Remember Mr. Rogers? Fred Rogers- hero of children's programming, in his quiet unassumming way. Remember how you knew exactly what he would do when he walked in the door singing his song? He would change his jacket, put on the sweater. Zip it all the way up, and then half way down. Change shoes- always tossing the show from one hand to the other. Remember? It took me over 20 years to figure out that his little regular activities may very well have been the key to his success.
After a few years now in this job, I've found the key remains in having a routine. Wait. Strike that. In having routines. Plural. Routines for everything. It's the challenge I'm finding being in a new classroom. What are the routines? I tried to start this morning, even though I didn't have students today.
Walk in. Hang jacket in closet. Set down bag. Turn phone to silent. Turn on computer as I walk by. Go to windows. Open them, turn on fan. Come back to desk. Unload bag- lunch, important items, etc. Put bag in closet. Sit at desk. Check email. Look over to do list from day before. Breath. Start Day.
Having routines for myself, important, yes. It's what keeps piles from building up on my desk. It's what keeps me caught up on grading. It's what ensure I'm not forgetting anything. BUT, even more important, routines for the students. Routines that are sensible, logical, teachable, doable, and easy to maintain.
I think the advantage I have in this point of my career over the myself from the early part of my career is understanding exactly what that last sentence means. It means NEVER assume students will just figure it out. It means NOT changing systems mid year, even when the system in place could be improved- wait until next fall for that change. It means taking the first two weeks to slowly and methodically teach these routines as they organically appear during the lesson.
What do I mean by routines for everything? To name a few: Starting class, turning in work, handing back work, bathroom breaks, sharpening pencils, test taking, group work, daily flow of class, giving of information, ways for students to ask for help, partner work, portfolios.
My goal in planning to first two weeks is to let the oppertunities to teach these routines arise naturally. Going over every routine in the first two days is A) BORING. For the students and me B) POINTLESS. Students won't remember something taught out of context C) A waste of the best few days of school- the days you have the most captive and eager audience. Let's learning something, do some math, get our brains going.
So what I do is put all the routines/rules/classroom details that need to be taught on little post-its. Then, as I look over the lessons I have planned, I see where they will fit. Oh, are we coloring our "Who I am" poster on day two? Stick a post-it in my plan book. What a great time to teach where student supplies are and where they are NOT (Read: don't touch my desk). Turning in our first homework assignment? Stick a post-it in my plan book. Great time to show off the turn in baskets and talk about my crazy homework policies.
So anyway, that's what my brain is full of now. Do I have everything in place? Have I figured out all the bits and pieces that need to be taught? Do the first couple weeks look smooth, interesting, and informative for students? I sure as heck hope so, because I've been thinking so much my brain hurts.