Wednesday, May 31, 2006

School Administrator Magazine Article

This article appeared in School Administrator magazine over a year ago. I did not know that the article also existed in cyberspace until today. The thrust is a discussion of using portfolios as a portion of the principal's evaluation.

Managing School the Easy Way

Experienced teachers will tell us that school success and intelligence do not always go hand-in-hand. Often, very bright young people don’t remember to do assignments, lose their work, and spend inordinate amounts of time frantically looking for things in a messy desk.
At the same time, other students breeze through school. They seem to make school look easy, but not because they are necessarily smarter than their peers. They have acquired some very easy, very teachable habits. Here are some ideas to make our students days in school a little easier:

  • Write down the things you have to do as soon as they occur to you. The student who tries to keep everything in his or her head is headed for trouble. Even young people today have many activities on which they must focus their attention—homework, athletic practices, family activities, and chores are just some of the obligations our children have. The easy thing to do is let pencil and paper do the remembering. Get it on paper and you can get it off your mind! An assignment book or student planner is the perfect tool for this purpose. The big advantage of using such a book is that all commitments are in one place.

  • Break big projects down into little parts. As adults, we remember fondly the English teacher who assigned the term paper (due 2 months hence), and then said, “I want you to turn in your topic this Friday, and outline the next Friday, a dozen note cards the next Friday...” That teacher knew that left to our own devices, we would put off the seemingly overwhelming task until the last minute and then throw something together. She made us break the big job into manageable parts. What are the big projects for our students? Perhaps making the Accelerated Reader “100 Club,” earning the badge in scouting, or making a sports team are a student’s goals. For each one, there is a very next step. When the little steps are defined and handled, the big projects fall into place.

  • Empty the bookbag totally every night. For some students, the bookbag is a big black hole into which papers go and are never seen again. When the student finally cleans out the bookbag in May, one can only imagine what lurks at the bottom of the bag. That permission slip he never could find, the homework paper she was sure she did, and that half-eaten banana are among the treasures at the bottom of the bookbag.

  • Learn to deal with papers. So much of the information exchanged between the home and the school happen through written communication. Report cards, Tuesday folders, notes from teachers, field trip permission forms, and newsletters are examples of information which comes via paper. Some students seem to have no problem getting papers home and back on time. Other students never seem to be able to get anything home. Papers get wadded up in pockets, stuck inside textbooks or notebooks, or placed inside desks. By the time the student gets home, where to find that paper is anybody’s guess (assuming she remembers she had a paper to delivery at all)! Having a simple plan puts an end to a great deal of unnecessary stress.

  • Students need a place at school to put the papers for Mom or Dad, and put them there every time. Some classes may have a special folder which goes home each night. This week’s page in the planner is an ideal place to trap loose papers. When the student opens the planner at home, he is looking right at the papers, an instant reminder that they need to be handed off to Mom or Dad.

  • Students need a spot at home where papers for Mom or Dad go. The last thing a parent needs when getting home from a busy day at work is to have a fistful of papers shoved at him. Nor does she need to go on a safari through the home looking for papers which may have been put who knows where. Conducting an excavation inside a bookbag is no fun either. Children don’t have it any easier. They don’t always know when parents are ready to focus on papers from school. Having one spot to put everything for Mom or Dad’s review at their convenience makes life easier for all concerned.

  • Get everything ready the night before. Forgotten items, missed school busses, and frazzled nerves can so often be traced back to one simple problem—assuming Rome can be built between the time the alarm clock goes off and the school bus pulls up. Morning is a terrible time to do that last bit of homework, finish that poster, or get those papers signed. Without fail, that book we just knew was on the coffee table is nowhere to be found and it’s already time to pull out of the driveway. Get it all ready the night before and mornings become more peaceful.

A little organization can go a long way towards making school (and life) more stress-free and enjoyable!