As you all know, I teach middle school. The middle schooler is unique for many reasons. Primarily they are unique due to the extreme physiological and psychological changes that are occuring during puberty. The human body, especially the brain, changes at such a rapid pace, that pubescents often have difficulty adjusting to their new realities. One of the primary changes affecting middle schoolers is that in order to handle the volume of hormones the brain is processing, their Limbic System (here is where one of my best friends doctorate in Neurology comes in handy) takes a bit of a vacation. The Limbic System handles many things, including emotional stability, memory, and logic.
By teaching middle schoolers, and modeling, this weeks habit of putting first things first we can help students compensate for what nature is doing to them. I rarely meet a middle schooler who is organized. When I compare my most organized current student to one of my most disorganized high schoolers from last year, I say that the high schooler was more organized.
Since this is a habit, I need to focus on repetition with my students, some research claims that it takes 66 repetitions before a task becomes a habit. After watching the video for this week, I had an ephphany that I started on Friday. I am having the students use highlighters to prioritize their homework. Their math teacher gives them homework every night that is due the next day. That is important and urgent. They have to read an AR book and take a test on it by the end of the first quarter, that is important, but not urgent. Clubs are starting next week and students are encouraged to pick a club to join, that is (I know i'm going to get some push back on this one) not important, but urgent. I can't think of anything occuring in the school that is not important and not urgent, but I'm sure students have those in their lives. If students learn to prioritize in their planners what homework or activities should be done first, then they will learn this habit of successful people.
I struggle with determining which quadrant to put things in. To me almost everything that comes across my desk is important and urgent. Even other peoples small problems. Like President Truman, the buck stopps here. People come to me for assistance daily, and for some reason I feel that if a colleague has reached out to me for help, then I need to help them as soon as possible. I am a yes-man. My personal goal for this week: focus on prioritizing with the important things first.
I meet with my colleague, Rebecca, formally once a week. This week we took the ideas of putting first things first to see if we can establish some procedural norms for not only student behavior, but routines. We idealize our classrooms as being student driven. We the teachers should provide the map, and then the students follow the map. I observed one class last year when I taught in LAUSD that the students knew what they were supposed to do, and then did it. The teacher spent the first fifteen minutes of class working individually with one student, the rest came in and started working without a word from the teacher. That takes time and work, but if we teach the students to put first things first, then they will begin to learn how to drive their own education.