Building Habits

August 24, 2007 at 5:53 pm (all, blogging, children, classroom management, culture, drama, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, ESOL, food, friends, High School, history, humor, kids, life, love, Middle School, movies, music, news, Parents, personal, photography, poetry, politics, principals, reading, religion, school, school administration, sports, teachers, technology, Thornebrooke, thoughts, travel, Uncategorized, video, women, writing)

It takes 27 days to form a habit. Remember when your mother used to ask you to make your bed every day? Then, after a while, you simply started making it on your own —without having to be reminded to do it. Making your bed every day had become a habit.

In my column, Laying the Groundwork, I discussed the importance of brainstorming expectations and procedures as part of laying the groundwork for building good habits. This time, I want to discuss in a little more detail the kinds of habits we want to build in our students — and how we can build them.

When thinking about the kinds of good habits you want students to develop, go back to that list of expectations and procedures you created. For me, for example, it’s important that students enter my classroom, check their mailboxes, and start working on their focus assignment before the first bell rings. It’s important that when I use the quiet signal, my students get quiet and focus on me. I expect my students to stay in a quiet straight line when I walk with them down the hall. It’s also important to me for students to be silent, with a clean area, before I dismiss them. Those types of habits, as well as others, also might be important to you. If you’re not really sure what you expect of your students, then take some time right now to brainstorm those actions and behaviors that you want to become habits for your students.

Okay, you have your list. You might be asking yourself, “Why is it important that I help build these habits?” The reason is to save yourself stress later on in the school year. Spring semester might seem like a long way away, but it will come around a lot faster than you think. Students who are not following good habits in the fall have a tendency to let spring fever get out of hand. Behavior can become more erratic then, and without good habits in place, students are more likely to get out of control. By setting the standards at the beginning of the year and turning good behaviors into good habits, you save yourself a lot of time and stress later.

But how can you build in students the good habits you expect? First, clearly explain your expectations to students. Next, make sure students practice the correct actions and behaviors daily. (It’s especially important to practice behaviors over and over again during the first couple of weeks of school.) Third, be consistent about requiring specific behaviors. If you see students not meeting your expectations, don’t be afraid to stop and take the time to practice the correct action or behavior right then and there.

For example, if I notice that many students are entering the classroom and “hanging out” without starting their work before the bell rings, I stop everything and practice my expectations. I have students file out of the classroom and re-enter correctly. If students are not following my quiet signal, we stop immediately and practice until they get it right. By doing that consistently, students begin to see that I will hold them accountable for their actions. After 27 days or more of doing the same actions over and over again, the behaviors become a habit for students. What you want to achieve is a classroom in which students know what to do and when to do it. That is a well-disciplined classroom.
You might find, of course, that as the year progresses, you need to stop and practice your expectations again. That is perfectly normal and can be thought of as “maintenance.”

Before you know it, however, your students will be entering the classroom and doing exactly what you expect of them — whether you are there to remind them or not. Good behavior has become — just like making your bed each day — a habit. In the end, that’s precisely what we strive to accomplish.
As you work toward that goal, remember the maxim “Good habits are hard to break” — and practice, practice, practice.

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My March Madness Experience

April 3, 2007 at 7:34 pm (all, books, college basketball, florida gators, history, personal, sports)

I left Orlando around 7:30 AM. I would have gotten to Atlanta way ahead of schedule had it not been for some people who did not know how to drive and decided to slow everyone down. My buddy and I hopped on MARTA around 5:15 PM. It took a long time to get to the Dome. When we finally walked in, the game had already started. When we got to our seats, the first half was almost over. We were WAY UP!!!! We decided to try to move down at the end of the Georgetown/Ohio State game (which was boring). We were fortunate enough to have a security guard let us in to the lower level. We ended up sitting behind one of the goals. The first set of seats we sat in were the President of the University of New Mexico. It was pretty cool because Steve Alford came by to say hi and did not know who we were and why we were in his new bosses seats. Ironically, former Lt. Governor of Florida Frank Brogan was sitting right in front of us. During the game, from our seats, we saw former UVA great and Houston Rocket Ralph Sampson, as well as Patrick Ewing. Of course, watching UF romp over UCLA was great.

My buddies and I decided to go to Centennial Park and Hoop City. Hoop City was tons of fun and very interactive. This would be the perfect spot for families to spend the day. We left Hoop City around 2 PM and went to Centennial Park. Chevelle was playing at 3 PM and some no name band was finishing up there set. At 5 PM, LL Cool J was performing. Ryan Seacrest was the host. Chevelle was loud. I am sure they are great, but we were waiting for LL. Seacrest got booed when he came out to introduce LL (that was funny). LL Cool J rocked the house. He did not stop for his full set. It was almost like a movie – he performed for 60+ minutes straight without a break. The highlight of the concert was seeing Webster (Emmanual Lewis) singing the words to “Mamma Said Knock You Out.”

Championship day!! Lots of concerts again at Centennial Park, which is where we headed around 2 PM. Marc Cohn was excellent, as were the other acts, but the main event was starting around 9:15. I could go into the play-by-play of the game, but I will not bore you since you know the outcome. What an experience!!! To watch history being made as 5 young guys did what many claimed was improbable – the repeated as champs!!! The atmosphere was loud and lively. This was a game that I will remember for the rest of my life. I don’t think we got back to our home until 2 AM – mainly b/c we, as well as the rest of Gator Nation, wanted to stay and cheer on the Gators.

A phenomonal weekend!!!

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Off to the Final Four – Go Gators!!

March 27, 2007 at 7:16 pm (college basketball, florida gators, sports)

Got my tickets hand. Got approval to take off Monday and Tuesday from my boss. Got approval from my wife to be out of town Friday thru Tuesday!!

Back-to-back CHOMPions!!!!!!


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