Periodic Daydream #12
All teachers look forward to summer break as a time to reflect, recharge, and hopefully have a little fun. However, during this time I feel a bit like my nephew Wyatt when he gets off schedule and misses nap time–irritable and lost. I end the school year with anticipation that the summer months will be full of eventful moments and small personal accomplishments, a time where I get on track with goals that I’ve become a bit lax about. While I have high hopes, like a small child I struggle without the routine that I’ve become accustomed to during the school year. It takes me awhile to adjust to a new routine, and sometimes I get stuck. Time keeps going and I’ve forgotten about my intention to start jogging regularly, the list of books that I wanted to read, and the trips I’ve thought about taking.
The importance of routines is glaringly apparent to any parent of a very small child and probably every elementary teacher, but it is most likely just as vital to students in middle, high school, post-secondary, and adulthood. Routines are very powerful tools at any age, because they provide the support and guidance when we’re lacking motivation and clarity of purpose. They also offer a base level of comfort, a space where we know what to expect and can therefore be more open to new ideas and personal growth.
However, like two sides of a coin, some routines are wonderful supports and others are unnecessary inflexible crutches to our progress. Take for instance our routines that surround food, we can develop routines of healthy eating, that include avocado toast, salads, and smoothies, or we can lean on routines of convenience resorting to fast food and processed grab-and-go items. We can often use food in the form of eating out as a way to fulfill social needs, a time to connect with an old friend over a new cuisine. Food routines can definitely drive our lives one way or the other.
We are creatures of habit, and it is important that we continue to see how routines drive our culture and learning at all levels. What routines are important in education? What routines promote learning? What routines inhibit learning? Summer is a great time to examine our routines that have proven successful. Here are a few questions about classroom routines that I think are worth considering:
- Do your routines actually promote a culture of engagement/empowerment or are they just resulting in compliance?
- Do your students value and understand the routines in the classroom?
- Do your routines strengthen relationships?
Classroom management is essential if any learning is going to occur and this often involves developing successful classroom routines. However, it is very easy to create routines that only promote student compliance and do not lead to the flexibility needed for the diverse learners of today. Additionally, if your routines are only promoting compliance, this is often inhibitory to any relationship-building which requires knowing individual students with unique personalities and interests.
Routines that go beyond compliance might be uncomfortable for some at first, because they can look messy. If you are going to give students independent learning time, it will take purposeful effort on the teacher’s part so that students can take ownership of this routine, see value in the time, and make beneficial choices. Unfortunately, many students are conditioned today to expect the teacher to specify every detail and action of the class period. They may need modeling of the possible choices that they have during independent learning time. It’s important though to continue with the routine, even if it is chaotic at first–initial chaos is better than the perpetual compliance-only model.
Finally, at the foundation of all learning and routines are relationships. Routines if implemented carefully through reflection should support a community where students can build relationships with teachers but also fellow classmates. It is important that your routines recognize the talents of both your extroverted and introverted students–where student voice doesn’t correlate to vocal volume and assertive behavior. It’s vital that relationships flourish with all students, even the quiet, contemplative ones. These students have beautiful ideas that they are willing to share in the right environment.
So in the wide-open expanse of summer, don’t forget about routines. Find some time to reflect on how your routines support your personal and professional goals. If you’re feeling stuck, find support from friends and colleagues who can motivate and support you when attempting to develop and fine-tune new routines or replace harmful habits. Be realistic and intentional about your routines. A person desiring to run a marathon most likely does not run 26.2 miles on day 1. It’s okay to walk at times and catch your breath. Find your persistence and begin by making a routine of reflecting on your routines–the benefits are worth it.