Finding Your Family's Groove :: Understanding the Role of Routine and Consistency in Student Success
It is human nature to thrive with routine and consistency. It is, quite simply, how our brains are wired. What does differ is the amount of routine and consistency we need to be our most productive. The same is true, and even more important, for students in middle and even high school. This is basic cognitive science and the fundamental factor, in my humble opinion, in managing a room full of adolescents.
I think we are all in agreement that right now is anything but routine or consistent.
I cannot emphasize enough that the more routine you establish and the more consistently it is followed, the more you will maintain your sanity. And even more important than keeping you from using your mind, it will be the foundation of stability that right now all kids need and have lost (for now).
Routines are the building blocks to developing habits. Habits are the secret sauce to a greater ability to learn. #teachertruth
If I did not have routines for all of the above, there would be literal chaos everyday. in my classroom It would be like letting zoo animals out of their cages. The pacing lions and tigers would run wild and terrorize the other animals, the sloths would curl up in a corner, the birds would escape, and the howler monkeys would not. stop. talking. Think I am exaggerating? When this is all over, I invite to be a guest teacher in my science classroom and we can throw routines out the window and see how it goes. (It gives me a panic attack to even think about it!)
The (under-appreciated) power of habits for students
In the simplest terns, habits allow our brains to have more energy to focus on novel (meaning new) tasks. Habits are built from routines that occur consistently over periods of time.
How long it takes to form a habit is dependent on a wide range of variables including individual dispositions, motivation to adopt the habit, time spent practicing, consistency of practice, past success with habits and on and on.
Routines are the peanut butter to my chocolate when it comes to teaching middle schoolers.
In addition to trying to give you real ideas, I also want to give you permission to try, mess up, try again, assess what works and work doesn't, make adjustments and try again tomorrow. It is exactly what great teachers do constantly (like minute to minute some days). You don't have to be perfect - you only have to commit to getting better.
Alright - pep talk over. Lets get down to what you need to consider::
#1 Your school's expectations and "schedule"
No two schools are approaching distance learning in the exact same way. There are public schools that already have virtual schools and are simply transitioning classroom students into that resource (mostly high school level), others are literally holding synchronous classes on-line. Most schools, however, are likely to settle into an asynchronous learning model. In other words, resources, assignments etc will be pushed out to students who then will work independently to reach the learning goals.
Your first step is to clearly understand your school's approach and expectations. Everything you do must be in consideration of those guidelines,
#2 Your family's needs
Think about your responsibilities in terms of not just work, but also running the household, (meal prep, chores etc), times during the day you can carve out to directly help your kids with their school work, and maybe even when you know you are at your best with the most patience and grace to give.
#3. Your student's needs
Once you have identified what YOU need to set YOURSELF up for success in this new role in terms of creating a new family routine, ,consider what will be effective for your student(s). If they like to sleep in , how can that look given the above two considerations? Are they independent and self-motivated or are they going to need you present (physically and mentally) to keep them on track? How long can they work without a break?
Have a family planning meeting this weekend and hash through what the new routine is going to look like next week. Give your kids a chance to have input as appropriate, write down the schedule/expectations (side note - this does not have to be Pinterest worthy and color coded - simple simple simple). Be open and honest about what you need in terms of a routine, what it looks like for your productivity, why this is necessary....have the big talk.
Swing by The Parent Teacher's Lounge this weekend on FB - hopefully parents will be willing to share their starting strategies. If you are feeling overwhelmed or need more family/student specific support, reach out and we can chat.