Routines to Save your Sanity

Hi everyone, Alison from Teaching Maths with Meaning back again.

Today I wanted to write to you about routines and how they have saved me during busy times of the year, especially the silly season. This time of year is crazy, the holiday season coupled with the end of the school year for year round schools. Teachers are guaranteed to be exhausted just dealing with 25 kids a day let alone reports, planning, assessment, end of year chaos and the anxiety of changing classrooms or grade levels.

I shutter when I think about my first few years of teaching. With a lack of routine in my classroom (and honestly, being too scared to ask for assistance), the last month was hard work. I was exhausted, burnt out and looking for new ways to engage my class everyday (with very little luck!). The count down was well and truly on for the end of the school year. Then I went and taught in a US school where routines were tight and I grew so much as a teacher. I returned to Australia more confident to deal with everything having a classroom throws at you and with knowledge of how to implement routines.

So finally after 10 years of teaching, I have routines firmly in place where I could glide through reporting periods, work deadlines and most importantly the silly season with a lot less stress than in the past. For me, if I have strong routines I can survive anything!


1. Have a class timetable and stick to it
If you always structure your day so you have morning meeting, then reading, then writing etc. continue doing this. Your students will know what to expect and it makes it easier for you to plan. If you usually do craft activities in the afternoon, plan ahead and do them in the afternoon. I know it sounds silly to point this out but it can make a huge amount of difference to your day!
Around Christmas time you will always have things that pop up so if you are planned ahead not only can you switch and swap where you need to, but you will have something up your sleeve that you can pull out quickly.

2. Start your day the same way everyday
When I discovered morning meeting, it saved my life. Every day I could walk into the classroom knowing that the first 10 minutes was set, the routine was strong and we didn’t change it. If I had a parent come and see me at the last minute, hadn’t quite got myself organised before school, or had to deal with late students, morning meeting was that bit of breather space where I could get myself into the groove of school and student’s knew my expectations during this time. Some students needed this time as a calm down, I’m at school now, time too.

3. Don’t lower you expectations
While students are often exhausted during busy times, don’t lower your expectations too much. You may have to dish out a few more motivational speeches and show a bit more compassion, but across the board, if writing is usually quiet time, keep it quiet time for as long as possible. If your expectation is that children clean up before coming to the floor, continue to enforce it. Being a relief teacher and going into many different classes at different schools over the last few weeks, those classrooms that have continued to have structure, routine and higher expectations are a lot more calm and there are a lot less tears!

4. Do a mini project to keep student’s motivated
At this time of year a project will keep student’s motivated and make things easier to plan for you. It doesn’t have to be about Christmas either, try a passion project, a matrix about celebrations from around the globe, favourite animal or country research. Anything that keeps the students motivated. In maths, fill your lessons with week long investigations into area and perimeter, capacity, shapes – topics that have hands on activities that can be continued day to day. (Head to NZ Maths for great multiple lesson activities). Keep your expectations high on standard of work and noise level, it will pay off big time.

5. Do Christmas activities, but don’t start too early or just integrate
I always tried to avoid the “it’s December, pull out the Christmas book” syndrome. Other than the obvious (I have run out of printing credits), I find you just can’t keep students motivated for week after week doing an activity book. So why not try to start doing a few writing activities or craft activities to tie in Christmas, then move onto an activity style book in the last week when resources are dwindling and excitement is high! I always have a few Christmas writing, maths and art activities that I can pull out anytime.

Do you want to hear from another teacher’s perspective on routines? Head on over to Christie’s blog at My Mum, the Teacher to learn more. 

Lots of sunshine,



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