Former procrastinators, I knew a first grade teacher who was a master at streamlining the many new things her students had to deal with. We can all learn from her.
The first month she focused on habit formation. What to do when the teacher says to line up, where to hang your coat, how to store books and supplies in your desk, how to sharpen pencils, how to behave in assembly. She allowed a great deal of time for teaching these things. She went over and over them with patience. They would practice drill these things during the day, not just at the time they needed to be done. When they were needed, she allowed extra time so nobody had to rush.
She said this attention to routine and habit formation paid off big time. Students learned what to do when, acted promptly and respectfully, felt comfortable doing what they’d practiced, and had the items they needed. It was not necessary to fight these battles throughout the year – no ever-occurring drag, delays, or frustration. With habits settled and routines familiar, students were free to learn academics and easily “caught up” with the curriculum.
A particular child can require regular extra help. Imagine how much easier it is to give that help when all others are moving in the routine! When you don’t have to direct everybody!
We can give habit training its own focus. If we put off learning routines until the fall schedule starts, there’s too much to learn at once. Starting routines a week or so before school starts will take a load off. Practicing ahead reveals glitches we can correct before they impact work or school days.
Here’s an example to help kick start thinking: (Wish I’d done this “back when”!)
What’s our aim? Walk out of the house at 7:40.
What must be done to achieve that? Everybody dressed, make beds, prepare breakfast, eat, clean up, check and load all back packs, totes, or briefcases, make lunch, feed and walk dog.
What can we accomplish the night before and when? After dinner, make lunches. Before going to bedrooms, check backpacks and brief cases and place by the door. Before lights out position shoes with clothes.
How will we set up the morning? Establish get up time. Use alarm. Mom wakes little ones. Set time everyone gathers in the kitchen for pre-assigned chores. Who does what?
How will we build in margin? Add 5 minutes to each task. Start 15 minutes sooner.
How will we interact with each other or treat ourselves when something goes amiss? Be patient, respectful, kind, helpful.
Everybody – or just myself – running in different directions, bumping and crashing through tasks makes a fun movie to watch but can be hard to live with in person. Adapt a page from my teacher friend’s book; practice run routines you want to use – before you need them. I know somebody who’s begun.
What routines will you practice ahead of time and when?