By Guest Blogger Kori Mackall, Director of Communications, The Piedmont School
If you ask most boys, regardless of school grade, to look in their backpack for a school paper or homework assignment, more times than not there is a mom cringing in the background thinking to herself “there is no telling what you will find in there!” Underneath the food wrappers, stinky gym clothes, or miscellaneous “treasures” found during recess you might get lucky and find the crinkled homework paper you are looking for. Life with boys is a never-ending world of excitement and management of chaos. Trends in research show that many boys who are bright students begin to struggle in school settings as early as the primary grades but even more so in middle and high school years. The truth is, many of our schools are not built for boys or how they best learn. To their core boys are active humans who strive on movement and “doing” versus sitting, listening, and remembering.
As schools in our area are officially back in the swing of academic routine, some of you may be noticing your boys beginning to struggle. This is not to say that our daughters do not struggle at times, but we tend to see a different type of struggle for boys. One of the greatest pieces of kryptonite for boys is the villainous task of organization. This is often a source of major struggle for boys in an academic setting. As the academic rigor increases throughout the schooling career, the requirements for independent organization and accountability greatly increase. But who is teaching our boys about organization? What class has time to break down organizational techniques for boys to be successful? Unfortunately, most do not.
With this in mind, here are some great strategies and tools for parents to help their boys stay organized and accountable as the demands of the school year increase:
Two words: zippered binder (emphasis on zippered). Here at The Piedmont School this is a requirement of all students K-12th grade. Within this binder we provide a daily agenda and pocket folders for each subject area. This may seem trivial, but the fact that everything can be in one place and zipped closed helps students, especially boys, keep all of their papers and assignments in one place. There may not be a guarantee that these papers are neatly in the pocket folders, but they are at least zipped in to prevent papers from falling out. It is common for boys to receive poor grades for missing assignments, not necessarily assignments they did not complete but rather they cannot find where they put them. Missing assignments is a quick way to bring a class average down several points and potentially even a letter grade.
Daily agendas are another important tool to help all students, especially boys, keep their assignments and even chores organized. This agenda should be kept in their zippered binder. At The Piedmont School we have each teacher initial each student’s agenda after the student has written down their homework or study assignment for the evening. We even have students write “no homework” if there are no assignments for a given class and have the teacher initial so there is no confusion about what was to be done when students get home. Boys are very much creatures of living in the moment. Long term planning is not typically a strong suit. By the time most boys get home after any after school extracurricular activities, it is incredibly difficult for them to remember details of a homework assignment if they do not have something they can go back and reference.
In the ever-growing world of technology we live in there are many apps and systems available to help parents remain involved in their child’s daily education. From apps like Remind that provide texting services between teachers and parents (and even students if they have a phone) and programs like PowerSchool which allow parents to be able to view their child’s assignments and grades at any given time, the ability to help our boys be accountable is more readily available than ever before. For those who have students in schools that use Remind or PowerSchool, I highly recommend signing up for these services. If your son is old enough and has a cell phone of their own, I highly encourage you to also have them sign up for these services. Consider using the alarm features on their cell phones to set reminders as well. This is a great way to put the responsibility and accountability back on them.
Organization has to be individualized for what works best for each student. Research shows us that boys perform best when they are hands-on and have set routines. Binders, daily agendas, and technology can be a powerful trio for successful organization. When organization is no longer a villain, our boys will feel more confident and in control of their daily school life and focus can then be placed on achievement and academic growth.
*Sponsored by The Piedmont School