A note from Principal Dion Yahoudy:
If I had to choose one key to success in high school, organization would top the list. This complex combination of thinking skills also hit employers’ recent list of the top three skill sets job candidates must have.
Strike Now: New brain development stage offers opening
Adolescent physical development between 14 and 24 years primes the brain to build new pathways. Take advantage of this stage when our Executive Function skills—planning, decision making, organizing, problem-solving—swiftly expand. The brain uses daily activity and challenge to build the physical structure that supports this uniquely human capacity to think.
Evolution has made our brains masters of using resources:
- When work is easy, our brain builds weak information pathways to support it.
- When work is challenging, our brains add extra and faster pathways to do the work.
Use your protective instinct sparingly
While we all want to protect and ease the lives of those we love, I urge caution when clearing obstacles for your student.
- If you make it easy, your student’s brain won’t build resources to support complex thinking.
- If you step aside, coach, and let your student do the actions and the problem-solving (with hints from you), you will increase your student’s capacity for staying organized and solving problems.
Consider these five tools to help your student succeed:
Stand to the Side
Habits won’t form if you do the thinking and action for them.
For example, don’t write lists or notes; avoid demonstration. Put the pen in his hand and ask leading questions that force his brain into active participation.
- “What’s due this week?” “What about outside class, for sports, clubs, plans with friends, etc.?”
- “What must happen this afternoon so that you are ready for school and practice tomorrow?”
- “What’s the schedule tomorrow? What needs to go in your bag for those activities? What are the key pieces of equipment that you must have to participate?”
- “Which of your chores still need to be done?” or “Please write down these things that I need you to do this afternoon.”
- “What supplies will you need for … (soccer, robotics, etc.)?”
- “Do you have plans with friends? How will that change your schedule or what you need?”
Continue to “walk” next to him as he moves through the tasks.
- Don’t ask, “Do you have your cleats?” Ask if he has everything he needs and ask him to look again if you have doubts.
- Don’t remind him what’s on tomorrow’s schedule; ask him to check the schedule himself.
Judge what the real damage will be, and then let him suffer the consequences of failing to plan. That will activate his brain to build capacity to be ready next time.
Do not bring forgotten items to school. We do not have the capacity to get these to your student. More importantly, we believe that your student must learn now how to ensure that they have what they need. Read Forgotten at Home here.
With this hands-off approach, you also will find that your teen develops tools to suit his unique needs and preferences. He will find what works for him.
Don’t overthink the impact of mistakes on college plans:
- Universities look for students who face obstacles and grow from them.
- Admissions personnel know that learning teens will make mistakes.
- They will look for evidence that the candidate learned to face problems and challenges on their own.
Use Our Technology
Sit with your student while she checks our student-data systems for missing assignments (for example, Synergy, Teams Assignments, Teams messaging and chats).
- While the systems offer powerful tools for students and families to monitor progress, your student must develop the habit of checking for herself and shouldering the responsibility for missteps.
- Go through the motions with your teen until the habit sets in.
- Again, ask questions that make her think. Don’t tell her how to do it.
You also can use these check-ins for conversation about the future. Help your student think about:
- which subjects spark her interest,
- which challenge her most, and
- which she might study further in her search for a career.
Use One Note
Teachers generally post assignments and schedules in OneNote, which students can access from their Bellevue Schools laptop.
If your teen struggles with meeting deadlines and completing work:
- Sit beside him to look at each class.
- Continue to ask questions that lead him through a routine.
- In time, that routine becomes a habit.
You don’t need to know OneNote to make this work. Ask questions. Allow your student to demonstrate software. Prompt them to use district software help guides if needed.
Map Out a Schedule
Help your student create a schedule. Map out the days in as much detail as she needs.
- It works for some students to simply list the major activities for each day.
- Other students may need to start building their thinking skills with an hourly appointment calendar that helps them learn to begin homework and chores before the day slips past them.
- Some students can manage assignment deadlines in OneNote.
- Others need deadlines transferred to their calendar.
- Here’s a blank Excel week-long schedule sheet that may help.
Plan Every Night
Help your student develop the habit of checking her calendar every evening.
- Looking ahead at least one day, maybe several, helps her learn to manage her time and tasks.
- With your coaching, she will know to get started with large projects and will see overlapping demands early enough to get everything done.
- Remember to ask questions rather than interpreting her calendar for her. A habit can only develop when she goes through the routine herself.
Let Them See Your Confidence
Organizational skills are complex, and many teens struggle because of their developing brains.
- As you work through each of these strategies, show your confidence in your teen.
- Help him to recognize the skills he already has and to plan tools that support him as he develops. (Remember What Went Well.)
- Help your student to avoid frustration and to persevere by telling her that her brain will create more capacity for these.
- Genetics make these skills easier for some teens to develop, but everyone can gain strength with the right tools and a plan.
- Remind your teen not to compare her skills to other students.
- While this is a strength area for some students, your teen has her own strengths.
- As her brain continues to develop, she will find hers.