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Routines and Procedures Solve Management Issues

by Gini Cunningham

posted in Reference and Education

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The primary key to a terrific school day begins at the start of each day, each break, each class change, or any time students enter your room. Greet them at the door with a friendly "Hello" and then a personal comment about each one. You may think that this is difficult, but once you have practiced a few times, you will find the routine to be quick and simple as it sets your students up from the positive atmosphere that you and your classroom exude. We all like to feel welcome and as if someone is happy to see us. Friendliness removes vulnerabilities as it advances positive perceptions. I promise: this really works.
The second key to success is clear routines and procedures in your classroom. When students know and have practiced your routines and procedures, they will adhere to them. And if they should stray, they may well self-correct or a student buddy may help correct them or you can quietly point in the direction of the desired behavior (toward the pencil sharpener, homework turn-in bin, or the trash can) and watch as they spring into action. Older students already have a pretty good idea about how to behave in a classroom but they may need reminders. For example, sharpening pencils when I am giving instructions or a student is speaking drives me crazy. This is noisy and disruptive and rude. I make sure students have two or three sharp pencils at the ready or I quietly exchange a dull one for a sharp one as I make my route around the room without a pause.
You may think, "Well, mechanical pencils solve the sharpening dilemma." For some teachers, they might, as for me, these drive me nuttier than sharpening. Kids like to click, click, break, click, click, break, and on and on. No, not all enjoy this routine, but I have found that many do. Not only does lead run out quickly, but the clicking is irritating and yes, it bugs me, and bits of lead are scattered everywhere. So I revert to the 2-3 pencil standard or I have a bucket of sharp pencils at the ready, all of them marked to indicate they are mine and must be returned to me.
If your students need books, have a plan for delivering them and gathering them at the end of the lesson, day, or year. Either they are waiting on students' desks' or they are piled for pick-up upon entry or they are checked out to the particular student for the year. Having students jump up and race around after the bell as they get materials causes disruption, racket, and a chance for problems.
The same holds true for any materials that you might have to hand out during the day. Have them ready in bins to set on tables, on a table by the door as students enter, assigned as a task to the team hander-outers who are at the ready to get the job done, or place them on desks or in cubbies before students enter the room. Yes, you are zipping around doing this while sidling toward the door for the greeting I explained, but with practice (and roller skates) you will soon have this routine down to perfection.
Just as you have handed things out, you have to have a plan for gathering: a table, a student, a bin, or other receptacle like your hand as you say good-bye should be ready for easy collection. Even handing in papers by rows requires practice. Last person hands his/hers to the next person in front who places his/hers on top and then passes the stack forward repeating until the pile has arrived at its destination makes sense. Older folks reading this may be thinking I am crazy, but I have been astonished at the flurry of handing forward that ensues without a routine. Papers are traveling every which way and the lack of organization creates excess noise and excess confusion and absolutely no instruction.
Have instructions, necessary materials, and schedules posted so that students know what's going on and so that you can avoid repeating yourself. You can simply point to the board or easel and students know they need books open to page 112 and pens ready to respond to the interesting question you have written on the board. There will be no unrest and bewilderment, no mystery as to the plan and the expectations because you have practiced, rehearsed, and now carefully detailed the actions necessary to get students ready for learning.
Glance around your classroom and note potential routines that you need to get into place: lining up; turning in book money; collecting homework; locating make-up assignments; backpack placement, etc. Decide when, where, how, why, and then design a plan for implementation. Also note that what is just fine today or even after week three, may start to grate on your nerves. Crunching carrots during snack time seemed fine until the munching and slurping and on-going commotion suddenly began to rot your ears and twinge your brain. Act now, add the routine, state the case, and solve the issue immediately. Yes, you will feel better and your management can return to its state of excellence.
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