Over the course of the past eight years of teaching, I have many, many times found myself overwhelmed at the start of the morning. I often feel unprepared, whether I feel like I need more time to review my lessons or just feel rattled from other things going on in my personal life. But regardless of how ready I feel, that bell will always ring and those ever-energetic children will always rush into the classroom, full of needs and expectations. At those times, I take a deep breath and remind myself: “Trust the routine.”
In my classroom, the routine I’m referring to consists of the daily steps that start my day with my students–the lunch count, the “morning work,” our meeting on the carpet, and so on and so forth. It’s a routine I exhaust myself at the beginning of the year training my students to follow. When I feel overwhelmed, it’s the routine that calms me and carries me into the flow of the day. Granted, that flow is often interrupted by the millions of issues that come up when you’re working with children… but the routine gives me (and my students) solid ground to stand on as we deal with those issues.
Routine is so crucial for me. That’s why, as my husband and I planned our wedding, I was determined to get married during the school year. (Since our church doesn’t have air conditioning, it wasn’t that hard to convince him to get married before summer arrived!). Many people didn’t understand that–it seemed like it made more sense for a teacher like me to get married in the summer when I didn’t have school. But I knew that encountering a significant life change (however desirable) was going to throw me, and I needed to have the of normalcy of my work routine to help stabilize me and help me feel like myself.
I admit, in the week or so before the wedding, as we prepared for the event, as I prepared substitute plans, and as I dealt with the April anniversary of my dad’s death, I sometimes wondered if it would have been better to wait, to have scheduled it all differently somehow.
But, in the first days and weeks of marriage, I have been so, so glad that I know myself well enough–and am confident enough in my knowledge of myself–that we timed the wedding the way we did. In a time of deep emotion and life-altering change, it is so grounding for me to go to work, to see my students, to teach… to be me.
I’ve spoken with a few new moms who expressed similar feelings about returning to work. Many moms (and I assume dads) have a hard time spending time away from their newborn for the first time. However, there are also those who, like me–even while loving the change they have made in their lives–crave a sense of normalcy and to feel like themselves again.
I can’t end this post without a caution: There’s a difference between holding to routine as an anchor in a storm of emotion and letting routine envelop you and shield you from all that is going on around you. Routine can be a gentle, saving grace; but it can also be suffocating and a means of denial. Routine can help you deal with tough times, but it can’t save you from them or deal with them for you. (I can elaborate more on my personal experience with that side of routine another time.)
But in this season of my life, it is a relief to be able to trust the routine. Granted, sometimes I (literally) kick and scream at the routine pushing and pulling me when I don’t feel up to it. Even then, I know I need the routine to force me to get out of bed and keep going.
Thank you for reading, for “listening.” It feels really, really good to be writing again… something else that makes me feel like me. I hope to devote more time to my writing this summer. It will be a helpful outlet as I struggle with summer’s lack of routine! I hope you’ll be around to read–and maybe to share some of your thoughts with me, too.