In an attempt to enrich our children we put the cart before the horse.
We avidly seek ways to develop their gifts and talents but we fail to teach them how to use one of their greatest assets to advantage.
Our children don’t know how to manage time.
Recently, my students’ poor performance on a writing assignment surprised me. There were a few good responses to the prompt, but not enough to support the belief that I knew my students could do better!
My confidence stemmed from the results of the district writing sample, an invaluable three-hour ungraded assignment that assesses students’ knowledge and skill in writing. During four class periods, my students engaged in the full writing process, which included planning, composing a rough draft, revising/editing, and writing the final draft. They did quite a bit in a relatively short period of time.
As I said, the results of this authentic sample didn’t prepare me for what I received in the graded essay. Planning, and revising/editing time were provided in class, but otherwise they had four days to work on the rough draft and final draft on their own, at home.
During the heart-to-heart, we had after I’d graded their papers, I was reminded that my students are immersed in busy schedules, reminiscent of my own children’s. It was eye-opening though to realize that while they are busy they are not adept at managing their time. Mismanagement of time is the main reason why they did so poorly.
My students’ greatest need as writers became time management skills.
What I know about junior high students is that usually, time management is about a year or two away. It develops (or not) in high school. However, with texting, interactive games, social networking and extracurricular activities— the time was now, for them to begin learning how to manage their time wisely.
My students have more time than they think— they just waste so much of it!
So, my students and I developed a plan that reinforces their growth as writers, and managers of time. The plan involves two sets of commitments- one from my students and one from me.
Student Commitments: I will…
1. Note the due dates, in my planner, for each phase of the writing process.
2. Focus my attention and behavior to complete the pre-writing plans in class.
3. Complete the rough draft in one sitting, to allow for continuity.
4. Within the time allotted, revise the rough draft to expand on or support my ideas.
5. Edit the rough draft to include all feedback received.
Teacher Commitments: I will…
1. Explain the expectations for each phase of the writing, as supported in a rubric.
2. Provide in class pre-writing time, while the expectations are fresh in your mind.
3. Support your efforts with timely feedback/conference on the rough draft.
4. Always provide additional individual support.
5. Guide us in a review and discussion of Sean Covey’s time management strategies.
Mutual commitments between adult and child can serve to clearly define the adult, supportive role and expectations for any activity – in or out of school. It also serves to clearly define our children’s responsibility to effectively manage the time commitment in order to participate well. These commitments can further stimulate family or classroom conversations about when and how to curb additional activities that can become distractions due to over-scheduling.
Our children possess a wealth of abilities that need our support and guidance, but let’s not neglect their greater need to manage time wisely. When we help our children reverse the trend and put the horse before the cart, we may be surprised to learn that as they improve in time management, they improve their achievement and enjoyment of life as well.