If you saw the ParaEducate office, you’d be hard pressed to believe that Renay knows exactly where everything in the office. Except the double stick tape right now. Renay does admit to over stacking, but she knows where the piles are and when they piles need to rotate to appropriate file folders. The same application goes for her school files. But this system has changes every year. However, how do you teach a student to appreciate organization?
Many students struggle with the parts of the brain that help them make decisions about staying organized, and students with disabilities have a bigger hurdle.
A resource you might consider if you struggle with organization: https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/learning-at-home/teaching-organizational-skills/8-tips-for-organizing-your-childs-backpack
This resource is a favorite of ours and it has Amanda Morin.
Some things you can do on a regular basis as a member of school:
Once in a while have a backpack dump. We suggest once a month, but at least once a grading term, before the last turn ins for every teacher is the best choice.
Some logistics before you let that happen:
- Know where the recycle bins and trash bins are before you start. The debris and the backpack flora and fauna are not something to mess with. Be prepared for preserved former sandwiches, fruit, an assortment of unrecoverable assignments folded into unidentifiable metamorphic backpack mess, and chunks of deodorant.
- Do not under estimate the amount of space that you will need for one student. The older a student is, the more space their material will take up. We usually estimate out 1 desk space per subject. (We’ll explain why in a bit.)
- Let the students take up the space they will take up. Some will need a lot. Others will need less.
- For a student in secondary in many general education classes, sort their loose materials by one desk seating area per subject. Those projects or pieces of projects need their own clear spot until they get sorted into folders or a binder.
- Those extras: pencils, pens, calculators, they need their own place too. Hopefully after this dump you will have located a small collection. Get rid of devices that are unservicable. This part is hard for some students. Renay remembers a student who would try and upcycle everything. Pick your battle. Get stuff organized. That is what you’re focused on right now.
- Do a check in at least once a week on a specific folder to help encourage a student to keep papers heading into the folders.
- Keep an eye out for students who have the most difficulty with putting things in the right place. Be explicit with what folder and most importantly, wait and see if they do it. Some student resent this explicit check in and eventually you can step back, but getting those early steps to become a standard in the student’s mind.
- Make sure everyone on staff stays on top of the standards of organization. This is important. If one person is enforcing alone it becomes very difficult to maintain the organization.
What if I’m not an organized person?
Take a deep breath. It is okay. Pick a system, pick a tiny piece and start to help the student with that system. Demonstrate that you too are working on the skill of organization.
What if your organization system is not rigid?
Demonstrate to the students the importance of keeping things ready to go in the right places. Evolve. The system you are using right now might not be the system for you. Maybe binders, gluing into a notebook, or an accordion folder.
What if the system is too rigid?
We do know and have this memory if the year we were involved with probably the most complex organization system ever. The general education teacher said the students would need a binder for at least one inch. There were four tabs, and then this teacher wanted newest papers on top. However, much to the students’ struggles, they could not remember to put papers in this binder or there was some studying and the papers came out of the binder. Those papers then crumpled, folded, and gathered followers in different parts of the backpack. And then, in the end, there would be some massive binder turn in and it would be a scramble to salvage the papers and get them into the binder to get the grade.
Not to throw this general education teacher under the bus, but some systems need a little more space for students who are just learning to handle organization. It would have been especially helpful to the Special Education department if the general education teacher could have understood the complexity of a student trying to keep organized and run out between classes.
We are making some plans for next week. But first: reorganization of the office. We’ll see you next week.
ParaEducate has one more blog for 2019! We will take off for vacation season. Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online here, here, here, here, and on our website. ParaEducate is a company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.