Routines make everything easier.
Because they . . .
- Transfer excellence to everything you do.
- Cut way down on misbehavior.
- Save loads of time.
- Keep students on task and purpose-driven.
- Free you to observe and supervise.
Which is why anything and everything you do repeatedly as a class should be made into a routine.
This underscores, of course, the importance of establishing routines the first week of school.
But it also begs a question we’ve gotten a lot here at SCM: Do routines need to be done perfectly?
The answer: Yes they do . . . and no they don’t.
Let me explain. On the yes side, in whatever way you teach and model how you expect your students to perform a given routine, then that’s how it should be done. In other words, it needs to be perfect under the parameters you’ve set.
Otherwise, you’ll struggle knowing whether or not your expectations have been met. Furthermore, the routine will get progressively worse over time, and your students will be left wondering if what you say is really what you mean.
On the no side, your routines can be performed in any way you deem is best for learning.
How that looks to a Marine drill instructor, for example, may not be perfect according to their definition. But for the culture you’re trying to create in your classroom, it may be precisely what is needed.
Here at SCM, we believe that as long as there is no disruption to learning, you should allow for a level of freedom in your routines. In this way, you support, and even enhance, the enjoyment of being in your class.
Therefore, if you want your students to be able to talk politely while entering your classroom, then you should allow it. A perfect routine isn’t one that matches the precision of a marching band.
A perfect routine is one that is performed as taught.
The key to turning the vision of what you want your routines to look like into reality is in the teaching. It’s in defining for your students exactly what is and isn’t okay for every transition, activity, or type of lesson you do repeatedly.
For elementary teachers this means extensive detailed modeling and practice in order to prove your students know for certain what a perfect routine for your classroom looks like.
For middle and high school school teachers, you’ll do less and less modeling the older they are, but place greater emphasis on providing clear instruction.
In any case, once your students demonstrate that they understand what you expect—however much leeway that allows—and are able to perform your routines flawlessly, it’s your job to observe and verify that they do them as taught.
And if they don’t ? If one morning your students enter your classroom like they’re walking into an arcade?
Then you redo the routine. You reteach it in even greater detail. You eliminate every last excuse and misunderstanding. You raise the bar, tighten the definition, and ask even more of your students.
After all, perfect, although unique to you and your classroom, can never, ever be an acceptance of anything less than what you know is best for your class.
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