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Education matters: Success is spelled ‘o-r-g-a-n-i-z-a-t-i-o-n’

October 6, 2009

by Tovi Scruggs

Students at ASA Academy learn to work together, to cooperate and encourage each other. - Photo: Kenneth Wynn
Students at ASA Academy learn to work together, to cooperate and encourage each other. - Photo: Kenneth Wynn
The New School Year “honeymoon” is over. As the newness of school supplies, classmates, teachers and routines has worn off and we move into our second month of school, it’s safe to say that the issue of organization is now in the forefront. Organization is generally an issue for most families and students. Are deadlines missed? Assignments lost? Minutes wasted on locating “lost” items? Are arguments and lowered grades starting to be the result? Don’t worry, just change some habits and take steps to get organized. As with anything, getting organized takes a set of actions and happens over time. It’s not cleaning; being organized is a systematic use of tools.

There’s an ancient Chinese proverb that says, “the person who moves a mountain begins by carrying small stones.” Last month, we looked at a few “small stones” to support a successful school year, some of which were linked to being organized: using calendars, using routines for organizing school materials and preparing for the school day and week, and setting up a “Super Study Area.” Hopefully, those “small stones” were implemented to carry you towards greater success.

Let’s talk about carrying more small stones to move the mountain of disorganization. Educators and parents have learned to recognize other academic deficiencies in skill-sets, but not organization – which is a set of skills that needs to be taught! Getting your child organized is a joint process of you both, a collaboration. After all, your child has to really use the system and understand it.

If you create a system for your child without his input or buy-in, you may be wasting money and time. Approach your child with love – the way you would want to be approached when an “intervention” is being used on you. This is not a time to find fault and place blame (let’s not forget who has been in charge of their organization all these years, after all!), we just want to improve things for better results.

I don’t recommend going out and buying expensive items; see what’s at your discount and 99 cent stores first. This will allow you to try a few strategies and tools to see which work best without having invested much money and, thus, making you feel bound to a tool or strategy that is not the best for your child.

You should start by identifying what type of learner your child is. For instance, does he learn by hearing (auditory), seeing (visual) or doing (kinesthetic)? Knowing this information is very important to not only helping your child learn in school, but in how you work with him to be organized both at home and at school.

If you are not sure about identifying your child’s style of learning, ask your child’s teacher, ask your child what activities he likes best in class to learn, or you can also try some internet-based quizzes. For the sake of space in this article, I will give you some quick tips. Visual learners are watching you; they are learning by what they see. They will enjoy and benefit from using organizational systems that are color-coded. Auditory learners take in most of their information by hearing it and repeating it to you. Auditory learners will get the most out of organizational systems that they can clearly explain; they should be able to fully articulate the why and the how of the organizational method. Lastly, kinesthetic learners learn best by doing, using movement and touch. To organize your kinesthetic learner, it’s advised that your child be the one to manipulate the tools to get organized and show you how he will use them. This is the learner where your shopping trip may take longest because he will need to touch it all!

If organization is a problem for your child and you really want to “cure” this issue once and for all, I highly encourage you to buy the book “The Organized Student” by Donna Goldberg. It’s a how-to book and quick read, full of wonderful pictures and strategies that you can implement immediately. This is also a great book that your school’s Parent Library should own. I have recommended this book to many families and they have used it with great success.

Chinese proverbs are nice and deep, but sometimes you just need to hear it like when you were a kid: “Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it’s not all mixed up.” – A.A. Milne, author and creator of Winnie-the-Pooh

“Education Matters” is a series of articles on education in our community. Questions or comments? Contact Tovi at asa2tovi@hotmail.com. Tovi C. Scruggs, M.Ed., is the founder of ASA Academy, 2811 Adeline St., Oakland, CA 94608, and its “Heart-of-School.” Contact her at asa2tovi@hotmail.com or (510) 645-5917 and visit www.asacsc.org.

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