So Many Snow Days: An Elementary School Teacher’s Perspective on Routines and Patience

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Since when do teachers get tired of snow days? I can’t believe I’m saying this, but now that I’ve had my fifth snow day in two weeks, I am officially sick of them! (Knowing that this puts our last day of school as June 25th isn’t helping matters either!) While my students may enjoy these days immensely, these frequent days off definitely cause some major disruptions to our learning. When we do finally get back to school, it’s important to stay on schedule. Despite the size of the snow piles outside, there is still curriculum to teach and deadlines to meet. So how do I keep my second graders focused and engaged? Two ways: routine and patience.

Routine is important for children at all ages, but especially so at the elementary level. My students thrive on it. I spend so much time the first few weeks of school establishing routines. It seems silly, going over in detail things such as how to make a lunch choice, how to line up at the door quietly, how to do classroom jobs, and how to carry chairs safely in the classroom. Once we master the basics, we start practicing more difficult tasks: how to fill out a homework log, how to hand in homework, how to do independent work, how to work with a partner, and how to work with a small group. Everything is modeled, practiced, modeled again, and practiced again. If there is ever a point in the year that I feel my students are no longer successful at these tasks, we take a step back and start the modeling and practicing all over again. And you know what? It works! This is the point in the year that I begin to notice how much our established routines are helping to facilitate learning. Transition times are down, and my students understand my expectations. There might not be school Monday, but when my students arrive on Tuesday, they will know that we will begin our day with morning work, have morning meeting, and then continue our biography unit.

While routine is key, there are times when unfortunately, our schedule needs to change. Take last week for example. We had two snow days in a row, giving us only a three day week. I teach spelling to my class on a weekly basis. Usually, the pattern is introduced on Monday, practiced throughout the week, and tested on Friday. Three days did not seem like a sufficient amount of time to allow my students to learn their words, so I decided not to have spelling last week. In the eyes of seven and eight year olds, this decision is of monumental proportions…probably just as exciting as winning the lottery, if not better. This is when patience comes into play. I made it clear to my students why were are not studying spelling that week, gave frequent reminders (sometimes several times a day), and reminded myself to take a few deep breaths when my students still asked on Friday, “Hey, why aren’t we taking a spelling test?” I’ve changed their routine, and it’s hard for them to adjust. Patience, patience.

So now I sit, watching the snow continue to come down, and wonder what routines I will need to alter this week, and wonder how much patience we will all need to have to adjust accordingly. For now, I will have to maintain my own snow day routine: shovel, rest, repeat!

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Post written by MTA New Member Committee Member Jessica Rosenthal.

Jessica teaches second grade in Stoughton, MA. You can read more about Jessica’s experiences as a second grade teacher by visiting her blog “Saving the World One Second Grader at a Time”

Follow Jessica on Twitter: @JessMorningstar

Follow MTA New Members on Twitter: @MTANewMembers and find us on Facebook!

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