Student Planners: So Far, So Good

Tazwell Brandabur

The Charter News – 9/30/19

ACA is committed to getting students organized this year. By now, almost all students have been issued a personal planner. While many schools stop there, ACA has gone much further in this organizational initiative, devoting resources, training, and time to help students succeed. The school’s motivation for this doesn’t come, however, from simple dislike of chaos.

Much of success, both in school and later life, depends upon a set of critical skills known as executive functioning. These skills include scheduling, time management, and prioritization, which are all essential for staying organized. 

With this in mind, ACA hired Karin Bright, an executive function coach based in Portland, to help students, and to help teachers help students.

Associate Director, Diana Brainerd explained, “(Bright) met with our whole staff and brainstormed how best to support students as a whole school…  Since students are in a variety of classes with different expectations it can be hard to keep track of how each teacher assigns work and when it’s due.” 

Bright and the administrative staff of ACA determined that mandating a planner for middle and high school students would be an effective way to help create “a framework for how to keep track of and organize their homework assignments,” says Ms. Brainerd.

“Learning this skill and creating a habit around it will not only help students to be successful academically,” Ms. Brainerd continues, “but it also helps them to learn a skill that will be incredibly valuable in their life wherever they end up after high school.”

Yet, as she stresses, supporting student organization involves much more than simply handing out planners. 

“Learning to use a planner takes time and consistent instruction and use,” Ms. Brainerd says. “(Bright) encouraged all teachers and ESes to remember that consistent use and support is the key to help build good organization habits.” 

“Learning to use a planner takes time and consistent instruction and use,” Ms. Brainerd says. “(Bright) encouraged all teachers and ESes to remember that consistent use and support is the key to help build good organization habits.” 

In order to provide that support, ACA is training teachers, and also integrating student planners into both class curriculum and ES meetings.

There will be a family briefing on the planners in the near future, but it has not yet been scheduled. Carla Calhoun explained that once the finds a qualified trainer, they will offer an in-depth training session for students and parents.

The exact budget has not been tallied, but it’s fair to say that ACA has a lot riding on this new initiative. Understandably, administrators are keeping close tabs on how things are playing out. 

There are several strategies the school is using to evaluate the effectiveness of the planners:

They’re keeping an ear out for feedback from students, staff, and families. If the planners are working, there should be a drop in:

  • Students struggling to get assignments in on time
  • Students failing classes
  • Student stress level

Bright will also be periodically dropping in to check on students, seeing if the planners are being utilized.

Initially, students and teachers alike had mixed reactions to the planners. “Some staff and students are jumping in with lots of enthusiasm,” Ms. Brainerd noted at the beginning of the year. “Some are a bit more cautious and not sure.” 

Over the past few weeks, students have warmed up to the planners. Jack Taggart, an ACA student, likes this organizational initiative. He says, “It can be easy to forget a few assignments, and having a planner to jot them all down brings great peace of mind.“ 

Cheyenna Hall, another highschooler, has a similar opinion: “The new system works great for my individual needs.” Both she and Jack have used their own planners before, but as she said, “It is more helpful when we all use the same planers and organization methods.”

Middle schoolers are reacting similarly. Although some were not as enthusiastic about the planners, all of them were using the planners regularly. Logan Morris and Matthew Schultz displayed a good-natured dislike of paperwork common to their age, responding identically: “Yes, I have been using (the planner), but I don’t really like it.” 

Jasmine Bennett seemed more open to the planners, saying she liked that they have “plenty of space, and they divide things up so I can keep track of them.”

This trend seems to fit the school. Ms. Brainerd says: “I did a random drop in a couple times this week to ES meetings and study hall and every single student had their planner and were clearly using it! That was really great to see!”

Sources:

Brainerd, Diana. “Re. A question about student planners.” Received by Tazwell Brandabur. Sep. 19th, 2019


Brainerd, Diana. “Re. A question about student planners.” Received by Tazwell Brandabur. September 8, 2019. 


Hall, Cheyenna. “Re. Planners” Received by Tazwell Brandabur. September 6, 2019.


Taggart, Jack. “Student Planners” Received by Tazwell Brandabur. September 8, 2019. 


“Definition of Executive Function,” Miriam-Webster, September 8, 2019, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/executive%20function

“What is Executive Functioning?” Karin Bright, Executive Function Coach, September 8, 2019, https://www.karinbright.com/.

“Using Planners and Calendars” The Learning Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, September 22, 2019

One thought on “Student Planners: So Far, So Good

  1. I used my personal planners alot in highschool. It definitely helped me be organized. I’m so glad aca is helping students with this, because it’s a great skill to maintain a planner.

    Like

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