Being consistent makes me tired! And I am tired of trying to be consistent! I know consistency is important, but it would be easier to just let some things go. I also know I will be glad later on that I kept up with it now.
I was leading my class to PE today, and heard stomping behind me. I checked and noticed several students stomping their feet as they walked down the hall. Is this how we walk in line? No. Someone began talking. Some children were walking out of line. This is not how we have discussed hallway procedures, and it is not how we have practiced. I need to be consistent! If I have required a quiet line on previous days, I need to keep to that. If I have asked the students to walk in line behind the person ahead of them, I need to continue that directive. I was ready to get my class to PE so I could have a little break, but, I needed to deal with this line right away. I couldn’t overlook it or it would continue to get worse. If the problem progressed, my class would not be following the school guidelines for hallway procedures and I would not be following through on what I have taught my class.
We were almost to the gym for PE, but we had to turn around and go back to work on our line. We didn’t get it the second time, either. That time, children talked to others and waved at each other. So we turned around again! By this time, the PE teacher was looking for us. I said we have to practice our line. On the third try, we finally got our line in order and quiet and continued on to the gym.
Someone might wonder, “Does it really matter if they walk in line? What’s the big deal?” It actually does matter. We process a number of classes through the hallways and if each one goes in a line, we can all get through. It also matters because I need to follow through on what I say. If I don’t, the children will soon realize, “It doesn’t matter, she’s not going to make me do this anyway.” “I can do what I want, ‘cause the teacher will change her mind.”
It is tiring to always be thinking about this, and trying to be aware of everything! Another example: in our school all the teachers watch out for all the students and we try to work together. I was standing in the hall to receive my class after recess, and another class was waiting to go to recess. They were getting restless, talking and bouncing on the stairs. When their line moved, one of the boys jumped down most of the stairs. I said, “Louis, go back to the top and step on every step.” He did, except he jumped over the bottom step. (Hey, he did it, didn’t he? No, he really didn’t follow the directions.) I reminded him, “Go back up and step on every step.” He did and this time he got each step. (One of the perks of teaching many years is having taught almost all the students, so I know their names!)
I am considering this writing as encouragement to myself to be consistent, and I pass it along as advice from a long-term teacher: be consistent now at the beginning of the year. Establish procedures and protocol and follow through on them. Think ahead and plan for routines: this is how we’ll turn in papers. This is how we hand out materials. This is what we’ll do at lunchtime. This is the way we behave in chapel. I can refer to our posted rules, reminding students of our expectations and being consistent in upholding those expectations. I need to do what I say. If I say, “This is a warning—you need to be quiet,” then I must follow through on consequences for the one who keeps talking.
I want to be consistent in prayer, ask for the Lord’s guidance, and have consistency as I apply what I’ve already learned in teaching. I have to keep in mind that I cannot anticipate some things! I cannot anticipate that a little boy will decide a toilet plunger is something to experiment with in the bathroom and leave standing puddles! Neither can I anticipate someone getting sick, or throwing a fit. The consistency here will come from that constant attitude of prayer, and my focus on building relationships. As I get to know my students, I can soon see those students who will need some extra direction, or those students with whom I need to frequently check in. I will find the ones who need extra motivation or admonition.
One thing that helps me in being consistent is practice. I teach procedures and model expected behaviors. We may practice as a class. I may ask some students to practice at recess or break. Daniel practiced following directions at first recess. He continued to have difficulty with this, so I informed him that we would practice at second recess. He said, “I already did practice!” I reminded him that it must not have worked, as he was still having a hard time with it, so we had more practice. We will keep practicing until following directions becomes a habit. We will be consistent!
CONTRIBUTOR: Arlene Birt