Monday mornings, the first day back after break, the first week of school after summer break… they’re all the same thing: retraining days. We teachers work so hard to establish order through routine. It’s the only way one can work with that many individuals to get so much accomplished in a day. It’s a “two steps forward, one step back” process, though, when interrupted. I know parents can say the same thing. My child goes to bed at 9:00, but not last night. You gave him a huge homework assignment. Don’t blame me if he’s grumpy.
On could argue that routines were made to be broken, but I find that students are more successful when they have a procedure by which things are normally done. For example, if I have a writing assignment due every week by Sunday evening, my students are more successful at turning them in than if I randomly scheduled them throughout a quarter. Coincidently, I am better at getting them graded if I have a routine.
Routine equally helps the student with many extra-curricular events and the forgetful child. Just like making a mechanical memory by writing a spelling word fifteen times, doing something routinely makes it a mechanical memory. When I drive my husband’s truck, I inevitably put it in overdrive when trying to reverse. I finally figured out that his gear lever being in the center consul reminded me of my stick shift I drove for years. My mechanical memory was putting the stick in reverse!
Establish too much adherence to routine, though, and problems also develop. For instance, I had a child once who used to stay in the bathroom for twenty minutes. When I confronted the mother with what was happening, she let me know that he liked to take off all his clothes if he was going to have a bowel movement, and the dressing and undressing took a while! You can imagine my advice to her. Children cannot miss twenty minutes of class to go to the bathroom, nor should they strip at school!
So how do parents and teachers get on the same wave length when it comes to routines? I think teaching your child routines for broad scenarios is most helpful. For example, “be prepared.” This not only helps your kid not pull a last-minute search for homework, shoes, and retainer just as you’re ready to leave for school, but it helps him enter class with all required materials, a sharpened pencil, and homework done. “Be respectful” addresses excessive talking and noises, disrespectful language, and common manners.
How do you know if your child is carrying routines from home to school and vice versa? Look at how much trouble your child gets into at school. If your child is constantly getting into trouble for behavior, you are not doing enough to establish good routines. Time to step up. I have not met a kid yet who doesn’t appreciate the order in routines. My classes are the most fun for everyone when I’m teaching, not disciplining. That’s no fun for any of us!