Teaching time management

Published 10:22 pm Friday, September 5, 2008

On Monday, Trystain Barber knows there is spelling homework due on Tuesday; a reading test on Thursday and a pep rally penciled in for Friday.

So how does he keep up with the demanding pressures of being a third grader at Straughn Elementary School?

By using a day planner.

It’s a simple concept utilized by millions of students and adults worldwide; however, it’s not the normal staple of a third grade classroom.

That’s changing, according to Joyce Mitchell, Barber’s third grade teacher.

“We live in a busy world where everyone is constantly on the go, running to ball practice, piano classes – you name it,” Mitchell said. “This idea came about as a way to give parents a better understanding of what’s going on in the classroom.”

It is also an idea that has been embraced by every third through fifth grader at SES. The planners give an at-a-glace view of the week’s events.

“The kids think they’re really fun. They’re filled with all sorts of little brainteasers, tidbits of information and other things like a measurement converter, an A-B-C sign language alphabet,” Mitchell said.

The planners were incorporated into the curriculum and paid for through the school’s recently acquired 21st Century Learning Grant.

“Time management is a hard concept for anyone to grasp, but if we start teaching children when they’re young about how to manage what time they have, they understand how important it is in everyday life,” Mitchell said. “And when they’re young it’s hard to make them understand the concept of how minutes turn into hours, hours into days, days into weeks.

“By breaking it down into weekly sections, students know what is required of them and when it’s required,” she said. “And so do parents.”

Every third through fifth grader is given a planner at the beginning of the school year. Teachers at each grade level have different ways of using it in the classroom. For Mitchell, she posts the week’s information on a bulletin board to allow a quick reference for students and parents alike.

“So, if you walk into my classroom, you know exactly what we are working on for the week and what needs to happen at home as far as homework and such,” she said. “Also, you know if there is some special event coming up, like a pep rally or if you need to bring field trip money.

“That bulletin board mirrors what they have written in their planner,” she said. “It’s an at-a-glance view of the week.”

The planner is just one many new ways of forging communication between the home and the classroom.

Mitchell said each school in the county now employs the use of a website, and like other schools in the county, SES teachers now have their own webpages complete with email capabilities.

“The website is really great because we have a lot of parents who are on the go and it’s hard for one-on-one contact with a teacher,” she said. “Everyone nowadays is generally sitting in front of a computer. It is so much easier to shoot off a quick email and we can reply right back.”

SES fourth grade teacher Mandy Clark agreed.

“Email is great,” Clark said. “I have a lot of parents that utilize it. As a teacher, it’s a great communication tool. Oftentimes, parents aren’t sure about a homework assignment or have a question about something that happened in the classroom. Now, it’s easy to ask.”

Both teachers agreed that no matter the means – be it by email, a note or a phone call –communication is key to a student’s success.

“When parents are involved in their child’s education, they ask questions and get feedback. It forms a school-to-home connection and makes children aware that their parents care about what’s happening inside the classroom,” Mitchell said. “It makes a difference.”