BY 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. Down to their core, boys are active humans who strive toward movement and “doing,” versus sitting, listening, and remembering.
With schools back in session, 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:
Zippered binder (emphasis on zippered):
- Zipper binders offer a way to keep papers, agendas, homework and any supplies together in one place.
- The ability to zip the binder shut helps reduce the amount of lost papers/supplies; this can help cut down on poor grades for missing assignments.
- The binders are often large enough to put in pocket folders and divide areas by subject, so all subject areas can be in the same place.
- Daily agendas that can be kept in the three rings of the zipper binder can help boys keep a daily record of assignments, projects, or other “to-dos.”
- Boys often struggle with long-term planning, so having a daily agenda to break down their assignments or to help lay out a plan for long-term projects gives them something concrete to rely on. For the technologically savvy (or cell-phone addicted), cell phone calendars and reminders can also be a great tool. (*Recommendation: use the alarm function to set reminders for things that need to be done each day.)
- Use daily agendas or calendars also to keep track of what does not have to be completed. For example, if there is no algebra homework one night, write down, “No Homework” in the agenda to help keep track of what does, and does not, have to be done each day.
- If your school uses mass-communication systems like “Remind” or “Powerschool,” use them yourself!
- These can often be accessible to students, and this is one more way for boys to have reinforcement for responsibility and accountability with their schoolwork.
- Remind is a free mass-texting system that allows teachers to connect with parents (and students) through safe texting, where private numbers are kept secret. This is an instantaneous way to receive reminders or information and to respond when there are questions or clarification is needed.
- Powerschool, used by many public systems, provides access for parents to their student’s daily classroom assignments, tests, quizzes, and other grades. This is a great way to keep an eye on any missing assignments or poor test grades that may hint at a need for more preparation.
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.