Saturday, September 22, 2007

Student planners

I participate in several time management/personal productivity discussion groups. The exchange of ideas healthy and even when disagreement arises, I think we all come away a little smarter.

One of the things about these groups is that you never know when something you write off the cuff, totally on the spur of the moment, resonates with someone else. Such is the case with a reply on the subject of helping students be more organized. Tonight I found the idea struck a chord and a fellow blogger quoted what I had to say on his blog. The link is here, and the post goes as follows:

Everyone open your planners...
I absolutely love when I find pieces like this where schools at the administrative level down are grasping basic organizational concepts and teaching the kids how to do them. Oh if I had only been taught these skills in school…

— In, “Dr. Frank Buck” wrote:
One of the best things I did as an elementary principal was to purchase student planners for the entire student body. As far securing funding, I was able to get a couple of small grants a couple years. School systems also receive some federal finding earmarked for parental involvement. Our use of the planners qualified for that.

The secret was getting all teachers to use them and use them in much the same way. Teachers had to stop telling students “Now, don’t forget to…” and instead to say, “Everyone open your planner. On tomorrow’s square, write down (whatever).” At the beginning of the week, my morning announcements would include events coming up. My comments would always start with’ “Open your planners.” I would tell them what to write, where to write it, and then tell them that when they saw those few key words what it would remind them to do.

Teachers used the planners to write a quick note to parents, knowing that the planner would be the one thing every parent would look at every night. (We really stressed that to parents, so after a while, the value of the planner as an easy way to keep parents informed just became part of the culture of the school.)

About half of being successful in school is organization. As for the other half, well, most of that is organization as well.

Yes, the planners worked like a charm for us. If I were to accept another principalship (and most certainly if it were a secondary principalship) establishing student planners would be among the first orders of business. Everybody talks about how they need to be more organized and manage their time better. Yet, nobody teaches this. Simple time-management tools can, and should, be part of the culture of schools.
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