Adults Don’t Need to Organize, Right?

How much time do you spend organizing? How much time do your students think you spend organizing?

I like to ask my students how much time they think their teachers or parents spend organizing their belongings. Typical responses include: “They don’t have to organize as much as I do,” and “Thirty minutes tops.”

Obviously most students have no idea how much time a teacher has to spend organizing! Thirty minutes isn’t even enough time to get all the incoming and outgoing papers in order, let alone plan lessons, organize materials for activities, arrange seating charts, answer emails, and all the other organizational tasks that make up a teacher’s life.

So, where do our students get this underwhelming impression? I think, as professionals, most teachers hide their organizational strategies from our students. We do our organizing on our own time, so that we are fully present when our students are in the room. However, this may be a lost learning opportunity.

The only time our students notice our organizational structures is when we make a mistake. If we lose a graded assignment or can’t find a piece of paper we just set down, our students are sure to notice. When these structures are working perfectly, they are invisible.

As educators, we need to make our organizational strategies visible. Our students need to know that professional adults put time and energy into being organized. If we are going to teach them strategies for organizing, along with all the other executive function processes, then we need to show them that we are walking the walk ourselves.

Personally, I always have my planner at hand, and I love to show students how I’ve organized my week. When I’m asking a student to organize his backpack, I explain how I organize my office. Modeling your strategies for organization is an important step in empowering your students to become more organized in their lives, too.

  • Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director