Bringing some order to students' lives

Bringing some order to students' lives

“I know my homework is in here somewhere”, “You had three weeks to complete the assignment”, “I need to go back to school and get my Physics workbook”. The overstuffed backpack, the missing homework, the unused planner, the test he didn’t know about… To educators working with disorganised students, these statements are all too familiar.

These are the students who are under-prepared for class, leave things at school or home, forget what assignments they need to complete and procrastinate.

When the disorganised child meets the departmentalised structure of middle school, everything can fall apart. Even an academically successful child can falter if s/he misses deadlines, loses textbooks or can’t get to class on time. From kindergarten through high school, students who lack organising skills face academic and psychological challenges. 

Disorganisation increase the potential for students to receive lower grades, complete fewer assignments, be less motivated, experience greater frustration with school and have lower self-esteem. These negatives can contribute a variety of other student issues including grade retention, discipline and dropping out.

We spend so much time and money teaching our kids English, Math and foreign languages but we forget to teach them how to organise their work and thereby, teach themselves. There are few students who innately have the organising skills needed to be successful. The lack of direct instruction in this area is clearly missing from both the school and classroom curriculum and parental words of wisdom.

The good news is that even the most hopelessly disorganised child can be taught how to keep his papers, pencils, notebooks and schedules in order. Once you figure out what’s getting in your child’s way, you can figure out to overcome it. Implementing successful systems of organising homework and classwork is not generally taught in school. As a result, students, parents and teachers suffer.  

Organising has to be taught, just like any other subject with which students are unfamiliar. Some of the strategies for helping parents identify and teaching
organising skills are:
n Gather information about your child’s learning style, study habits and school requirements.
n Guidelines for taming that overstuffed binder and keeping it under control. Make a plan for purging and reassembling a backpack.
n Instructions for organising workspace at home for the child who studies at a desk or the child who studies all over the house.
n Ways to help your child graduate from telling time to managing time.
n Let your child own the process.
n Give positive feedback. Focus on what your child has accomplished, not on what he hasn’t.
n Commit a good amount of time and effort and the returns will be huge.
n Be sensitive to kids with learning disabilities.

The levels of parent-child frustration will drop significantly if they take the lessons to the heart. The tips and tricks are sensitive to the time constraints of today’s families. Students with packed curriculum would benefit with a more rapid implementation of the systems. You might even declutter your own not-so-perfect life.

The number of distractions available to students has increased exponentially and their academic performance is suffering because of it. Without training in how to handle the new paper flow, study load and schedule, a student feels lost. Students must be involved in the process to fully understand and adopt the new habit. With perseverance, these skills will last throughout the academic year and even beyond.

Parent models
As the old saying goes, “Monkey see, monkey do”, students learn many skills early on by modeling their parents. Thus, students with unorganised parents are likely to grow up being unorganised themselves. It is therefore important to involve parents in the process of teaching students organising skills. Parents need guidance in evaluating their own approaches to organising as they learn to support their child’s progress.

Teaching professionals
Not only is parental modelling key, but so is the modelling that happens at school.  How many times teachers misplaced important papers or arrived late to class? As professionals, they should assess their own behaviour and environment to ensure they are not sending mixed signals about the importance of being organised. School counsellors should provide the necessary support and intervention to students in need of organising skill training.

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