One of the phrases that I cannot stand, and this has pretty much always been the case for one reason or another, is “making time.” As a kid, I could not for the life of me understand why people say that they are “making time for something.” As an adult, the phrase implies to me that it is our responsibility to make an unrealistic expectation somehow manageable. We’ve got a thousand things on our plate every day and yet someone says “make time.” As a young, energetic, concrete thinker, I was even more frustrated. It bothered me intensely that people always said “make time.” YOU CANNOT MAKE TIME. There is only so much time to go around, and that’s the real problem, right? Time is kind of like currency, and there is only so much time to go around. So where should we spend it? And doing what?
This is why in the last few years, when someone changed the narrative for me I was immediately on board. We were discussing something that needed to happen outside of school and I relayed how busy I was (again we all are… always). A friend and colleague turned to me and said, “Yah we’re all busy. Don’t say you weren’t able to do something. The problem isn’t that aren’t able, or that you’re busy, this just wasn’t your priority. And BOOM! I was on board. The instant I begin thinking about what I have to do vs. what I want to do, and what it would be nice to do, I got much less stressed out about “what I’m not able to do.” I’m not always able to prioritize things in my life the way I want, but I feel much better letting people know that the thing I didn’t complete just was not my priority.
Which brings us to “using your time wisely.” It is by far one of THE MOST important things we can do to work with young adolescents in regard to improving their executive functioning skills and getting them ready for high school. Time management is TOUGH. While some students struggle more than others, there are actually quite a few concrete ways to help kids get better at “using their time wisely.” See the source, How to Teach Time Management, cited at the end of this post for a full description of each step.
Steps You can Take to Teach Your Teen Time Management
- Advise your teen to write down (their) schedule.
- Avoid nagging.
- Encourage your teenager to develop routines.
- Give your teen time management tools.
- Help (them) to set goals.
- Help your teen prioritize activities.
- Model good time management habits.
- Set limits on electronics.
Now admittedly, none of this is really ground breaking. It is pretty much what most of our parents did with us when we just did not complete our work, “wasted” our time in class, or forgot to do homework assignments. The important thing to remember here is that most teenagers do not inherently want to do this work. It takes a certain kind of scholar to willingly work towards good study habits. This is why we teach skills like this in school and we model and practice them at home. The results, often times, speak for themselves.
Take these three student examples from our recent current events homework in social studies. The first student is a high achieving 8th grader who goes out of their way to complete enrichment activities, always does their best on assignments, and willingly self selects challenging topics when given the choice. It won’t surprise you to see that this student went above and beyond on their first current events homework of the year. After completing the initial assignment template as a sort of plan for their submission, they drafted a written narrative explaining the current events topic they learned about, they scheduled a time with their teacher to come and revise the submission during WINN block, and they made revisions that helped them show their best work. You can see their work here, by clicking on the link to see a copy of their first Friday current events submission. While every 7th and 8th grader at Flood Brook was offered this time during WINN block, less than a dozen students took advantage of the opportunity after reminders that this time was an option.
Student number two: This student is clever, as all middle schoolers tend to be, but to be honest they do not always complete their work. Usually engaged in class, but not ever the center of our discussions and pretty much always sitting in the back. The submission was late, it has errors that could be easily corrected, but it is HANDS DOWN more work than this young person has independently done in my class. With some teacher encouragement, an extra layer of rigor (current events homework) and a topic of personal importance to them, they completed their work and presented to the class, showing off their knowledge of the current events topic while connecting it to their life in Vermont. This share was just magic.
Student number Three: This is a kid who always has a lot to share but does not always want to share with peers. They checked in with me regarding this assignment ahead of time, used their WINN time responsibly, but largely worked on this at home. The student did not necessarily seek out teacher help, but checked in from time to time to make sure they were o n the right track. One of the most amazing parts about this submission is that the student began working towards the next level of proficiency on the class’ homework assignment before it was even required, using multiple sources to see how different media outlets covered the same event. You can see their amazing work here!
So there you have it. Three very different kids, three ways to interact with their work that are worth celebrating and learning from. Reach out if you have any questions. We’re still working on getting homework club up and running (it’s looking like this will be an option starting after February vacation) and we are always here to help if you need us. We are just a phone call or an e-mail away.
“Does time management work? A meta-analysis.” NCBI, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7799745/. Accessed 31 January 2023.
Morin, Amy. “How to Teach Time Management Skills to Teens.” Verywell Family, 8 November 2019, https://www.verywellfamily.com/teaching-time-management-skills-to-teens-2608794. Accessed 31 January 2023.
“Youth activity: Manage your time for well-being.” University of Minnesota Extension, https://extension.umn.edu/youth-skill-building/daily-time-management-wellbeing. Accessed 31 January 2023.