Why Bother With Routines?

Why Bother With Routines?

Two small incidents at work this past week reminded me just how valuable routines can be. 

First, on Tuesday morning, I asked the librarian if she had any books on Benjamin Franklin or Henry Ford, two of the scientists that my students are researching for an essay they have to write. 

“Let me ask the secretary if I can borrow her keys to get into the library. I forgot mine because my routine was interrupted this morning, before even leaving the house,” she said.

“I know how that goes,” I told her. “If I get side tracked, I forget things too.”

Then on Wednesday, my principal asked if I wanted to accompany him to visit another school that is noted for their science program. “Pam can’t go with me today. Do you want to go instead?” 

Though I was interested, I glanced at the list of what I already had planned for the day. If I left my class with a substitute teacher, the important lessons I’d organized for my students would go by the wayside. 

“No thanks,” I told my principal. “I need more notice. I’m not a spontaneous kind of a person unless I’m on vacation.”

He understood. 

Benefits of a Routine

I am not obsessed about my routines and they do not control me, but I do know the value of establishing a regular way of doing something, not just for myself, but also for others around me. For instance, students crave a set schedule in the classroom and as soon as possible, I create one for them at the beginning of every new school year. In this way, they quickly learn what to expect when they walk through my doorway. The routine becomes second nature to them and as a result, my classroom hums with the rhythm students who know how to focus on their learning. 

My life did not start out with routines and order. Instead, I grew up in a chaotic household. But, my grandma’s way of living showed me how life could be different. Not only did she keep her house in order, but she lived an ordinary, yet orderly life. Everyday had its own set of chores and everything in her house had its place.  Watching her life showed me the benefits of routines. They brought comfort, confidence and calmness into a person’s life.    

I learned from her life and now benefit from what I learned. First of all, I know that planning for each day and sticking to that plan keeps impulsiveness at bay. I am more inclined to complete and succeed at work and at home when I stay focused on what I need to accomplish. Secondly, organizing my days before they begin saves me time and energy. Whether it’s packing my lunch or laying out my clothes the night before, I don’t have to run around looking for anything because I’ve already gathered what I know I’ll need in one place. Finally, my routines help to keep my mind from collecting too much clutter. Like a pilot or surgeon who checks their checklist before going down the runway or performing a surgery, my checklist assures me I’m clear for takeoff too. 

The best thing about establishing routines is that they free me from the tyranny of the urgent. 

Why bother with routines? Routines are worth the effort it takes to establish them. Once they are in place, we can walk through our days with more certitude, satisfaction and ease.

Why Bother To Be Encouraged?

Why Bother To Be Encouraged?

I’ve noticed that when someone acknowledges my effort in whatever task I am doing—trying out a new recipe, practicing a yoga pose or performing my duties at work—my heart is emboldened and my confidence is strengthened. Encouragement from others has a way of motivating me to continue doing things well. Just recently though, I’ve discovered how self encouragement also fortifies and affirms my abilities to succeed in whatever I am doing, more specifically, in my job as a teacher.   

          Self Confidence

I’ve not always trusted my abilities as a teacher. When I began my career, I inflicted more doubtful and self critical thoughts upon myself than confident and affirming ones. Too often, I compared myself with other teachers who were brighter, smarter and had more experience. Inevitably, I fell short of the standard I was striving toward—to be more like them and less like me.  Such a critique was unfair, but I did it anyway.

Then there were the faultfinding parents who accused me of being too tough on their child by expecting too much from them or not being lenient enough with my standards. These parents only reinforced my internal monologue—I am not a very good teacher. 

But, I did not quit being a teacher just because I, at first, doubted my potential to succeed. Somehow, I knew I had what it took to be a good teacher.

Now, with more experience, I no longer compare myself with other teachers. Instead, I glean from them, knowledge and wisdom. And as far as those fault finding parents go—there really has only been a very small number of them who have doubted my insights concerning their child. Most of the parents entrust their child with me, and in doing so, build up my confidence as that insightful teacher I always believed myself to be.

This last week ended on a very good note in my classroom. I’d been teaching division with remainders and how to prove division problems with multiplication. I’d introduced my students to the vocabulary words—dividend, divisor, quotient and remainder and the steps we take to divide—multiply, subtract and bring down. There were a handful who could do the work independently and then there were those who could not.

Creating a solution to teach those who are not grasping a concept while allowing others to move ahead independently is a dilemma all teachers face and it is what makes teaching enjoyable for me. I am always surprised with howI come up with ways to solve this daily predicament, but I do. This time, I announced that if you can work alone, then do so. If you cannot, then meet me at my table. While working with the students who needed more instruction, I looked around at my group of students. Everyone was hard at work because I’d worked hard to become the confident teacher I wanted to be. 

  Why bother to be encouraged? When we become less critical of ourselves, when we stop comparing ourselves to others, when our internal dialogue stops its accusations, then we will be encouraged and motivated to succeed at our tasks.