Sunday, August 14, 2016

5 Reasons Practicing Procedures Isn't For Me

Back-to-School is such a magical time of year. What other profession is afforded the opportunity to start fresh every year? While I do LOVE back-to-school and all of the ritual associated with it, one part of back-to-school can suck the soul right out of a teacher. Procedures.

The summer before my first official year teaching was consumed with procedures. Which procedures are the most important to teach first? How will I manage the pencils? What will students do to be excused to the restroom? How will I keep track of it all? Little did I know that deciding the procedures for my classroom would be the easy part. The hard part turned out to be actually teaching the students the procedures.

Fast forward 11 years. As a teacher with much more experience, I have learned that teaching procedures is more than just explaining them to students and then expecting them to carry out my wishes. Teaching procedures is hard work on my part. It requires me to be diligent and watchful, specific and clear. It requires practice and a little showmanship. 

But Honestly, practicing procedures is not for is for my students. 

Here's why. Teaching procedures and allowing each child the opportunity to practice gives students the 5 to 7 (give or take 2) repetitions that they need to retain the information. The vast majority of people cannot recall information after one exposure, especially without doing something with that information (like practicing, repeating it, writing it, drawing, etc.)

1. Practicing at the beginning of the year is good for the brain.
Whoa, whoa, whoa, you say. Won't they be practicing the procedure multiple times throughout the year? 

Yes, but, will they be practicing the procedure correctly? Ensure that you are monitoring their practice. It is much harder to reteach the procedure if they ingrain it in their brain incorrectly. That brain pathway will have to be broken and then reformed correctly. All of that extra brain work equals time. 

2. Practicing procedures reduces discipline problems later. 

Providing opportunities to practice procedures sends a clear message to all students that you have a plan. If students see you making a point to provide each student an opportunity to practice, they will be more likely to take you and your rules and routines seriously. Effective discipline starts with classroom rituals and routines. 

3. It's respectful. 
When I learn something new, I value the chance to practice. It takes the pressure off for me to practice in a safe and structured way. Consider that some of your more shy or anxious students need the chance to try it before they have to actually carry the procedure out. I like the example of using a school restroom. If you aren't sure how to get permission to go, and you really have to GO, it could be extremely stressful!

4. Allowing students to practice procedures is good for parent relationships

Share the procedures and that you have practiced them with your students' parents. Ask that they sign that they have read and reviewed them with their children. Doing this can save you so much confusion with parents later. 

If you share your procedures, it sends the message that you are on the same team. It shows parents that you have thought things through and that you care about their child having a smooth and stress-free day. That is what you want! It also conveys the fact that you care enough to write it out, so you will probably care enough to stick to it. 

SO many times I have referred to my procedures when a behavior problem arose. A few of those times, I was not following my own procedure. I was able to reflect and share my mistake with the parent. Showing that you are willing to take responsibility is a huge trust builder. The same goes for student relationships. 

5. It isn't fair to assume that students know how to do anything

You never know if your students have been taught the correct way to use even a glue stick. And anyway, what is the correct way? Guided discoveries of materials can save you grief and time, not to mention money wasted on replacing misused materials. 

Every teacher has "their way" of using materials and supplies. A teacher friend of mine has an elaborate and over-the-top-way of teaching how to use a glue stick. I have witnessed her teaching the procedure. Her way was awesome, but I would never have done it that way. Think about all of the times your student has either learned how someone else expected them to do something or has been left with no instruction at all. Remove the guess work and spell it out for them.

Need a place to start? I love this resource from my friend Brooke Brown at Teach Outside the Box. Free Procedure Planner