I remember when I was a classroom teacher and it was the beginning of a school year. I taught elementary school and had either 2nd, 4th, or 5th grades in front of me. No matter which of those grades I was teaching, building routines was a huge part of the first few weeks of school.
We had procedural routines such as where to hang backpacks and how to choose a lunch choice in the morning. We also had behavioral routines such as when it was a quiet work time versus a time that it was ok to talk while working. We also had routines centered around transitions and moving from one place to the next, such as from the rug space to desks or walking in the hallways.
All of these routines were very important in my classroom. I knew that and, like I said, always spent considerable time at the beginning of the school year teaching those routines. Routines made the classroom a better place to be and helped things to run smoothly.
But today- today I had an ah-ha moment. I was re-reading Pam Formosa’s book “Fraid Not! Empowering Kids with Learning Differences”. I read her book about a year ago, but I am taking part in a book discussion she is running tonight and I wanted to re-read it before the event.
Anyway, Pam- as you may know by now from reading my blog, is the owner/director of Brain Fit Academy and has also been an amazing mentor to me in many, many ways. And today- when I was re-reading her book, something jumped right out at me.
In the book, she was talking about “The Learning Loop“. The Learning Loop is the visual that we use at Brain Fit Academy to help kids understand how stress can affect learning, and how we can use movement (such as Brain Gym® activities) to get us back “into the loop”. Here is the image for reference, but for more detailed information I invite you to read the blog post where I go into more detail.
As Pam was talking about the Learning Loop, she mentioned (rightly so) how in school, children often spend the bulk of their day in the “stop and think” side of the loop as they are continuously learning new information. But then- you know what she said?
She wrote “This is one reason why routines are so important. Routines are already learned patterns of behavior, such as bedtime activities, or the sequence of tasks done when entering a classroom in the morning. It allows students to be in the “move and think,” automatic side for awhile in order to re-energize”.
I’ll say that again- routines “allow students to be in the “move and think”…..in order to re-energize”.
BAM! Mic drop.
Allowing students- kids- anyone!! to be in “move and think”. To have times, to have parts of their day that are familiar, done with ease, already learned and automatic.
Routines! To RE-ENERGIZE!
Never, in all my 20+ years of teaching and 17+ years of being a mom- have I heard routines explained in this way.
Did I know routines were important? Yes. Did I create them for my students (and for my own kids at home)? Yes.
However, I never thought of routines as a way to re-energize the brain and body! It makes perfect sense though. And, it makes perfect sense as to why, when we don’t have routines in place, things don’t go as smoothly. Kids have a harder time going throughout their day and can more easily get “bopped out of the loop”. Maybe it’s in school, or maybe it’s at home- but not having time to re-energize can mean that we have a harder time staying in the loop and feeling regulated in our emotions.
Thinking now, about the world-wide situation we’re in- still in the middle of a pandemic when so many routines have basically gone out the window- no wonder so many of us find ourselves “out of the loop” so easily.
Yes, there’s the stress response and that can push us out. But what about that lack of routines. Surely, that is also playing a part. I’m sure it is. Looking at it in this way- routines as a way to re-energize, I would say that it’s a factor for sure.
So what should we do about this? Well, that’s a tough one other than to say that we should do our best to keep as many routines going as possible right now. Both at home and at school. Think of that “why” of routines- to re-energize the brain and body.
Kids need the routines. We need the routines.
I know I would like to stay “in the loop” more.
I know I would like to have time to re-energize. What about you? Would you like that too?!?