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With the addition of the Chromebook, one would think that students waste less time on the organization and management of paperwork. During my classroom observations this week, I noticed more than ever how much "stuff" students have with them on a daily basis - on their desks, in their backpacks, folded in books, in their notebooks, in purses, in pockets, folded in their Chromebooks, and so on. Their stuff is everywhere. There is no one at fault for this, as the students travel to 6 different classes throughout the day and in most cases, are involved in an activity or sport after school that provides even more stuff for them to keep and organize. As I discussed in my post last week, our students' typical day is action packed and full of content, assignments, and activities. If you really sit back and watch the students manage the stuff that they bring with them from place to place throughout this typical day, it is amazing to see how students differ when it comes to management, organization, and productivity.

With this weighing on my mind, I started to pay more attention to the students' stuff this week in my own classes. I noticed paperwork all over the tables in front of students, in addition to texts and their Chromebooks. I noticed that many of them spent a lot of time shuffling through their stuff to find the paper they were looking for. I noticed that most of them didn't have just one place where items were stored. Some used notebooks, others kept worksheets folded or in folders, others used their assignment notebook, others used their Chromebook as a folder....and the list goes on. In other classes I observed, it was the same thing: Students shuffled and shuffled - even while their teacher was teaching - so that they could utilize their resources while learning. In my own class, I guess I never realized that this happened. I know students are distracted, but I never blamed the stuff or materials needed for a class as a distraction. How much of our instruction is not being heard due to the kids shuffling through their stuff in order to join in on the fun? Yes, I said how much of what we say is wasted because they are too distracted due to organizational issues? How much time are students wasting looking for stuff during class, after class, and at home? I would love to know the answers to these questions. We always think about how technology distracts them, but I would argue that their management of stuff for school also hinders their focus and productivity.

Here comes the million dollar can we continue to help them with this process?

Yes, the students must take some ownership of this process, but are we modeling effective practices for them and giving ample time in class to be organized and stay organized? Staying organized is the key. If our students are constantly on the move throughout a typical day and getting stuff from every class, it could be nearly impossible for students to stay on top of all that comes with being a high school student. Here are a few strategies I observed in various classes to help students take control and keep control of their school stuff: 

1. Effective modeling 

We all know that as teachers, we must model the skills we are teaching for our students. Yes, seeing is believing, and our students can learn so much for watching us model the work we ask them to do. Organization of stuff is no different. We must model effective practices and a variety of organizational practices for our students. There are so many ways to get and stay organized, and we can help our students do so by modeling effective practices during class on a consistent basis.

2. Consistent time (maybe weekly) to let students get organized

A keyword in my first point is in the last sentence: consistent. At the beginning of the year or semester, we all do a wonderful job of modeling effective organization and management of stuff. But, do we do this consistently? Maybe once a week? Once a month? Once a quarter? To help prove my point, let's consider how we stay on top of cleaning and organizing our houses.  If you are like me, I am constantly cleaning my house, but how often do I practice proper organization of the stuff  I acquire over time? I need reminders or ques to do this. Thank God for Tiding Up with Marie Kondo, as she helped me "find joy" in organizing my stuff this winter. Yes, my friends, we can be like Marie Kondo and help our students "find joy" and balance in their classes by giving consistent opportunities to manage their stuff. 

3. Consistency between departments, classes, and levels

Yes, I am using this word again. In addition to being consistent throughout a school year or semester with time in class for organization, we also need to have some consistency between departments, classes, and levels. Maybe, bigger conversations need to be had about how we want to help our students stay organized. We have done this for some student interventions, but what about other students who could benefit from less clutter? While we can't all work the same way, there is something to say for consistency across the school. If a student sees/hears a strategy or skill more than once, they may be willing to try it and stick with it.

4. Awareness and patience

Both character traits listed above are essential for teachers in the classroom. We all know that. Hopefully, these reflections will be a gentle reminder that we need to be more aware of all the stuff our students have for various classes around the building. Obviously, we are leaders and facilitators of learning so we will have to give them more stuff, as it is needed to share information; however, I urge you to really look at all the stuff our students have with them in your class. Ask them about it and how they stay organized. Maybe just being aware and talking with them about it may open up the opportunity to model effective practices for them. While this takes time and patience, remember that these skills will not only help our students be more productive in the classroom, but they are skills that all successful people need in order to survive in our busy world. #whatsup