This week has been October break, and I know this year is going pretty well because I’m not dreading going back to school on Monday. Unfortunately, I seem to have back-to-school nightmares regardless.
This time, the nightmare wasn’t that my kids were misbehaving. It was that I hadn’t bothered to prepare anything for class, and suddenly I was in front of my students. I normally am pretty good at winging it (although I try to never do that unless my planned lesson turns out to be terrible), but that wasn’t my concern. My concern was that I would ruin the procedures I’ve worked hard to establish. Every day, the kids enter the room, take a Do Now paper, and sit down silently to work on it. Then we trade papers to grade each others. While they work, I hide their multiplication quizzes (for my ASU intervention) under their binders, so they’re ready to go as soon as the Do Now is finished. All I have to do is count down from 3 while holding my timer, and the kids know to pull out the sheet and work for a minute. When we finish the quizzes, they record their work and put the papers where they belong without me even having to give directions. Then they get their worksheet for the day and listen while I start the lesson.
It runs smoothly and quickly, and I lose very little class time because the kids know exactly what to do. It only works because we do it reliably every single day. Routine is good for classroom management and good for learning. In my dream, I wasn’t ready with the worksheets, and I was terrified that I would do long-term damage to my hard-earned routines and procedures. And that definitely counts as a nightmare.