Recently I was speaking with a teacher who is the lead for a program at her school called 9th Grade Transition. The program seeks to identify the most at-risk incoming 9th graders and support them in their content area classes while also enriching their freshman year with academic skills and strategies. I make a point to visit her classroom every time I visit this school. Here one finds the most challenging students on campus academically engaged and focused. Additionally, one can’t help but notice the strong bond she has with each student in the room. It is always a breath of fresh air.
As we talked she shared with me that two new administrators recently visited her classroom while doing walkthroughs. After their visit they inquired how the same students who were wreaking havoc in other classrooms on campus could be so engaged and treat her with respect. Her response was simple, “Predictability!” She stressed the point to them that life outside of school for many students is unpredictable and unstable. When students find themselves in a predictable learning environment they thrive. These students, in particular, are longing for structure - even if they deny it when asked.
Something truly amazing happens when teachers create predictable learning spaces by establishing consistent and equitable learning protocols and routines. When teachers commit to implementing these learning routines with consistency, every single day, in the same fashion, they foster dependable learning spaces. The influence this has on students' effort cannot be overstated. That is because when learners find themselves in a routine that they can predict they begin to depend on that consistency. Their Affective Filter is lowered so they are more free to take risks that are integral to learning.
I have explained the promise of predictable learning routines and how we must decouple them from grade performance. However, there is something else that manifests as a result of this work. Relationships. And they have a profound impact on student learning and achievement. When a caring adult is consistently creating a reliable learning environment it somehow transfers to, or strengthens, their relationship with their students. As a result of routinely proving to students that her classroom is safe, students begin to recognize her as a dependable human. Students can rely on her and therefore they begin to trust her, which in turn, further amplifies the safety of that learning routine and space she has created.
This truly is a remarkable phenomenon. A teacher may be the only consistently dependable caring adult in a young person’s life. Educators have the privilege and responsibility to create havens for students - learning spaces that are both safe, and yet challenging. Classrooms that are predictable, not chaotic. Dependable, not changing.
Dependable learning environments are manifested by consistently implemented equitable learning routines. When students eventually learn that they can trust and rely on these spaces it translates to their relationship with the teacher.