I celebrated my birthday last week in Tahoe with famiy and friends and I’m not going to lie, reentry was a challenge when Monday rolled around. Monday is usually my day to set goals for the week, reset, and prioritize my to-do list. However, this week I found myself procrastinating (yes I watched Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s Oscar performance several times as well as Olivia Colman’s acceptance speech) and delaying work as long as possible.
I finally made it into the office; once I sat down without distractions I was able to focus and get going. This all reminded me of the importance of structure and routine. It’s something I emphasize here with our students, but it applies to all of us. I am constantly asking students where they do their homework, what distracts them when they are working. The environment around you is critical to getting work done. So many kids do their homework in their room, on their beds or at a desk. But, have you been in your kids room lately? There are endless distractions (and often their desks are not cleared off). Many kids are distracted by their rooms and I don’t think it’s a great place to do work. I like a kitchen or dining room table (cleared off and with nothing on it). In addition, going to the local library is also a great option if your house is noisy or your kids have trouble focusing at home.
Phones should be turned off, ideally in another room. I get protests of needing to do work on a computer; but that work can be saved for last.
Typically, we suggest 2 hour blocks for homework (hopefully, this is generous for middle schoolers) with 5 minute breaks each 25 min or so, similar to the Pomodoro method. You’d be amazed at how efficient students become when they can break up their homework into smaller chunks.
To sum this up:
1. Do your homework at a consistent time every day
2. Do your homework in a consistent place every day (not your bedroom)
3. Turn off your cell phone
4. Save computer homework for last
These may seem like small or inconsequential changes, but I have seen remarkable improvements in stress level, grades and free time when students implement some consistency and routine.