lot of these can work remotely, particularly the ones where students are creating something. 


GIBSON: They can work remotely or in person. 

GONZALEZ: I’m going to read this list over, because this is just something I do on my podcast anyway, and because I always imagine people are on a treadmill or they’re in their cars. Just so that people can remember what they were the most excited about. You’ve got a podcaster, athletic trainer, DJ, I love DJ, motivational speaker, visual display artist, zoologist, tech guru, KonMari organizing specialist, assistant grader, and tutorial creator. This is only half of the jobs.

GIBSON: Yeah, yeah. 

GONZALEZ: I just basically had to cut you off and say, only that many. But there’s a lot more besides this. This is just, there’s a lot of creativity. I would just think if I were a kid in your class, it’s just exciting. Do you ever double up? I’m thinking I would need maybe three tech gurus sometimes depending on what was going on in class or whatever. 

GIBSON: Yeah. Yeah, a lot of these jobs, you can have more than one person doing it. 


GIBSON: Like if you have three kids that really want to be the podcaster, it’s like, great, you all have a different segment of the podcast. There are ways. Or I had several students that wanted to do attendance monitor, so I would have someone that took attendance at the beginning of class, but given that we’re virtual, typically a student would go to the front desk, then they would be changed from absent to tardy, and then they would come to class. Being that it’s virtual, sometimes I might mark a student absent at the beginning of class and not realize they came in. I have an attendance monitor check a spreadsheet that I monitor after class is over. At the beginning of class, to say who’s absent, and then at the end of class, they see if any of those absent students came in, and they change it to tardy. So one of the classes, I have two of those. One does it at the beginning, and then one does it at the end. 


GIBSON: So yeah, you can have a variety, multiple students doing several of these jobs. 

GONZALEZ: Okay. So now we’re going to shift to the logistics of all this. Now that we’ve gone through what some of the possibilities for jobs. Let’s talk a little bit about how do you assign the jobs? How do you hold students accountable? Do they ever switch jobs part way through the year? And for this point, let’s just think about this if you were just doing a regular face-to-face classroom, and then we’ll shift to remotely, how are you making all of that work? 

GIBSON: Both remote and in person starts out the same way. 


GIBSON: I introduce all of these jobs to the students. I even have a document that says what kind of student would be good at this job. Then they have a job application form. The reason I do this is to create as much buy-in as possible, and to kind of get a gauge on what this student is actually interested in. They picked their top three jobs, and then with each job, they are writing why they would be a good fit for that job. Again, talking about how them doing that job is going to benefit the class as a whole, is going to benefit me as their employer, in this case, that is hiring them. So this really does maximize buy-in, because now they’re like, ooh, I really want to get that job. 


GIBSON: They are eager to get this as opposed to me just assigning them a job, and they’re like, okay. So I go through, as much as I can, I try to give them one of their top three jobs. If there is a case where I need a certain job done but nobody applied for it, there will be times where I’ll reach out, and then I will say, hey, would you be willing to do this job? I know it wasn’t one of your top three. I think you’d be a good fit for it for X, Y, and Z reasons. Let me know. More often than not, they’ll be like, yeah, no problem. Just like being asked if they would be willing to do something, it’s like, I’m not forcing you to do anything. They’re being invited to do something, and then I’m also communicating, I see something in you that would make you a good fit for this job. 

GONZALEZ: Yeah, yeah. 

GIBSON: So I think there still is that buy-in in the case where maybe I really need one job but nobody applied for it, so this person didn’t have it in their top three. As far as getting hired, once they get hired, they have a checklist of responsibilities. So originally they were just exposed to the general description of what the job does, and then when they get hired, they have, here’s exactly what you need to do. Sometimes that involves a screencast. If we were in person, like if I had my attendance monitor, the day they find out they’re attendance monitor, they have their checklist and it says, okay, go to Thom’s computer. Pull up this tab. Look on the first period. Click on this button. If everybody’s here, click “all present,” and then close out. And then I would watch them while they are doing it that very first time. Whereas a job like the podcaster, I’m not going to take class time to train them for that, but instead, the very first time they do that, I’m going to say, hey, why don’t you come to office hours on Monday. I’m going to train you in everything you need to do for your classroom job, and then the following times when we do that, once they get the idea of, okay, now I get the format of this podcast. I know where I’m recording it, and I know what I need to do after I finish it. Maybe we don’t meet in person during office hours. Maybe I just email them at the beginning of the month and say, what’s your plan for the podcast? When do you think you can get it done by? And then we don’t even have to have that meeting. So early on you might have to have a few more meetings outside of your normal class time if it’s a job that is not getting done during class. But giving the students that checklist and as much as you can, monitoring while they’re doing it those very first times and giving them that immediate feedback, will solve that problem and that feeling that you were talking about earlier, about what if they don’t do it right? 


GIBSON: This is classroom management 101. Make them do it again, not as a punishment but just as a way of, okay, so now let’s try it again. 


GIBSON: Another job I didn’t talk about was the boards manager who wrote the agenda every day, and I had a shared spreadsheet with them. So I would just have it keep it updated, and they would know what to write. The very first time they did it, a lot of times they didn’t follow the color coding corrections that I asked them, or they wrote too small. So I would say, okay, let’s erase it, and let’s try it again. 


GIBSON: And they don’t really want to do that, but now they know, okay, there is an expectation that I’m going to do this right. And it’s not just like, next time do it right, you know? 


GIBSON: Because then they’re just going to keep doing it the wrong way. That’s how I do it and organize it in person. One of the in-person jobs that I don’t need during remote is the messenger job because some of those jobs needed to happen during office hours, but I didn’t want to go chase students down if they forgot. So I had a list of students who had to come during office hours on certain days of the week. The messenger would have that list, and we had open campus during lunch, and they would run through campus and say, hey, you have to go do your job in Thom’s class. Oh yeah, I forgot, and they would run up and come and do it. So they were my messengers to make sure everybody was coming and showing up when they needed to do that. As far as how it has shifted to hybrid, the newest job that I created this year was the teacher assistant job. This one, again, is very much a Type A personality. They have a checklist of what happens at the beginning of class on Tuesday, what happens at the end of class on Tuesday. What happens at the beginning of class on Thursday, what happens on the end of class on Thursday. And then I have, they bookmarked it, and I’ve walked them through it at the beginning of the semester, and then I’ll just say, okay, Ashley, why don’t you go ahead and get us started? Okay, Oliver, would you mind setting the timer — because he’s the athletic trainer — for 30 minutes. Jessica, don’t forget to take attendance on the spreadsheet. And Sierra, what was the music that you were playing? They’re just going through each one. So even if I’m not there, all of these jobs are getting tended to, someone is overseeing it, and they really are just making sure all of it gets done. Then later in the week it’s like, okay, now at the end of class on Thursday, Jeffrey, how is our class mascot doing? So I’m not having to remember to do any of this stuff, and then that student really feels the weight of the responsibility it is on them to make sure all of these jobs get done. So that’s been the lifesaver when it comes to a lot of these remote teaching jobs, because typically I would just kind of see when things needed to get done and say, oh, who’s my tech assistant? Who’s this, who’s that? But now I actively have someone that is reminding students when to do these things. 

GONZALEZ: Yeah. You know what’s so funny, I’ve done probably maybe four to five different blog posts and podcast episodes and interviews that have some relationship to distance learning. This is the first time I believe that anybody has brought up this idea. I even went out on Twitter and said, what are your ideas? What’s working? Nobody, I think, once has mentioned the idea of giving students more leadership and more responsibility in these situations. With teachers being as overwhelmed as they are right now, it seems like a no-brainer, but I guess that’s part of being overwhelmed is that you don’t always see a solution that’s right in front of you. I just, I can see this taking what has just been such a difficult year and adding something. 

GIBSON: Yeah. 

GONZALEZ: A bright spot and infusing more energy into all these humans that we still have. They’ve got all of their talents and skills and energy, and channeling it into something. 

GIBSON: Yes, yes. It’s been something that students have shared with me. Like, hey, I really enjoy the fact that we have class jobs. It’s just really fun. And even parents, when they get a newsletter from their kid. They didn’t even know their kid was writing a newsletter in math, about math. You know? About what’s going on in math. 


GIBSON: Or the podcaster. One of my classes, the kids that I totally expected to want to be the podcasters are the podcasters. They’re your boisterous students and everything like that. But the other class, it was a student, he didn’t get hired for the podcaster job until maybe the third week. He had barely really spoken in class at all, and he applied for the podcaster job, and I was kind of surprised to see him there. Then he totally wrote his own music, intro music for the podcast. 


GIBSON: And like recorded everything and got it to me on the deadline. Then it was shared with the community, and his parents were like, oh, thank you so much for giving the kids this opportunity. So it’s like, it’s going beyond. It’s all of these things. It’s like, oh, we need to teach kids 21st century skills, but doing it in a way that’s meaningful and engaging and relevant and taps into the things that they’re already interested in. And it helps me, you know? 

GONZALEZ: Exactly. 

GIBSON: It’s less things that I have to do once I get things going. It is work to set up in the beginning, but once things start going, it’s like it’s on autopilot. 

GONZALEZ: Yeah. You know, it seems like it could also, I know so many teachers that have struggled with just getting kids to show up for Zoom. 

GIBSON: Yeah. 

GONZALEZ: I’m thinking if everybody’s got a responsibility, that you’ve automatically got a reason for them to show up. 

GIBSON: Yeah, exactly. 

GONZALEZ: Yeah. So you actually have a, now we’re going to shift to where our teachers can learn more about this. Some teachers are going to listen to this, and they’re going to run with it, but you actually have a free online course teaching teachers how to do this, correct? 

GIBSON: Yes. The course is called Essential Student Jobs for the Middle-School Classroom of Tomorrow. A lot of these jobs could work at the elementary level and at the high school level. But the course, if you’re kind of like, what you just said, teachers feel so overwhelmed, I think a lot of times it’s like, whenever I hear a new idea, like I’d heard your podcast on the Modern Classrooms a couple weeks ago, and it’s like, that sounds great, but ah, I’ve got to create, you know, then I found out they had a free course, and I’ve been going through that, and seeing, oh, these are all these ideas that other teachers, okay, now it’s starting to make sense. It’s like, I don’t have to create everything from scratch. That’s what the idea of this course is. It’s like, I give you all 26 jobs, and then say which ones could work remotely, which ones do the work in person, which ones could work with both. You see my Google Form job application. I walk through how to actually present this to the kids, what to think through when you are hiring students. How do you train the students when they’re getting their jobs? And just basically walk you through how to do everything that I just shared. That’s available at Thom is spelled with an “H,” Additionally, this idea of class jobs, several years ago, back in 2014, I read a book by Rafe Esquith on a classroom economy where the kids had class jobs, but they got paid in classroom money. They had to pay rent on their desks, and they got fined for misbehavior, and they could buy things in a class store. And so the class job is part of a smaller piece of what’s an entire classroom economy that I do and that I run. That was actually the original course that I had put up. I’ve got a course on how to teach kids about money where you take these class jobs, and then implement this financial literacy piece and this classroom money piece to it. And March 1 I’m actually starting the first cohort classroom economy course, so if you’re the type of teacher that’s like, yeah, I want to get this course, but I need the accountability of people doing it with me and deadlines and a schedule and a little bit more support, that is available as well. So the name of the original course is how to teach kids about money, and I stole your idea, the cohort course is How to Teach Kids About Money Plus, very much like JumpStart and JumpStart Plus. But that’s also available at, Thom spelled with an “H.” So for most teachers, I would recommend right now just starting with the classroom jobs though. As just a place to start with, but if you’re kind of like, I’ve been doing classroom jobs, but this classroom economy idea kind of sounds pretty interesting, and I’d like to gather a few of my teacher friends and do it together, you can do that as well with How to Teach Kids About Money Plus. 

GONZALEZ: Great, great. And then just in general, where can people find you online? If they’re not interested in the course, but they just want to find you, where would they go? 

GIBSON: I am on Twitter, @gibsonedu. YouTube is actually my platform of choice. I have a new video every week. I just started going live on Wednesday mornings at 8:30 Central, just for a 30-minute live show, usually talking about some of the things that I talked about in my video that I put out earlier that week. That’s And then I have daily Instagram Stories about what’s working, what’s not, and you can find me on Instagram @gibsoneducation, education’s spelled all the way out, where the other ones are just “gibsonedu.”

GONZALEZ: Got it. Oh my gosh, you sound busy. 

GIBSON: A little bit, a little bit. 

GONZALEZ: That’s a lot. 

GIBSON: Yeah. 

GONZALEZ: Thom, thank you so much for this. 

GIBSON: Oh, it’s a lot of fun. 

GONZALEZ: This is a really neat idea. I think a lot of people are going to jump right on it. 

GIBSON: Yeah, I hope it helps out a lot of teachers, and by all means, just reach out to me if you just have any questions about it and want to get started. 

GONZALEZ: Cool, cool. Thank you. 

GIBSON: Thank you. 

To read a full list of classroom jobs, learn more about Thom’s free course, or read a transcript of this interview, visit, click Podcast, and choose episode 163. To get your copy of the Teacher’s Guide to Tech, visit and remember to use the code LISTENER at checkout to get 10 percent off. Thanks so much for listening, and have a great day.