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.)

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