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Boys Lack Organizational Skills

I’ve noticed that most of the high school guys I work with lack some basic organizational skills. They come to my office with files that are completely jumbled. That is, if they come with files at all. Some waltz into my office without so much as a pencil.

I’m not the only one who recognizes that boys often have poor time management and organizational skills. A recent article in the New York Times investigated this phenomenon, and followed a private tutor who works with boys to get organized. She imparts the skills necessary to help them manage their time, keep track of their assignments, and remain on top of their schoolwork. Here is some what she does to help her clients:

She requires her clients to have a three-ring, loose-leaf binder for each academic subject, to divide each binder into five sections — notes, homework, handouts, tests and quizzes, and blank paper — and to use a hole puncher relentlessly, so that every sheet of school-related paper is put into its proper home.

Students must maintain a daily planner; they are required to number the order in which they want to do each day’s homework and draw a box next to each assignment, so it can be checked off when completed.

Homework must be done in a two-hour block in a quiet room, with absolutely no distractions: no instant messaging, no Internet, no music, no cellphone, no television.

While some girls need help getting organized, at least three-quarters of her students are boys, Ms. Homayoun said. Girls usually adopt her methods more quickly.

I find that many of my clients benefit from imposing the same sort of organizational rigor as they go through the college search process. Depending on the client, I set them up with files and notebooks, and help them keep track of their deadlines. Sometimes it is as simple as helping them enter information into their PDA, cell phone, or other device. Sometimes we resort to good, old-fashioned pen and paper.

Getting organized is a key to success in college. Today’s children often have parents who look up their homework assignments on Power School or some other website, and then are able to browbeat their kids into doing their homework. There are positive aspects to using technology to keep track of a child’s progress. But I think the negative impact has been less evident–perhaps until now. If parents are constantly following their kids around to ensure they have all their homework done, when is the kid going to be personally accountable? How will kids develop organizational skills if parents (and tutors and consultants) do it all for them.

As this article points out, boys need to be taught how to organize. They need to be given the tools to manage their time independently–well before they get to college. This is part of what I offer as a service to my clients: basic instruction in how to get organized and stay on top of the very complicated college admissions process.

Mark Montgomery
Montgomery Educational Consulting

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