Whoever said, “Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” probably didn’t work in education. Actually, this quote belongs to essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson, who specifically took issue with “foolish consistency” but failed to clarify what he considered foolish. Regardless, Emerson would not have cut it in the classroom, where consistency makes a world of difference.
The longer I teach, the more power I perceive in predictability. Everyone from newborns to nonagenarians appreciates a certain amount of routine. Why shouldn’t they? The alternative is chaos, which is very stressful and inefficient. Routine and predictability, on the other hand, fosters a sense of security, which facilitates learning and relaxation, while allowing time to be utilized efficiently.
In an educational setting, teachers and tutors must set the tone for productive predictability. Consider simple ways to add certainty and structure to instruction:
- Arrange a consistent day and/or time to meet; if a meeting is not scheduled in advance, it won’t be considered a priority.
- Always confirm the next session at the end of the current one.
- Meet in the same place, room, or study carrel whenever possible.
- Begin and end sessions with predictable dialogue. e.g. “Tell me three important things you remember learning last time we met.”
- Maintain the same calm and even temperament every time.
- Let students know what you plan to cover in a given session. Show them you have a plan.
- Consistently reinforce the same general ideas, approaches, or strategies from session to session.
Another way to reinforce the benefits of routine is to engage your students as partners in perpetuating predictability. Your clear expectations teach students the power of consistency:
Expect students to be on time every time.
- Make an initial inquiry into a student’s life the first part of any instructional session.
- Show respect for time commitments by getting to work quickly and keeping everyone (including yourself) on task.
- Hold students accountable for arriving prepared with required material and completed assignments.
Simple steps repeated consistently create habits, so educators must be intentional about the habits they cultivate in themselves and their charges. Routine and predictability create critical structure within which powerful learning can occur. If you consciously integrate and model these precepts into instruction, you’ll wind up teaching even more of value than you expected.