We have learnt a lot about habits over the last few years- about building them, breaking them and keeping them. James Clear and BJ Fogg in particular have been instrumental in redefining what most of us have long thought about creating habits- that it’s not necessarily about willpower or big, audacious life changes- rather it’s about starting small, making it attractive, and making it feel good. It’s about aiming to get one percent better every day. These techniques for habit building help people all over the world get better at things, whether it be getting fit, working smarter or improving their relationships.
So what if we applied what we know about creating habits to our teaching practice, with the intention to focus on one tiny shift every day to move our practice closer in line with our principles and values? While acknowledging that teachers are asked to take on more and more, to make changes to pedagogy, curriculum, administration and reporting requirements, my question is can we find the time every day to intentionally implement a miniscule change that sees us working more restoratively? Can we intentionally commit to small habits that will make us feel better about our practice and in time, make our day in the classroom a lot less stressful and more effective?
Clear and Fogg would suggest the best way to do this is through habit stacking- pairing your new habit with a current habit. For example, if you usually call the roll in the morning- you could try doing this in a circle and pairing it with a check- in circle. If a current habit is to ask students at the end of the day to clean any rubbish from the floor, add a feelings word to your request to make it an affective statement. Or if your go-to before an excursion is to take five minutes to give your students a speech about expected behaviours, try adding a preparation circle to engage students and build accountability.
I have one of Clear’s most well-known quotes taped above my desk- “Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become”. If we want to become more restorative teachers and leaders, educators who value relationships and strive to create a positive culture in our learning communities, we can’t leave it up to a hope and a wish, and we can’t insist upon it with a policy or a program. What we can do is intentionally change our behaviours, in tiny, deliberate ways every day to bring us closer to the teacher we want to become. And when we look back in a years’ time, we will have the joy of realising just how far we have come.
Check out other articles Kirsty has written here.