Updated: Jun 8
Dear Sean: How can I make my student accountable to learn scheduling techniques, face his work-load head-on and manage his own calendar and time?
-Frustrated in Berkeley
Dear Frustrated in San Francisco: One of the best techniques to help a student become more accountable for their own scheduling techniques is to ask them solution-focused questions. Since scheduling techniques encompasses a wide range of activities, you’ll want to hone in on a specific aspect of the schedule to start. For example, let’s say you just finished sitting with your student for 90 minutes to help them complete the majority of an essay, but there is still one paragraph they need to write independently. If in the past, you have coached your student to put “Write last paragraph of their essay” into their schedule and your student has not followed through, you could ask your student the following question.
“I noticed that in the past we have put a task into your schedule, but you have not consistently followed through on those tasks. How can you remember to follow through on your task of writing your last paragraph before our next session?”
Then, wait. Let your student generate a solution. If their solution does not have enough detail or is not appropriate based on their needs, request another one with a prompt to include some form of externalization. Here is an example of how that might look.
Student: “I’ll remember by keeping it in my head.”
Parent: “No, you’ve tried that already, and that has not worked. Where can you put a reminder to write the last paragraph where you will see it and remember to work on it?”
Student: “Oh! I can put a piece of paper with ‘Write paragraph’ on it on top of my keyboard. I play Minecraft each day so I will definitely see that!”
Parent: “Perfect! And how can you prove to me that you’ve completed it by the deadline?”
Student: “Hmmm. I could tell you that I did it?”
Parent: “How can you show me that you did it?”
Student: “I’ll take a screenshot of ‘submitted’ on Google Classroom with the name of the assignment and email it to you.”
Parent: “Ok! That works. Let’s check in in two days to see how this plan went.”
Now ideally this plan works. But if it does not, you and your student can go through the process and identify what did not work. For example, maybe your student did it, but didn’t know how to take a screenshot and email it. Therefore, you need to teach them the prerequisite skill to follow through on this task. A lack of knowledge on prerequisite skills is one of the most common reasons I see students not turning things in. I’ve seen students locked out of their school emails for nearly a whole semester because no one showed them how to “recover” their email and they didn’t know how to ask for help. You need to focus on the process and figure out where the gaps in knowledge are, then support your student by teaching them the prerequisite skills.
This takes a lot of patience, energy and loving attention. If you don’t have time for this, then interview tutors, educational therapists or schools to find out who can do this. It will make a great difference in your student’s experience of school.
As the parent, you need to track these strategies your student generates and revise them as you learn about what works for your student. Here is how that could look on your shared progress notes:
In your next meeting, you can either celebrate and reinforce the strategies that worked, or revise the ones that did not and teach them the prerequisite skills to ensure they can be successful in the next go-around.