One of the aspects of teaching the classroom is the dedication to routines. You have a set of procedures you carry out before and after the day that promote a well-operating classroom.
Although I haven’t taught in the classroom for sometime now, the idea of a routine smacked me straight in the head as I left for work one morning. On this particular morning, I left without my morning coffee and only half my lunch. I don’t know about you, but waking in the morning for me requires two things – opening your eyes and a cup of coffee. No coffee means only half awake. Throw in that I only had half of my lunch meant that I would have to dish out $10 for food – and professionals in early childhood don’t exactly make big bucks.
I was kicking myself, but I kicked myself more because for the better part of 4 yours, I prided myself for submitting to setup and preparation routines for my students.
Every morning, I walked into a dark school, which slowly lit up as I walked down the hallway flicking on light switches along the way. I jostled my keys and opened my classroom door. I set my bag and travel coffee mug on the counter and turned on the lights. Then my routine started…
- Check teacher mail box
- Check the phone for messages
- Relay any messages to the teachers
- Grab the facility binder and check the school for cleanliness
- Head outside and setup outdoor toys
- Head back into classroom and prepare student morning writing documents
- Open windows and turn on computer
- Check that circle time material is ready and current day is posted
- When assistant arrived, pass along any instructions for the day’s lesson plan, such as material prep
- Children walk in the door
Monday through Friday without fail, I did this every morning. I had 30 minutes to complete it all and I did so with experienced efficiency. Some of the components of my morning routine were inputs from my director – such as the facility inspection. But the rest was mine and it was to ensure that the day had the best opportunity to run smoothly.
Of course, I would love to have more time to do things. Heck, wouldn’t we all. But what I learned from this is that having such a routine is not unique to preschool teaching, but a skill that can be applied in other areas.
I began driving to work without my coffee, and it’s a 30 minute plus drive. That’s a long time to wait for coffee, especially when all you’re thinking about while you drive is “I want coffee”.
That evening, I decided I needed a routine. I had only 30 minutes in the morning to get ready. I couldn’t wake up any earlier and most of the time was getting dressed and groomed. So, I developed the evening routine, which started the night before…
- Setup coffee maker for auto-brew at 6:00am
- Place non-refrigerated items in lunch bag
- Place lunch bag on island (more visible compared to counter)
- Put work bag on table by basement door (where I exit for my car)
- Put refrigerated items on one shelf in fridge
- Leave lunch bag open (signaling that it’s not filled with cold items)
- Have work bag prepared and packed
- Place clothes on bedroom chair
On the weekend, I check that I have all of the necessary components for my routine; similar to how a preschool teacher will check to make sure they have supplies for their weekly lessons. For breakfast, I make meals that can be frozen and then reheated in the microwave, such as breakfast burritos, rice and bean burritos, and… other kinds of burritos. The routine requires commitment, but I tell myself “You have it in you to do this, because you’ve done it before.”
I won’t lie. There is a level of satisfaction that comes with my routine. I’m taking steps to take care of myself, so that I’m prepared for the day, like I’m the teacher and student at the same time.