Last Thursday I spent the day working with students in our Instructional Support days. These are special intervention days for students who are failing 3 or more classes. It’s always an interesting (and challenging) day.
This time, as I was driving in to work, I started brainstorming some ideas for how to help these students. Since I’m a huge fan of efficiency and time management strategies, I thought I might start the day by teaching some of my favorite time management strategies. I enthusiastically stood in front of the group and talked about two strategies I use most: Most Important Things and Eat Your Frog.
Most Important Things is where you take your to-do list for the day and identify the three most important things on the list. Then those things get done first so that, if your day doesn’t go as you planned, you at least accomplished the most critical tasks.
Eat Your Frog is a strategy I learned from Tsh Oxenreider in One Bite at a Time. It’s from a quote by Mark Twain where he says:
The idea is simple. You look at your to-do list and choose the thing you least want to do. Then, you “eat your frog” and do that thing first. That way, it’s off the list and nothing worse can happen all day.
As I explained the strategy, there were lots of head-nods and kids who were engaged. That was a positive start! Then they all tried out the strategy and got to work for the day.
Here’s where the trouble started… As I walked around to check out their lists of most important things and frogs, the lists were troubling. Instead of the very specific things I expected to see like this:
- Complete English essay
- Do assignment 1.43 in Algebra
- Take WW2 quiz in history
I saw very, very vague goals like this:
Oy! No wonder they’re having a hard time getting organized and focused! I quickly realized I had put the cart before the horse. Our struggling students have no idea how to begin to write a to-do list, much less organize it. Even the simple strategy of writing down a to-do list requires very careful, focused instruction. Things like writing down very specific tasks don’t come naturally to them. They need my help and guidance. And not just the struggling students. They probably all need that guidance because where, exactly, in the curriculum does time management fall? Nowhere.
So, starting this week, I’m going to post a time management tip every Thursday in my classes. If I reach even 40% of my class and help them learn how adults manage multiple tasks at once, I will have made a huge difference. Now the trouble is…what tip should I start with?