So what do I do when I'm stuck in a stale routine?
1) Do something different
Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I'm sure you're all thinking "no, duh what else you got?" It's important to remember this simple fact though. Our routines become comfortable, familiar, predictable. Many of us are creatures of habit and we like to know what to expect. That being said, what if our expectations are too low?
Start simple. I know most of you are teachers and depending on your principal, you may only have so much wiggle room. That being said, see how you can switch things up just for a day. Add a math game, ELA game, or song to the day(That's the only shameless plug you can expect, I promise.) You can also just pause and have a brainstorming session or Q&A forum. Think about a subject your kiddos aren't getting. Tell them you're going to talk about it and see what questions they have. I advise sitting in a circle for this as it will make for a more familiar, open, and comfortable platform. If you have a class mascot, like we have with Quentin the Quality Penguin, you can pass it around and they can take turns asking questions or explaining why they don't understand. You may even find that one of your stronger academic children has an answer you haven't thought of. Or, see how they might like to spice up the day. You can start the morning by telling them they are in charge of how they learn today and they will be like the teacher. See what is feasible given your schedule and try to incorporate as many ideas as possible.
2) Be Purposeful in Your Routine
Have you ever stopped in the middle of your routine after some time and just thought, "why is it that I do this?" I was reading the book Break Through Your BS, by my college friend Derek Doepker yesterday, and it mentioned the danger of disconnecting from your routine. He had certain practices throughout his day that had become stale because he was no longer intentional about them. His heart and mind weren't involved anymore. It is so easy to do this with routines because our brain becomes familiar and checks out. It's almost like muscle memory takes over or like we're operating through our subconscious. There have been some days where I have gotten through the day and couldn't tell you much of anything that happened. Sound familiar to anyone? So STOP. Think about what you do and why. Keep the practices that bring value to your day and your students' day. Throw out the fluff, and replace it with something more meaningful or effective.
3) Ask Someone Else
Your pride will have to take a back seat on this one. You know that teacher that has it all together? His or her kids are perfect, his or her room is perfect, and he or she never seems to break a sweat. You can't stand this teacher because how can they just get it? How can they never seem to have issues? Now I'm going to ask you to do something and you're going to hate me. Then, hopefully you will love me. Ask this teacher for advice. Something he or she is doing works in the classroom. You hate it, but it's true. Here's the value to asking this loathsome person for advice: it will go a long way toward quelling that bitterness you have inside, and it will make that teacher feel really good. Maybe you'll even develop a quality relationship. Maybe that person is struggling with something you can help with. You never know until you try. Reaching out and being more vulnerable helps you become more approachable, thus welcoming new relationships and making people more likely to reach out to you. We all have the same goal anyway, right? We want the kids to learn.
Well, I hope this was enlightening, helpful, at least thought-provoking. We are doing our best to break our routine as well. You will be seeing more posts like this about how to rethink things in your classroom. We already have 2 posts included in our Be an Educational Superhero series that are worth a read(Why This One Basic Teaching Principle is Holding Your Students Back, 10 Ways to Stop Sending Kids to the Principal). Subscribe to our newsletter for juicy extras and of course, those freebies y'all love so much. We want to bring more of these to you and accomplish our universal goal of making education better one day at a time.
Have a great week and break through those routines!