This week marks the last week of school before the Holiday Break for many of us. While the anticipation may be exciting and the end cannot not come soon enough, it is this week that we really need to stick to our guns! As educator's we know the importance of clear expectations and routines for smooth classroom management. But with the holiday's approaching and our inner tanks running on empty, it can be hard to stick with these routines. We are run down, spread thin, and just trying to make it to that glorious day before vacation. This makes routines and consistency even more imperative! Below are some reasons why:
What are routines?
Routines are repeated, predictable events that provide a foundation for the daily tasks in a child's life.
Why are routines important?
Routines support the self-regulation and executive function on children of all abilities, in that it prepares students for what to expect in any given day. Children with and without disabilities often lack key social skills necessary for success in life. So much of a young learner's life feels unpredictable. For many children, especially those with special needs, the unpredictability of certain aspects of their life is too much to handle. Social issues and academic expectations are challenging enough. It can be nearly impossible for some children to navigate tricky social situations, so we can image how challenging it can be to do this while figuring out how to stand in line, when to ask a question, or how to get the teacher's attention. It is important that as supporters of our students' learning, that we make every attempt to provide clear, consistent routines. This alleviates the uncertainty of the school day and classroom expectations, and allows for opportunities for instruction and practice of more complex, unpredictable situations.
What can teachers do?
Teachers can create a predictable routine for their students. These routines can (and should) be individualized to match children's needs in order to support their development, especially in regards to self-regulation and executive functioning. Individualization of these routines means that the sequence is the same, but the actions, timing, and requirements may vary to accommodate the child's needs.
As students and teachers are itching to get out for vacation, our behavior starts to shift. What was once a seamless transition to the lunchroom now sounds like a troupe of rabid monkeys at dinnertime. What was once a beautiful example of morning meeting, is now a quick, annotated version to avoid issues and move on to a more "fun" activity. We are better than this! Our students are better than this!
What should we do?
Most of us spend the first few weeks in January re-introducing and practicing our routines. Why should we have to wait? By maintaining our high standards that final week, we are able to better tailor or practice and instruction of these routines when we all arrive back at school. It also acts as an opportunity for students to be held accountable for their behavior before those chaotic weeks at home.
Besides the above reasons, continuing to hold students' accountable for their behavior by maintaining a clear set of routines and expectations will only make your life easier! Why would you want to have a 120 hour tension headache when you could just teach and support as you have been all year? Trust me - by expecting your students' to maintain their adaptive behavior they have learned throughout the school year and ensuring you are providing the most adequate academic and social support, you and your students will be much, much, happier and successful!
Enjoy your last week before freedom, have a joyous holiday season and a happy new year!