And yet we regularly advocate a routine-driven teaching practice. It’s a confusion that has kept me off-balance for some time. It comes down to this: if routines are good for my students, I’m willing to do them. However, I’m not good at following through with routines. So my good intentions of following through sometimes end up in the same place as if I had never tried.
Case in point: I told my students I would read them the morning announcements every morning, but to remind me if I forgot.
It took one whole day for me to forget. One of my very sweet 6th graders reminded me that I hadn’t read it and that I had asked them to remind me.
The same thing applies to blogging. If you look at my blog, there are periods where there are bursts of posts followed by long dry stretches. I don’t spread the posts out evenly throughout the year. I just capitalise on the motivation when it shows up.
When routine is about relationship, it changes everything. I know that I can plan my classes without Andrew - in fact, we’ve had long stretches where we didn't always get to the lesson plans for all of our classes - but I also know that the time we put into our nightly routine improves both of our practices and improves the outcome for our students.
So I am trying to trick myself into adhering to routines in other areas by framing them as being about relationship instead. I know that blogging is something that lets me share my ideas with others. I know that starting class with language mastery lets my students practice deeply-needed skills that they would normally not want to practice. I know that having a set time for 20% time or Genius Hour lets my students be creative and responsible for their own personal learning.
That’s something that surprised us this summer when we were researching creativity, actually. We read a lot of books, but Group Genius was the one that really made the most difference in our practice. The author claims that routine is actually the way to foster creativity and be a better writer. Anne Lamott and Stephen King both advocate the same thing - having a dedicated time to write frees your brain up to be more creative and open, allowing more possibilities and more insight to trickle in. And the point of writing, especially fiction, is to connect human beings to one another.
View that like a routine and it will become work, where we figure out how to do less. Treat that like a relationship between the author and audience and it becomes art, and we figure out how to do more.
This year, we are going to try to establish routines in our class again. Routines like writing silently for the last few minutes of class every day and doing language mastery (grammar, contextualised within writing practice) at the start of class to build their skills. Both of those things are less about making them practice and more about making our students better able to communicate clearly and effectively with other people. The hope is that those routines will allow them to be fully known and know others in a way that will connect them with their audience, both inside and beyond our classroom.
It’s why we have been trying to blog most days here. Our goal is connection, and starting a conversation. The routine has freed us up to be more creative, and suddenly, finding writing topics is nowhere near the difficult task it used to be.
It’s a small change, but one we hope will have a big impact. I know that for me, it already has.