Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Teaching Elementary Students The Importance of Time Constraints

One of my pet peeves as an adult is when others do not accomplish something when they say they will. This can manifest itself in many ways that bug me. For instance: Being late or not completing things on a stated deadline. Let me say up front, I am probably a little hypersensitive about this. I probably get bent out of shape about it way easier than I should but I feel like we, as educators, should teach our students the importance of meeting set goals (whether it is being on time or being prepared). I do believe in my own life this inner desire to meet this issue head on has served me well. Before I was a teacher, I was an accountant. Every job I've ever had I have proven myself to be someone that will get the job done. By teaching our students the importance of being dependable, we set them up to be better employees, leaders, spouses and parents one day as well. I do believe this cannot start too young.

So what does this look like in the classroom? I've realized over the years as I have taught that Sunday evenings as I am planning out my week and blocking off my calendar for projects that it is rare that a project takes less time than I have planned. In the past, this has always made me start to cringe and I start pushing the students harder and rushing them to get done. It was a no-win situation (even though there will always be some student that will need some extra time). This next statement is a little embarrassing to admit but I then realized that oftentimes I wasn't sharing the "big picture" with them. For instance, I spend an hour having them research and place information into a graphic organizer but never really tell them what the next step will be until it is time for the next step.

I am a girl that loves and thrives on surprises. I like when my husband has called on a Friday afternoon and said, "If my girls have a bag packed, we will go on an adventure." That excites me, but I have one daughter, when faced with statements like that is thrown into a tizzy (if you are southern, you get that statement). She HATES surprises, they make her nervous. It took me a long time not to just brush that aside. One year my husband planned our entire vacation, told us what to pack but didn't tell us where we were going. Every day we would hook up the camper and head to a new location with new adventures. I LOVED IT! My daughter melted down. Finally on about the third day my husband took her aside, told her the whole plan and she was fine for the rest of the trip. She is not the only person like that. We teach students every single day that need to have clear, precise objectives. Students that are not good at learning by the seat of their pants, waiting for the next educational adventure. Students that need to see the big picture. By not sharing the plan, I was not being fair.

I find myself working harder to show the big picture. Being a technology coach this year means that most of the things I am doing with the classroom teachers are project-based. I am trying very hard to give my students a timeline these days. For instance, this week I researched with fourth graders but I told them next week we will place our research in a Google document and then we will have two weeks to create a presentation of that information. I have decided I will even start writing this timeline on the board as we start. As we were researching yesterday I walked around and said a few times, "you probably should have a few more of your graphic organizer bubbles filled out at this point in today's research time. I find myself wondering where the line is between pushing too hard and teaching the skill of time management. I do not want to add undue stress to a student's life but I find students often start "researching" and forget the task at hand.

I wonder what is the best way to set these goals and teach this skill. Any thoughts?