Friday, January 29, 2010

"But You Sit Behind Us"

We do things in a consistent way in my class. Kids like knowing what to expect. While we do have a variety of activities and change some of the things we do to create interest and curiosity, we do have a few "routines" that maintain a comfortable consistency. 

For example, after our time of learning and exploring through activities, we clean up and gather chairs for some group learning time. We count chairs and make sure we have enough for everyone. Kids help do this, giving them some responsibility (and real-world application for math!). 

Last week something disrupted this ritual--I was sick and not there. The kids cleaned up and gathered the chairs, one for each child. The chair for the teacher to lead was in place. Still, Ian went to get another chair. Mrs. Cindy called to him and said we had all the chairs we needed. 

"I'm getting one for you," he said. 

She indicated the lead chair. "I'm sitting here."

"But you sit behind us," he said.

"I'm going to lead the group," she said.

Everyone was confused. Mrs. Cindy never leads the group. But, since I wasn't there, she did. My absence had upset the regular routine. Cindy was in the wrong place. They didn't need the extra chair. Confusion (if only for a instant) took over.

Kids like their routines. We have a few. (When you come in, place personal belongings near the door; when painting, put on a smock before and wash your hands after; and so forth.) These routines build in predictability and security. And a strong foundation for learning. 

(And it was nice to learn that I was missed!)

Photographer: brad montgomery


  1. One of my favorite quotes is Goethe's line: "It is within limitation that he first shows himself master."

    Our classrooms sound very similar: a solid, reliable routine, with lots of freedom within that routine. In college, I was talking to a drummer. Punk rock was just getting going and he'd just been to a show. He was so excited because, as he said, "I just figured out how to play punk drums. You can do whatever you want as long as you get back to the beat." I sometimes think that describes our school.

  2. Isn't nice to be missed. Last week I had to attend a meeting for about an hour and had a sub in my room. When I returned a parent volunteer had shown up and was helping the kids with their writing... SHE said she had missed me and thought I was out for the day. :)

  3. Routine does give a sense of security and when a teacher goes missing from the classroom - it can really be upsetting. I go into childcare programs regularly that struggle with teacher turnover and absenteeism and see the havoc it causes on the poor kids. I think that is why enjoy reading these blogs where teachers care so deeply and provide consistency and routines. I am glad you were missed - if I were your student I am quite certain I would have missed you too:)

  4. karen Nemeth, www.languagecastle.comJanuary 31, 2010 at 8:44 AM

    This is so important! But why do I see so many childcare centers shifting around staff every day to save their profits? In NJ and PA we see a lot of this. It is terrible for the children and for the staff - just keeps money in the owner's pocket. Parents pay for a full week even if their child gets sick or has an appointment - but as soon as a child leaves, they try to combine classes or leave a group with just one adult. Sending staff home at a moment's notice means they can't ever count on a steady paycheck. It also means the children don't know from day to day who is going to be their teacher. How can we help child care owners understand this is bad for children and staff??