One of the most perceptive comments ever made to me was stated in an elevator. I was at a conference of the National Speakers Association and found myself in an elevator with Nick Carter who had worked with the dean of personal motivation, Earl Nightingale. During our elevator ride, Nick made a most interesting comment to me: “We run our life by procedures.”
I immediately thought about the procedures I use in my personal life and then reflected on procedures I used as a classroom teacher (primary, upper elementary, and every grade 7-12). Whenever a student(s) did something that irked me—that could be considered a “discipline problem”—I would establish a procedure. For example, when I suddenly heard the pencil sharpener being used while I was talking, I taught a procedure. I simply had the student place the pencil in a raised hand. This indicated to me the desire to sharpen a pencil. When I was finished with the idea I was teaching, I nodded to the student indicating that this would be an appropriate time to sharpen the pencil. Similarly, when I heard the crumpling of paper—I know not why I found the sound disturbing—I asked myself, “What procedure can I establish to halt this bothersome noise?” I settled on teaching students to fold the paper lengthwise, like a hot dog. This procedure makes no noise, takes up no room on the desk, and takes up less room than crumpled paper in the waste paper basket that was circulated before the end of each period.
In the realm of classroom teaching, those teachers who are most successful establish procedures, practice them, and reinforce them to the point that they become routines.