Organizational Skills

I’m a teacher at the adult education center and my focus is on preparing adults for the GED test. This post expresses my opinion based on my experience. In education reform today and the focus on standardized test scores, it has been mentioned that all sorts of remedies to improve performance are there, and we often overlook them.

For example: eating a good breakfast, getting enough sleep, reading every day, and taking good notes are some things a child (or an adult, for that matter) can do to improve performance at school. The former two are ones that make sense but aren’t usually written about. The latter are examples of things we hear, perhaps, too much.

I believe that there is a “technique” that will increase performance. I’ve written that later school start times are essential for student performance. Much has been written about the topic. I have another: student organizational skills. Besides the “I forgot my _______________” or “I forgot to_______________” excuses, I cannot even begin to tell you how many students I’ve seen with disorganized folders or notebooks (or none at all), or how many students I know don’t write down their assignments.

When I was in middle school (I teach now but was a student in the 1980’s), we students were made to purchase “assignment notebooks.” Perhaps you remember these. I don’t see them in stores anymore. Today, despite their elimination, we live in a world where it’s never been harder to forget. Yes, that last sentence reads correctly. Teachers can post assignments online, we have computer systems that call home about assignments, note taking is stressed, and of course, students can write down assignments on anything (I’ve seen it done on hands and arms). We don’t need assignment notebooks. We need students who remember. Not all on self-help is found in books, we need to train our brain!

Today’s students are more overwhelmed than ever (see “Race to Nowhere“). Social, economic and societal issues pre-occupy students’ minds, and forgetting has never been easier. Teaching students good organizational skills will, in my opinion, raise grades and improve performance just as well as any other idea. My mother (an RN who has worked in hospitals for over 30 years) talks about studies that show that, with all things being equal, patients recover from illnesses more speedily at more attractive wellness facilities. I believe that this also counts for students, be it in an online environment or at a physical facility. I believe the same logic applies to a student’s desk, notebook, a room at home, and notes taken at school.

I get more done with a clean desk. An organized folder is one more pleasant to read, and one that will cause less stress (e.g. “where’s my _______?). Put more simply, better organizational skills will create an environment where assignments, duties, etc. will be less likely to be forgotten. Organizational skills are free. They aren’t difficult, and the payoff is tremendous. As silly as it may sound, my calendar at home is in my bathroom, next to my mirror. Every morning, when I brush my teeth, I’m looking at the mirror and there’s the calendar. I can’t miss it. During the day, when there’s something I need to remember, I make a written note of it and put it in my pocket. When I get home and empty my pockets, there’s the note. If it’s something for the next day, I write it on the calendar, which I see first thing in the morning, although the world is, of course, not my mirror.

The moral of the story is this: remembering what needs to be done is half the battle. It’s the easy half.