Navigating Your Child's Education: Grades 6-8

4 min read

A Matter of Time

Oct 24, 2019 7:00 PM

As a middle school Intervention Specialist, it is my joy to work every day with sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students. One of the biggest struggles my students wrestle with is time management, both how they view and spend their time.

Whether it is the hormones that commonly create emotional extremes for middle schoolers, or the tremendous growth and change happening in their brains, or the distraction of what others think of them, or the reality of schedules packed with appointments, practices, rehearsals and other commitments, students often struggle with using their time efficiently and productively to accomplish the tasks set before them.

Students often feel that they do not have enough time to complete the tasks required of them by their teachers, coaches, and parents. I see a common thought cycle take place with classroom assignments, upcoming tests, and projects...

1. The Freak-out Stage - Students typically enter this stage as an initial reaction to a new assignment they receive that must be completed by tomorrow, or a test that was just announced for this Friday, or the sudden realization that a quarter-long project is due one week from now and they haven't even started it. Shock, dismay, anxiety hit students like a ton of bricks, and they are in panic mode before they know it.

"A multi-step group project due in three weeks?! Four tests on the same day?! Ahh!"

The freak-out stage quickly segues into...

2. The Overwhelmed Stage - Middle schoolers can easily become overwhelmed by the amount of work assigned to them, or the size, length, scope, timeline of a particular assignment or project.

"How am I going to get all of this done with everything else I have on my plate?!"

The feeling of being overwhelmed often leads to a third and quite defeating mental space...

3. The Hopeless Stage - After freaking out and feeling overwhelmed in school, students may begin to resign themselves to a sense of hopelessness in what they are capable of accomplishing.

"I just don't have time to get all of this done. I can't do it."

5 Test-Taking Strategies

Time management--the ability to use one's available time productively and effectively--does not come naturally or instinctively to middle schoolers' developing brains. It must be taught and modeled by parents and teachers, practiced by students, evaluated by everyone involved, and practiced some more.

I have found that helping students to think differently about the time available to them and the deadlines for assignments, projects, and tests that they must complete, can provide them with the mental tools to help them experience a healthier version of the thought cycle described above.

1. The Freak-out Stage – I like to remind students that it’s completely normal to have an immediate reaction to adding yet another item on your to do list; even adults experience this!

2. The Overwhelmed Stage – Students begin to see the amount of work pile up and move into overwhelmed feelings. Again, this is a completely normal feeling!

"How am I going to get all of this done with everything else I have on my plate?!"

The feeling of being overwhelmed should then instead lead to a third growth mindset stage:

3. The Hopeful, Determined Stage - After the initial freak-out and overwhelmed feelings, students can remind themselves of their determination and ability to complete the tasks at hand. 

“Wow, I have a lot to do, but I know I can get it done.”

“This is hard, but I can do it.”

Then students are able to begin tackling their to do lists, feeling empowered, rather than defeated, to complete all assignments.

There are a few practices I implement with my students that parents may also find helpful to use at home to strengthen those crucial time management skills:

  • Keep an hour-by-hour planner | Those of us in the field of education working with middle schoolers cannot emphasize enough the "power of the planner." It is so helpful for students to practice physically keeping up with a planner and writing down important dates. I find hour-by-hour planners are especially helpful for tweens because they can plot out all of their after-school activities and see exactly how much time they actually DO have to complete their schoolwork. 
  • Figure things out together | I challenge my students to look closely at their schedules and see for themselves where they have time in their day. I ask them the simple question, "Where do you see time in your schedule?" This encourages them to problem-solve independently. If, as  teachers and parents, we constantly tell tweens what to do and when to do it without including them in the process of planning and organizing, then they're missing the opportunity to develop those skills.
  • Break down large tasks into smaller, more manageable elements | In the freak out and overwhelmed stages mentioned above, students may feel anxiety over large assignments that seem impossible to accomplish. Tweens sometimes struggle to create step-by-step plans for big projects or study for tests that cover lots of material. Helping our students break down large tasks, then use their planners to create a reasonable timeline for each of the smaller elements empowers them to tackle that once-daunting task. Check out this resource for a practical method to help students break down assignments. 
  • Host weekly family meetings | It doesn't have to be any particular day of the week, but choose a regular day and time to meet as a family and look at your schedules and calendars together. Sunday night is a natural time to prepare for the week ahead. This provides parents the opportunity to check in with students and look at what's coming up on their academic calendars. This also provides parents an opportunity to discuss their work schedules and model time management for their tweens. 

Time management is a skill that needs to be continually practiced. It’s best for students to start practicing it now, while they have the support of their parents, teachers, and coaches surrounding them.

Katelyn Geisler
Written by Katelyn Geisler

Katelyn is the English Intervention Specialist for grades 6-8 at Worthington Christian School through the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio. She has worked in various teaching capacities for over eight years, specializing in reaching unique learners. She is passionate about providing a supportive and caring learning community in which students become well-rounded individuals who are equipped with the proper tools to navigate the world.