Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Importance of Routine

Many of you know I’m in the middle of marathon training. Last week I almost missed a speed run. It wasn’t because of injury or family reasons. It was because I couldn’t find my Garmin watch. Instead of following my routine of putting it back on the charging station, I put it… well somewhere else. I searched for that thing for nearly 40 minutes, even enlisting my daughters to help, but no luck.

I still went on my run, using my cell phone and a couple of apps to help time my splits, but knew that this mistake could cost me serious money. Luckily my wife ended up finding it… in the pocket of a sweater that was lying on my bed. Not following my routine ended up costing me time and raised my anxiety.


Routines are important for students as well. Well run classrooms thrive on routine. They build muscle memory, allow students to feel comfortable and confident in the classroom, lower anxiety, and uncertainty, and give teachers the full allotment of classroom learning time.

That isn’t to say teachers can’t be spontaneous, but basic routines as far as what to do when entering the classroom, sharpening pencils, or handing in homework are essential.

Over winter break our school moved into a brand new building. We went from a one-floor, two hallway school to a 64,000 square foot, 2-floor, multi-hallway building. Despite it being January, my teaching partner and I treated Monday and Tuesday as if it were the first day of school – no academics, no tests, all routines and procedures.

My new home away from home

Students came in the first day and we talked about their winter break, what they did, and gave students some time just to be middle school chatter boxes. We went over schedules, took a tour of the building as a class, and gave them a classroom scavenger hunt. They had to sharpen pencils, hand in assignments written on index cards, sign out to use the water fountain, and even staple papers together.

Our classroom also has two standing desks and six wiggle stools which students can use instead of standard chairs. We reviewed procedures and expectations of how to move to standing tables or how to get a wiggle stool. Students then practiced doing this.

These are amazing! I use them in staff meeting now.

By taking time and actively teaching the expectations in the new space we let students reflect on their anxieties in the new building and determine how to best adjust to the new space. On Wednesday students handed in assignments quickly and efficiently, moved furniture around the classroom without disturbing other students, and felt they had ownership of a classroom. By Friday students were fully confident in coming into classrooms and following procedures, leaving plenty of time for education to happen.

Even with a full mooned Friday the 13th.
(yes I know the full moon was the 12th and it was technically waining gibbous the 13th. I also know the century started in 2001 not 2000.  But sometimes pretending is fun.)

Monday, January 2, 2017

My 2017 Word: Risk

Risk is a scary word. It implies injuries. It implies danger. Risk implies failure. I have worked at Camp Mary Orton for a number of years and when I run groups there we always talk about risk. There is risk in everything you do. When groups are doing the ropes course I remind them while the course looks dangerous, they have done the most dangerous thing already that day - they drove to camp. Statistically there are more injuries on the road then there are on ropes courses.

My summer playground :) 

Risk is more though. Risk is about exploring, if not conquering the unknown. Risk is aiming for greatness, but not always succeeding.

There are a number of places I have not taken risks. I have a fiction novel that I wrote a number of years back. One copy sits printed on a shelf while the original sits in a cloud. I have a teaching book that I’ve been writing for years. It’s sitting safely in my mind. The risk of writing it and the steps beyond that are too great for me to comprehend.

Quoting one of your favorite authors after that paragraph? Ironic...

This is only one area of my life I have not taken a risk. I plan on taking risks on a number of fronts this year - physically, emotionally, mentally, and professionally. We are about to take off on this great adventure called 2017. I’m hoping to have a number of stops along the way:

  • Risk taking time for myself 
  • Risk being selfish 
  • Risk talking to authors and publishers 
  • Risk running more and further than I ever have before 
  • Risk implementing lessons that may not work 

Every great story starts with risk.  One of my favorite quotes is, “If you don’t risk anything, then you risk everything.” In fact it is the quote by my senior picture. My 2017 will be full of risk. I hope to see you along the way!

This pic will end up in my next kahoot :)