When athletes are about to commence competition, they don’t just get straight into it. They do some kind of ritual to get started. But that’s to warm up their body like stretches right? Okay, then how about singing the national anthem at the start of a game – that doesn’t warm up the body. So why do it then?
Go to many family homes, and they won’t start eating before saying a prayer. What’s the similarity?
What about when you meet up with someone you haven’t seen for a while. You start by shaking hands. And then quite often, before saying god bye, you’d shake hands again. But you wouldn’t shake hands in the middle of the conversation. So what’s this all about?
So here’s what I’m getting at.
The human brain learns by compartmentalising things into boxes in the mind. One of the ways our mind keeps those boxes solid is by knowing when to start something and when to finish it.
Each culture has some kind of ritual to indicate the beginning of something as well as the end; these are the constants. What goes on in between – that’s where the variables are.
Don’t get me wrong – we need a certain element of flexibility, creativity, spontaneity and adaptability in order to grow – otherwise we get bored and frustrated. But in order to maintain a calm and clear mind, we have to have discipline, and one of the simplest ways to instil healthy discipline, is to have a routine – especially one to get started, and one to get finished.
In teaching, this is especially important with younger kids, kids who struggle with concentration and, just about anyone who might ordinarily be feeling a bit overwhelmed, uncomfortable or unfocused.
This week at our Tutoring Baulkham Hills Centre, each group got to discuss and plan out a starting routine to begin the lesson. We decided that we’d start by:
Taking a seat
Making sure that there is nothing on the table except the book and 1 pen
Placing hands flat on the table
Sitting up straight
Take a deep breath
Shake hands to welcome each other to the lesson
Take a moment to reflect on what we learned last week, taking it in turns according to who is asked.
Agreeing that whilst one person is responding, the others will give their attention to the speaker
Then to open a new page, write the heading of the lesson and the days date.
Pens aside and sit up straight waiting to get started
It doesn’t need to be complicated or time consuming. In fact, a good starting routine should be simple and easy to achieve. It’s purpose is to prime the mind to signal that it is time to get focused on the lesson is ahead. Without this signal, the brain is more likely to be bouncing thoughts all over the place, get distracted and lose focus.
The homework this week is to think of one area of life where the student already has an existing routine, and to break down the steps in that routine. The second part is to think of an area of their life where they struggle to feel disciplined or organised, and to come up with a step by step routine to signal their brain that it’s time to stop, readjust their focus, and get started on the new activity.
It’s a very simple practice, but it is forms the basis for building more complex organisational skills later on like time management.
Parents – your child is unlikely to learn this stuff at school, so they are likely to be confused about this and assume that they’re not learning, when in fact these are among the most important cognitive and behavioural skills to learn from a young age. So please reinforce this during the week by having a chat with your child about their routines, and how to improve, create and fine tune at least one other routine in their week. Look out for your child’s weekly feedback report by email also for more tips, ideas and insight. Please also check out my free online video Parent Coaching Program or see our Tutors Sydney website.
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