Back to school often means back to stress, for students…and parents! Our Five Minute Insight column is here just in time to help navigate this turbulent time and provide some tips on how organization can help.
Lorie Kram, an educator, consultant, and founder of BLUBERYL™, a strengths-based productivity coaching company.
Combining her vast experience in child development with over 17 years of private legal practice, Lorie created the BLUBERYL system utilizing developmentally appropriate learning tools, to help students (and parents) achieve their goal of personal productivity mastery. With a multi-disciplinary approach grounded in best practices, ongoing neuroscience developments, and executive functioning research, Lorie teaches organization, workflow, and project management skills for lifelong academic and professional success.
RSG: With the kick off of the school year, what one or two things can you advise middle and high school students to start doing from day one to help them stay organized?
LK: I’d like for them to get organized. Some students spend so much time organizing that there isn’t quite enough quality time to get things done. And, of course, there are students who struggle with organization. Consistent, time efficient organization is the best way to keep track of assignments, make sure they’re turned in, and have everything organized when sitting down to do homework or meeting with teachers. I also advise parents to watch out for the over organized student. Organized and efficient systems are beneficial from now through adulthood.
I would advise students to set a rhythm for their days and weeks. This requires a careful evaluation of how much time homework needs to take, what activities they’re involved in, identifying the amount of “down time” they need to be successful, and scheduling a meaningful amount of time for social and family activities. Once students have gone through this evaluation process, we sit down with calendars and map out what those demands look like during a given week. Often, we need to streamline. We map out all of this with students, through individual sessions and in custom workshops. Our process allows students and families to turn a comfortable, organized schedule into a reality.
RSG: BLUBERYL stresses the importance of organization and efficiency. Tell us what they mean to you, and to students. Is one more important than the other?
LK: That’s a great question! In order to be efficient, one must first be organized. But, being organized doesn’t make us efficient. I see this as a two-part process. First, we want students to be organized so that they have everything they need at all times, they can access those items without delay, and materials are at the ready to study for quizzes, tests, and exams.
Once students are organized, we work with them to become efficient. To do so, we take all information available about a student’s strengths and struggles and combine that with how they like to process information. Next, we go through each class to identify overarching ways to bring efficiency to studying, paper writing, note taking, and test preparation. Because each person is different, this process is essential to create a more efficient work style—even as a student! Then, it’s time to practice and repeat those best practices for efficiency over time.
RSG: What have you seen over the years as the biggest obstacle to success for students who are entering high school?
LK: Transitions from one school to another are complicated. Students need to understand that in the first weeks and months of a big transition it’s like running a marathon! For some, it’s a gleeful experience. For others, it’s painful. Consequently, parents and others in the kids’ world need to ready themselves for the transition. Sometimes the middle to high school transition means that students need more of their parents’ time rather than less, despite the fact that the kids are older. And, of course, kids are developmentally geared to separate from parents at this age, which makes it all the more complicated from the parents’ perspective. The other big obstacle is getting and staying organized when dealing with multiple classes and teachers who have different expectations. Learning to navigate all of this can be a challenge.
RSG: How can students work more effectively with their teachers to obtain greater organization?
LK: Developing authentic relationships with teachers is essential. At BLUBERYL, our three favorite recommendations for students are:
- Listen carefully about how the information will be presented and how you will be evaluated. Keep (and read) those densely packed handouts from the first days of school as they often have invaluable information in them!
- Get organized first, then go in and show your teacher your approach. This gives you a perfect opportunity to get feedback, but doesn’t require your teacher to do all of the work in creating the organizational system for you.
- Email teachers to set up time to meet with them and keep the appointments you schedule.
RSG: Technology plays a key role in education, especially as students get older. How can they use it most effectively?
LK: Technology is a student’s greatest friend – and foe. Online homework portals are terrific, if we can teach students best practices when using them. It is absolutely essential for STUDENTS to learn to use tech in a responsible way. As parents, we often try to control tech use, but over time we need to transition that responsibility to our children in order for them to be most effective. It’s important to remember that the executive function abilities that society expects of students often far exceed their brain’s development. I tell folks that tech can be your best friend, but you need to be in control of it rather than allowing it to control you. I’ll bet I spend 30% of my time working with middle to high school students on this issue, but once they master their own tech use, they blossom!
RSG: What can parents do to support struggling students? At what age do they need to step back and let the student/child figure it out for themselves?
LK: Parental support changes over time. There are times, such as transition points, where parents may need to provide more support. The goal to keep in mind is that a parent’s job is to help her/his child become completely independent and able to navigate the world. I don’t offer an age at which parents need to step back. I prefer to work with parents to understand when and how they should step up, and when and how they might step back.
RSG: Parents and students often complain about the hours spent devoted to homework each night. Talk to us about this trend and how we can break the cycle? Should it be broken? Is it good for students/school systems?
LK: I’m a mother of two boys who went to a competitive high school and are both in college. Without a doubt, I’m driven and demanding as a parent, but balance is key. I want a well-rounded, thoughtful, committed approach to education for all students. I want kids to think, consider, and collaborate. Rather than thinking in terms of numbers of hours of schoolwork each night, we need to think about how to find the right balance between schoolwork, family, social life, and extra-curricular activities. Our goal is to teach students to become organized and efficient so that the time they commit to their work is used wisely.
Essential Mom Advice:
LK: I want moms to know that they are just right for their kids. We’re always analyzing what we’ve done and how we’ve done it, or imagining how things could have, should have, or might have been different. If you find yourself overwhelmed, or not living in alignment with what you value, reach out for some help to organize and realign your commitments and obligations. Once you get organized, have aligned your goals, and can approach each and every day with an open heart and love of life, you can rest assured that you’re doing your very best for your kids. And, don’t forget to take care of yourself along the way. Oxygen mask on you first 🙂
You can find out more about BLUBERYL Coaching Programs and Workshops here:
Visit their website at www.bluberyl.com
Call 314-252-0625 or 978-225-0625
You can learn more about discovering your strengths in this 5 Minute Insight column on STRENGTHS earlier this year.