Why Wait?

Oddly enough, I have been thinking a lot about New Year’s resolutions lately. Specifically, I think about how I can’t wait for January so I can start getting back into a healthful eating and exercising routine. Of course, I could start working on those things now, but it’s November. Pretty soon it will be Thanksgiving, and I’ll overeat that whole weekend. Then, the December holiday season will begin, bringing its own round of eating and scheduling challenges, so what’s the point?

Well, the point is that I’ll have ten extra pounds to deal with by the time January rolls around! So, instead of waiting, I’m going to try to reinstate and follow the routines I started last January rather than waiting two more months. (That is, I will start as soon as I finish the last few pieces of Halloween candy . . .)

All joking aside, the same logic applies to classroom routines and behavior expectations. For many teachers at this time of year, routines—lining up, responding to signals for quiet, transitions—are not going as smoothly as they were when the school year was fresh. Back then, we were paying a lot of attention to routines—we practiced, we reinforced, we practiced some more. But, as with my healthful eating/exercising, once the year gets going, most of us become less attentive, and usually, the results show. The results: students take an increasingly loose approach to meeting expectations, teachers feel frustrated, and it takes quite a bit longer to get from point A to point B.

Sure, we could wait until January to start afresh. After all, things will be a little more chaotic this month and next—there are school holidays, plus more assemblies and out of the ordinary events, and students may have obligations outside of school that leave them tired or distracted. Why bother?

We should bother because these things matter. Taking longer on nonacademic aspects of the day cheats students of learning time. Feeling frustrated with our classes makes us less effective teachers. Lack of certainty about routines and clarity about expectations makes students feel unsafe, and can lead them to test limits. Why wait until things get worse?

Why not revisit routines now? You will feel better, and your class will too. In my next few posts, I’ll give ideas for reteaching routines and keeping them crisp once you get them back to where you want them.

Margaret Berry Wilson is the author of several books, including: The Language of Learning, Doing Science in Morning Meeting (co-authored with Lara Webb), Interactive Modeling, and Teasing, Tattling, Defiance & More.

Tags: Revisiting Rules, School Breaks

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