Some students naturally know how to be organized, others can and will learn it, and others will struggle. So what are we to do?
Often, it feels like a losing battle. But remember, as with most everything, organization IS an important skill that needs to be taught, reinforced, and at times, adjusted. AND, as with most everything, there is NOT a single "right" way. Which is why organization is such a struggle.
Honestly, I loved working with my students on their organization. Together, we'd empty their locker, backpack, and folders. We'd pitch what wasn't needed, make a pile to ask about, and put the things in the place where it made sense. But it had to make sense to the student. Then I'd send them with their pile and ask the other teachers what, if anything, needed to be kept. They'd return with a smaller pile and we'd find a home for it. I am no organization wizard, but I had a heart for those students who'd walk around with papers shoved into folders and lockers that were bursting at the seams. And I'd make the time to help them organize. *full disclosure ... we had a study hall like period I'd utilize for this task* I'd do this several times during the year, as needed.
I taught social studies - a subject that had less pressure on it - so I coordinated with my team when we'd do a locker clean out. Typically, it was at the end of a grading period. It's wild what you find in lockers ... forgotten clothing, school supplies that had never made it to their "requester", even packed lunches the student had chosen to not eat! All amongst the typical random papers and pencils. When you do a locker & backpack clean out, you'll see a different side of your students. And you will find school supplies that need a home.
After a year or so, I got smart. The 1st day of school, I had a box to collect supplies for my team. Sharpies for art class that you won't have until 3rd quarter? No problem! I'll get them to the art teacher. Index cards for science - got you covered! They can all go in this box and live there until needed in science. Post-it notes for ELA - yep, drop them in and they will get moved over to the room. And so on.
Finally, one of my favorite parts ... end of the year. Have you ever looked at the supplies that are going to be thrown away? How about a 1/2 used notebook? Go ahead and rip out the used pages, put them in the recycling bin and I'll put the notebook in a cabinet for a student who really needs it. What will you do with that binder? Toss it? Nope, I'll put that in the cabinet and when someone needs it, it'll be there. When i switched positions, I had filled an entire cabinet with partially used notebooks, another cabinet with folders that had a little love to them, notebook paper, binders, index cards, and pencils. All of these supplies would have been throw away. I never asked questions when a student - even students who didn't come to me for class - needed a supply. Help yourself. [P.s. I never required students to leave supplies ... it was completely voluntary.]
Why do I share this today?
I'm back teaching in the classroom and I'm part of these kinds of conversations again. I'm back at the middle school level where it is assumed these kids "know" how to organize. Most of them don't, or better put, they don't know how to organize.
The things I shared above are easy things we can do to help our students - ALL of them - get and stay organized. Small, easy tasks ... but ones students don't - no, WON'T - make time for. WE teachers need to make time for them. We need to show them it's important and that it takes a little bit of time and energy. And when we do that, ALL of our students will benefit. I promise.
Soon, I'll share about planners ... do you go digital? Or do you stick with paper? Which is better?
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