The Power of Habit

georgeIf any teacher ever doubted the power of habit, the first weeks of school would change that immediately. We do not fully realize the many ways that habits make our lives easier and better until faced with a group of children who have no classroom habits. Habits are like computer programs, in that they let you say things like, “Go to the carpet,” and students know where to go, which way to face, how to sit and what to expect. Habits are great shortcuts, that can save lots of time, and cause positive behaviors to become automatic, if properly taught or practiced. That is why developing these habits is the main focus of instruction for the first few days of any school year. Once established, habits are either our best friend or our worst enemy.

Positive habits allow us to do what needs doing on auto-pilot. Because I have established good personal habits, I don’t have to think about when to set my alarm for a work day, how I am going to get lunch, or whether or not to exercise. I have a morning routine that allows me to live a healthy life without thinking about each step. In the classroom, healthy routines that allow students to use time effectively. Routines help both teachers and students know what to expect and be prepared to do their best.

Habits also have a down side, however. Every adult knows that unhealthy habits like smoking or drinking soda every day come with negative consequences. Classrooms routines that are too rigid to adjust to student needs or creative ideas can also make students and teachers miserable.  Trying to enforce a routine that doesn’t work is a no win situation for everyone. Be careful the habits you establish, both in your classroom and your personal life, because, once formed, your habits can dominate your life for good or evil.

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