Over the last few years I have continued to take this criteria into consideration, continually fine-tuning my approach. The ultimate goal for me is that all aspects of my work with children - including the daily routines - align with my philosophies about learning and my image of the child. This approach has led me to make some pretty significant changes over time in how I implement and address some common-place classroom routines.
Here are a few major things I've evolved since I started teaching:
#1 - Calendar Time
'Calendar time' looks almost completely different now to how it once did in my classroom. I used to use it as a morning routine. It was commercially-produced. We sang days of the week and months of the year songs. We counted the days, identifying numbers and recognizing what comes before and after given numbers or days of the week. Most important (and flawed) of all, we only filled the number cards up to the given date.
These concepts related to our learning outcomes but did not use the calendar in an authentic way. On top of that, I then discovered there is actually very little evidence that shows these types of calendar activities (which mark extended periods of time, like month and week) are meaningful for children below first grade (Beneke, Ostrosky & Katz, 2008, p. 13).
The biggest difference? Now children are engaged in self-motivated and personally-meaningful dialogue around this shared tool - not just memorized songs and scripted conversations.
#2 - Seating Arrangements
If we intend to teach independence and practical life skills, we must do so all the time. Not only during specific planned lessons. When I first started teaching, I set required seating plans which didn't give students enough opportunity to self-regulate.
Open seating allows children a developmentally-appropriate problem-solving opportunity. When two people want to sit in the same spot, what happens? How do they solve the problem? This is something I try not to intervene with and control anymore.
#3 - Classroom Jobs
Another routine I had when I first started teaching was a class jobs chart. In the beginning, I determined the jobs myself. Then we decided on the jobs as a class, which I thought was a great move to increase student ownership and responsibility. The thing was that the students were still being told what to do and when to do it - whether or not they had decided on the jobs.
Now I have no class jobs. Inspired by the sense of shared ownership and fluid responsibility I observed in the Municipal Preschools in Reggio Emilia in 2011 and a Waldorf elementary school in 2010, I favour a more organic approach.
In the past, I found that designated classroom jobs didn't really work to support the class community and environment I wanted. While they did give everyone a sense of responsibility eventually, they narrowed it to one area and encouraged those without classroom jobs to 'check out'.
#4 - Behaviour Charts
Does this traffic light look familiar? Surely at some point most teachers have used at least a version of this in their classrooms. When I first started teaching I had 25 children in my classroom and I was the one adult. A behaviour chart would be a great way to manage them, right? Wrong.
Well, not completely wrong. It did manage them, but in the most superficial way. And, upon reflection, in a way that completely undermined my educational philosophy of developing relationship with children.
- It publicly shamed children
- It was a point of comparison between children in conversations and friendships
- It wasn't developing authentic self-regulation
- It glossed over real conversations between teacher and student about feelings and choices
Now, there is no behaviour chart in my classroom. No traffic light, no stickers, no happy and sad faces. Instead, we emphasize supportive group dialogue, private conversations, and trusting relationships.
Have you taken the time to reflect and adapt?