If I had to look at one area of my teaching practice this would be it!

15 February 2012

If you could change one thing about your teaching practice what would it be?

It might come as a bit of surprise to most teachers but I wouldn’t change my teaching strategies, my classroom management plan, my class rules, and I wouldn’t find new ways to deliver the content.  All of those things can be useful but don’t deal with the core reason why your students are not performing at their best.

If I was only allowed to change one area of my teaching practice it would be the class routine. Here is why:

It is a fact that 95-99% of life is made up of habits or routines

You seldom stay in bed in the morning, wondering if you should get up or not; the question is only when.  Once up, you follow approximately the same routine every morning.  You tend to put on your socks in the same order, brush your teeth in the same pattern – without even knowing it!  You then drive to work the same way, leave at the same time, park in the same spot and follow the same routine (if someone has parked in your spot this is a sign that today is going to be a bad day!)

Both privately and in your professional life, habits and routines permeate your day.  Habits enable you to cope in life.  In situations where we don’t know how to behave, we feel uneasy and stressed.

A great example of this is the feeling you have when you go to a house and don’t know if it is a shoe on or shoe off house.  The person opens the door and you see that they are wearing shoes, but there is a large pile of shoes at the front door.  It’s not until they tell you what the routine is i.e leave your shoes on or take them off that you feel at ease.

It is a fact that 95-99% of life is made up of habits or routines

If this happens on a regular basis, our self image becomes distorted and our self confidence is weakened (we can all think of a student where this is the case).

If 95-99% of life is made up of habits or routines then it makes sense that 95-99% of our success and failure is due to our routines.

Occasionally you might strike it lucky and get a good result without a routine, but if you want to repeat that result then a routine is needed.

Routines give your students a sense of security.  The students know what to expect, and they have a sense of control (which sounds like a paradox when they are essentially in a controlled environment) but there is a sense of being out of control when things are constantly changing.

In my classroom, everything (and I do mean everything) is done on routine.  Over the years I have taken the time to discover what routines work for me based on my personality, teaching style and type of student I’m teaching.  When I find something that works I make sure I build a routine around it to ensure I can repeat that success.

Similarly, if I find that something is consistently not working then I examine what is happening in my routine at that point and then I make adjustments to it.

Once I have my routine sorted, then I put some rules in place to ensure that my routine is maintained.

Let me give you an example of how this works in my classes.

In my school we didn’t have a bell to tell the students when to lunch was over.  As you can imagine the students would wander into class as late as possible with all sorts of creative excuse as to why they were late.  I found that this was incredibly disruptive and I found myself trying to settle the class several times before we could get on with the lesson.

This was a terrible start to my routine.  So to get my routine under control I set a rule that all students must be seated ready to work no later than five minutes into the start of a lesson.  I would tell the students to set their watches to the clock on my wall because I wasn’t going to accept any excuses.  If the students were later than five minutes there was a strong consequence.

At five minutes into the lesson my routine would start with me marking the roll and then moving onto explaining what I was expecting from the students on that day.

If you are struggling with a particular class, my advice to you would be rather than looking at your strategies look at your routine. It is the one area of your teaching practice that will benefit you and your students the most.

So, back to the initial question.  If you could change one thing about your teaching practice what would it be?


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