Each day we rely on habits & routines to navigate our day. Now, these habits & routines will need to shift to our new reality. This will be difficult but what an opportunity to reshape our today & tomorrow! Every day is a PD day. #myPDtoday
For most of us daily routines and habits are things we rarely think about until we want to change something like lose weight, stop a bad habit, exercise more, etc. Until that happens, we don’t really pay much attention to them. These daily routines and habits are essential as they allow us to get through our day without taxing us cognitively. One of the reasons we have trouble making changes in our routines and habits is because we often try to make too big of a change and aren’t able to follow through long enough for the change to become a habit or something stressful happen that taxes us and we return to our past habits and routines. Making changes to habits and routines is difficult, especially when they are part of our career. For teachers and students, routines and structure are part of the school. These routines and habits give us comfort, predictability, and security. We need them as much for our sense of well being as we need them to get work done in the classroom and school. Often, we don’t realize the importance of these routines and habits, until they are disrupted.
Routines and Habits turned Upside Down
So what happens to us when something like the current situation takes place and our habits and routines are removed? Schools are closed, people are scrambling to make changes. What do we do? For most of us, we begin with trying to maintain past routines and habits, to maintain a ‘normal’ in order to help us cope with the situation. However, in times of disaster, this isn’t really possible. There is no normal as people try to figure out how to deal with the changes that are taking place around them. People are trying to deal with making big changes. They are shifting to work from home, working different schedules or, for some, they are being laid off.
On top of this, children are at home all day long needing care and support as most schools move to online learning in some format. When this began, parents were looking for routines and advice about what to do. Teachers were doing the same, trying to move their classroom routines online. And there was stress! The routines and habits that worked so well for us before were incompatible with the reality we were plunged into. People were trying to make past routines and ways of doing things fit a new reality that didn’t look or sound the same as just a few weeks earlier. Daily there were news reports of the growing numbers of people being infected and the need for even more stringent measures to avoid the spread of the COVID19 virus.
At the start, you could see that people were trying to shift the school routines home. Charts with all sorts of timetable appeared on social media as teachers and parents tried to maintain the ’normal’. People were trying to fit what they had been doing into this new reality. However, this isn’t sustainable. These routines and schedules aren’t meant for this situation. There needs to be something new.
Developing New Routines and Habits
The impetus for innovation and invention is a need. At this time, there is a need to make changes to what we are doing, how we organize our days, what we do during the day, and how we interact. This won’t be easy and it won’t be without issues, missteps, failures, and problems. That is to be expected. This is about creating something new. For educators, this should be about helping children through this difficult time. Vann R. Newkirk II’s article, The Kids Aren’t All Right is a great piece about the lasting effect of trauma on children. It explains how children will be affected by this event for their entire lives. This is important to remember while trying to figure out what might be new routines and habits. This will be one of the defining moments in their lives much as other major events have affected generations before.
Routines and Habits are Important
As a parent, I’ve come to realize that routines and habits are important for our children. Being consistent and having a routine helps them, especially when things are stressful. But this isn’t a normal situation. This isn’t summer holidays or a vacation. This is isolation, where there aren’t playdates, or going out to the play with friends, or kids coming and going as they play together. This is spending day after day after day in the same place. It involves discussions about what is happening as news about what is happening is shared. This is about figuring out how to have time for each of us, as parents, to do the work we need to do. It’s figuring out how to develop routines for eating, exercise, learning, play, time apart, time together. It’s about discussing boundaries and sharing the work that needs to be done. It’s about rethinking what structure and routine mean for each of us.
Courage to Make Change
It takes courage to change, especially during a time of stress and anxiety. This isn’t a regular change but a change that we need to make because of a serious medical issue. Trying to force past routines onto this isn’t going to work. How can it? Sometimes it’s hard to remember which day of the week it is as they all seem the same. To make a change it takes courage to identify what is important. As a parent and teacher, I have found that paying attention to my children’s well being to be the most important part of this change. I appreciated this comment from a mom about the whole situation
"Hey teachers, I just wanted to let you know that however this week goes down — it’s all good," she wrote. "We’re on your team. This wasn’t what you signed up for, and I sort of can’t believe you’re actually going to attempt [to] do this. Your life is about to become one giant conference call with two dozen nine-year-olds who have no set bedtime and are hopped up on Captain Crunch and whatever their parents have been stress-baking for the past 12 days
This isn’t something you find in a parenting book — How to Raise Your Child during a World Wide Pandemic. And last time I checked, there are no classes in university for teachers entitled Teaching During a Pandemic. Parents and teachers are trying to figure this out and no household is the same just as no one approach by teachers will work. This is as close as it comes to "building the plane while we are flying it"!
But one thing is certain, what we were doing needs to change. It isn’t easy. It takes courage to make changes to our life routines. However, it can be done.
First, think of the changes as a series of small steps. What is the key step that needs to change that will shift the rest of the steps? Taking time to identify the micro-goals of the change can help in shifting our perspective on what it is we need to change.
We may want to change everything but we can’t. The enormity of the situation will overwhelm us. If there ever was a time for minimalism, this might be it! Start with a routine for the day that isn’t overwhelming. Look at what each person needs and begin to outline what exactly is necessary for each person.
Creativity to See Differently
As I wrote in Time to Pivot, one of the first things we need to do is stop, pivot and see what our options are at this time. Yes, we need to make changes but let’s take time to reflect on where we need to go and what is important. Our Kids Will Be Okay if we take time going forward. Focusing on developing new habits and routines for families isn’t easy. Developing new habits and routines for learning isn’t easy. Developing new routines and habits for teaching in a new situation isn’t easy. One of the greatest strengths that educators have is their creativity to meet the needs of their students. Let us provide time for teachers to see what students need, to focus on the relationships before we jump into all the rest.
New Habits. New Routines. Let’s begin with admitting we have to develop these and support students with the help of their parents. This is a tremendous opportunity for education. Let us take the opportunity to develop New Habits, New Routines.