A Schoolteacher's Musings · Blog 365

Classroom Secrets #1: Why We Love Our Routines

In our classroom, we have a cue that says, “We’re starting the day now” – I say to the class, “Good morning, ladies & gentlemen,” and they reply in chorus, “Good morning, Miss Kinne.”

We have a cue that says, “We’re ending the day” – they line up and I high five each one of them and tell them to have an awesome day as they leave.

We have routines and traditions and scholarly habits and we practice them every day in all that we do. Does this become boring? Old after a while? Some things we might get tired of and want to change up a bit, but on the whole, we all – teacher and students – love our routines.

And the reason for that? We find comfort in the predictability – we like knowing what to expect, and we find safety in that which is stable.

I know that I, personally, breathe a sigh of relief after coming home from a vacation (as needed as it is) to have my own regular food, my own regular bed, and my own regular schedule. I like the change for a little bit, but I like falling back on that which I know best – which keeps me going day in and day out.

It’s no different in our classroom – our “home away from home” so to speak – where students shouldn’t have to worry about the small things like routines and schedules in order to learn. The best kind of learning happens when we feel safe and stable.

I take such joy in our routines, making some of them fun habits (like different ways to line up or choosing a song to listen to at the end of the day) – and some of them just homey habits (like turning the lamp on when it’s a rainy day or quietly reading to piano music to start our day off).

For those kids who might not come from a stable home, I want them to have a safe, predictable place for at least six hours out of their day – to show them that I care enough to make this classroom a friendly place. For the kids who do come from a stable home, I want to extend that throughout the day – for if I were sending my own kids off to school, I would want to trust that their classroom was just as predictable and safe as their home life.

The kids don’t recognize that all of the things we do throughout the day are intentional and purposeful, creating a culture of trust and security. But they would be able to sense it if such routines were not in place and the day was filled with unpredictable chaos.

We certainly don’t run our classroom like a military base with strict orders to toe the line or else. There’s flexibility and laughter and gentle reminders (and stern reminders) and always an encouraging of growth and changing. But it’s done within the confines of expectation – the expectation to be scholars, the expectation to contribute positively to the classroom, the expectation to not be wasteful and to pick up after ourselves, and the expectation to carry on the traditions that we’ve started.

For these traditions and routines that we do in Room E101, the students will remember and carry with them as they move forward in school. Hopefully the academic skills will be ingrained into them, but even more so, hopefully the skills to create a safe, loving place will be most strongly ingrained in them.

My childhood was filled with routines that didn’t mean much to me at the time, but which I look back on now with profound gratitude. Dinner always at 5:30 around the table with the whole family. Dad leading us in devotions. Schoolwork starting at 8:30 and ending around 11. Going to the library and checking out stacks of books. Apologizing and asking for forgiveness. Singing and music.

These are the things that were written into my soul as important, and I still exercise such habits and routines to this day – because it is true that kids will pick up more of what you do than what you say. I pray every day that the culture created in our classroom is one of love and order, so that the students will pick up on habits that will reward them well the rest of their lives.

Because 5th grade won’t last that long. And before you know it, they’ll be in middle school, high school, college, and then jobs. And if they put into practice just a little bit of the stability of routines and habits they learned in this classroom, I will feel like my job was accomplished.

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