One of the most consistent “words of wisdom” I received while observing classrooms, interviewing teachers, and throughout student teaching in various special education classrooms was “keep things consistent.”
This consistency is key in the day-to-day routines, in how you run your groups/present lessons, and even in your classroom and behavior management systems. Okay, I thought, when I have my own classroom, I can certainly do this!
Step 1; Balancing Routine;
Fast forward to my first couple of years in my own classroom…. As many novice teachers do, I spent a great deal of time over planning for each and every lesson, and for each and every child within each lesson. And, “over planning” may be an understatement!
Nevertheless, it always made me feel better because I was surely never without materials to use, or a lesson to pull from in order to maximize time. And, of course, with all of those plans, I was bound to be able to keep a routine and make my classroom run as smoothly as possible, right?
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So, I quickly realized, I was only partially correct…. In the first couple of years, Nah, more like weeks, I also realized that there were some other VERY important words of wisdom….”Be flexible!”
Step 2; Be Flexible;
I quickly learned that I could plan out an entire month, and have things as organized as possible, but when push came to shove, I also needed to be completely flexible. At times, students were going to struggle no matter how well I planned a lesson. Or, on the other hand, students, no matter how well I knew them, were going to excel at a task that I anticipated would be challenging.
I also learned that home life, who students sat with on the bus, what they heard in the hallway coming to class, and what they had to do after school that day, would all GREATLY affect their ability to learn in school.
So now, the words of wisdom I share with any new teacher, or any parent struggling to make things work at home, are this: “Have a routine and be consistent, but also be willing to be equally as flexible.” Yes, routines are necessary and helpful as they set the stage for students, especially those with special needs, to know what to expect.
Balancing Routine With Flexibility;
Routines even relieve some of the anxiety and worry that comes with going to school. But students also need to know, and feel, that you’re more than willing to just go with the flow (within reason) and change things up last minute, for any number of reasons.
Some days, where I expected to give an informal assessment, I realized that the students weren’t ready to perform their best, not because they didn’t want to, but simply because of something that occurred outside of their, and my, control. So, we played a learning game instead.
In these moments where routine needs to become flexibility, it’s also an opportunity to teach your students to be flexible, too. Because, despite our best efforts, life is always going to throw us a curveball so why not prepare our students and children for those curveballs?
I challenge each and every one of you, both in your life, and your child’s, to provide the routines that make kids feel safe and successful, but also find the ability to be flexible and show them the value in that, too.
Have you encountered a time where being flexible was necessary?