As a teenager I used to abhor routine and would find any excuse not to conform: deliberately being late, refusing to wear the full school uniform and staying up beyond an acceptable bed time, only to be tired and cranky and late the following day.
Ironically as much as I professed to hate routine there were certain weekly events that gave me real pleasure: Thursday was Top of the Pops, Sunday – the Top 40 Countdown. Radio Luxembourg’s Tommy Vance and the Old Grey Whistle Test featured regularly. I could create as much of a fuss about missing these programmes as I could about not doing my or completing homework.
I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that it took until I gave birth to L who had to have a routine, for me to realise that in fact routine isn’t a hindrance but provides a certain sense of freedom.
Returning back to work today was not stressful or caused me to be sleepless last night. I did as I did most days last term: switched on the kettle, and then computer – in that order, hung up jacket, prepared Aeropress coffee filter and settled at desk to scan through emails and plan my day and week ahead.
Working in a school as I do, of course, my days are ruled by bells, timetables and routine and I’ve never been happier.
Many pupils relish returning to school without really knowing why and much of it is about familiarity and predictability – even for least favourite teachers.
By the same accord there are thousands of children who hate the thought of holidays because their structure and routine will be gone and replaced with an unknown quantity. For children with additional support needs this is even more extreme and I’m not sure we really prepare children well enough for time at home as much as we expect them to slot back into the school routine.
Incidents of exclusion, children reaching crisis point days before a holiday are common but under-acknowledged.
I wrote a piece in TESS in 2013 about school holidays and I do still believe that it is time to change the outdated 6 week break and 10 week terms, and rather to spread the holidays throughout the year agreeing to have no more that 4 weeks off at a time and a break every 5-6 weeks. I am convinced that this will radically reduce stress for staff and families, improve pupil behaviour and allow those for whom life is difficult to have a sense of routine, familiarity and certainty. This might also relieve the need for families to pay outrageous prices charged by holiday companies. Leeds have made a stand against this but perhaps more can be done.
Routine – a poem
6am 8am 12pm and 2
4pm 6pm what am I to do?
8pm and tea is done
there’s nothing on TV
I’ll just plug in and have some fun
Just some time for me.