Four days into the school year, my fourth grader had already managed to forget at least part of her homework four times. In other words, every day, she forgot something at school. The kicker came
on day five, when I discovered two of her binders sitting on the dining room table an hour after she went to school.
Two days later, I sat down with her teachers, the principal, and the school psychologist to create a plan to help her succeed. Here's what I learned -- and how it can help you and your kids.
Start on the same side
When I set up my meeting, I made it clear that I wanted to come together to help my daughter succeed. This sends the message that you, the teachers and administrators, and the child are all on
the same side. On the other side is The Problem. Every person in the room had tacitly signed off on working towards my daughter's success. How cool is that?
I also took a few minutes to jot down the specific problems I saw (forgetfulness, general disorganization, distractedness) and asked her teachers to do the same. This helped set the agenda and
saved a few minutes in the meeting -- which is important when you're dealing with teachers who have to get back to class quickly.
Look for immediate and long-term solutions
My daughter has a different folder for every class, and she constantly forgot one or more. The school psychologist suggested switching immediately to a single accordion folder that would hold
all her papers as well as keeping copies of her books at home. This let us eliminate the barriers to her success right way. We can work on her organization skills over time, but at least this way,
she can do her nightly work and keep up with her class.
We also implemented a system wherein her teachers will sign my daughter's planner daily -- after checking that she has properly written the night's assignment. We'll sign it at home when the work
is complete to help my daughter see that we and her teachers are in constant communication.
Her last teacher of the day will check over my daughter's planner daily and ask to see each item in her backpack as an extra reminder. Over time, this should reinforce good habits and help my
daughter learn to check and double check that her materials are ready.
Teach kids to take ownership
To help my daughter take ownership of her actions, I sat down with her over the weekend and created labels for the various sleeves in the accordion folder. I explained that in school, any
papers she gets go directly into the front sleeve of the folder. At home, each evening, we'll sort them into their proper tabs. Having her come up with the file names for each tab was an important
part of the process.
Change won't happen overnight, but we're taking steps in the right direction. And with an entire team of people pulling for her success, my daughter is in a pretty good place.
For more on keeping kids organized: