The Importance of Routine
As Housemistress of Crossways and a mother to three young children, my life is governed by routines.
Every part of my day has a familiarity to it, and a sense of knowing what comes next. I know I put routines in place to make my own life easier, but I use systems and organisation in order for students to feel confident and safe, to develop a sense of self-discipline and to succeed in their endeavours.
Much research has been done in this field, and in general, the same five concepts are cited as the benefits of structure and routine.
We know that routine improves cooperation in young people; knowing where they are going, what they are going to do and how long it will take all allow our students to work with us, with each other and with you, their parents, and reduces the opportunities for confrontations - an all-too-familiar feature of being a teenager.
The second benefit, very much related to the first, is that routine helps eliminate anxiety. People are afraid of many things, but "the unknown" edges out everything except death and public speaking for most of us. Routines help students cooperate by reducing stress and anxiety for everyone. We all know what comes next, we get fair warning for transitions, and no one feels pushed around.
Routine also helps to eliminate power-struggles (or at the very least, reduce them!) Following a regular routine may seem boring to an adult but for a child it is the foundation of success. Whether it is bedtime, or an after school prep and chores time, our students will benefit from following a routine.
When the routine is followed step by step, again and again, the students are learning excellent habits of self-discipline and responsibility which allow them to learn the positive effects of accomplishment, achievement, mastery and competence. Students who feel more independent and in charge of themselves have less need to rebel and be oppositional.
No matter how old our students are, they are always delighted when we pay attention to even the smallest of their successes. With routine, children feel safe to take risks with their learning, and progress can be made daily. In turn this inspires confidence and independence in our students and becomes a vehicle for driving more routine.
So, how does this relate to us and the way we help our young people set up their day? Well, for all of us, a strong routine at the start of the day is essential to helping our young people get up and ready for school. The school day itself is entirely driven by routine, the timetable of academic lessons, assemblies, activities, meetings, chapels, lunch times and other minutiae is essential to ensuring that every student has equal and fair access to all we have to offer.
Even the school year has a rhythm to it, largely driven by the exam season, but also by things like weather and tradition.
It is the evenings though, in the less formal time, when routine suddenly becomes both self-governing and crucial.
In the Boarding community, after the Day Students have gone home, we start with roll call, have two prep sessions, two supper sittings, free time, house visiting and bed-times to structure our evenings. Because the routine doesn't change, students know the expectations we have of them, they feel safe and contained, and many have moved towards complete independence in terms of their working habits.
Bed times are an essential part of our students' daily routine. In a study by The Prince's Trust it was found that almost 40% of students who fail to achieve at least five C-grades in their GCSEs do not have a set bedtime. The report underlines the importance of a structured upbringing in children's success at school and confidence in adulthood.
The report also found that young people who claim to have "lacked structure and direction" while growing up were less confident than their peers. Needless to say, bedtimes in Boarding are fairly robust, although we do of course relax the rules at the weekends.
Our Upper Sixth are on the precipice of spreading their wings and leaving us, and are now ready to accomplish independence, blissfully unaware that routine has driven their success. Happily though, the ability to establish routine has become part of their everyday existence. They can plan ahead, organise their own time, and be confident in their abilities to manage the demands and expectation which will be placed on them daily.
And so now, where was I? Ah yes, the routine of marking…