Tuesday, January 8

Middle School Muddle: Disorganized Kids: A boy crisis or a middle school thing?

Do we need Backpack Solutions 101?

Ask any middle school parent the biggest adjustment their child faces when they leave elementary school, and they are likely to talk about organizational skills.

Or, lack of them.

Changing classes, remembering which book to bring home, writing down all the homework in a planner, locating that planner – all of these tasks can overwhelm 6th graders used to staying in one elementary school classroom and being a bit more coddled.

Apparently, this phenomenon has become so common that pricey tutors and personal organizers have organized a side business -- backpack help for $100 an hour or more.

Seems there is barely a skill related to learning or growing up that can’t be outsourced these days.

According to a recent New York Times article, parents are shelling out whatever it takes to help their children succeed in school. Most often, its boys who seem to have more trouble organizing and multi-tasking. As the mother of two offenders, I mined the article eagerly for tips. One of my colleagues gave a copy to his chronically disorganized son. He promptly lost it.

For a brief, irrational moment, I considered contacting tracking down the backpack organizers for an appointment. I’m sure their lines were flooded.

Then I wondered if all middle schools should offer a mini-course on backpack and perhaps even locker organization at the start of 6th grade.

My 7th grade son could have used one. He lugged a crammed backpack that may have weighed more than he does throughout his first year at Clinton School for Artists and Writers, which, like many Manhattan middle schools, requires a breathtaking climb because it occupies top floors of an elementary school.

“You will break your back,’’ I insisted, watching him tote textbooks and notebooks for every class, even when there was no homework. Loose change, torn papers, dog-eared permission slips and old exams mingled with soccer gear. The thing smelled.

“I don’t want to forget anything,’’ he replied.

My soon-to-be 6th grade son has the opposite problem. He rifles through his backpack searching for a book, his folder, a notebook he needed – only to discover he left it at soccer practice, in music class, at school or at a friend’s house.

I am taking comfort in the belief that even without tutors and courses, some middle schoolers eventually do learn their own lessons.

On a recent night, my 7th grader came home carrying only thing – John Steinbeck’s The Red Pony with a permission slip tucked neatly inside. I immediately assumed he lost his backpack.

“I didn’t have any other homework,’’ he explained. “So I left my backpack in my locker.’’

I didn’t ask if it was organized.

Read all of Liz Willen's Middle School Muddle

1 comment:

Joe Bruzzese said...

The NY Times article is getting a lot of time on the blogs recently. Thanks for adding your ideas. I like the fresh perspective. I blogged about your post here: http://www.thinking-forward.com/2008/01/do-we-need-back.html
Organization among middle schoolers seems to be atop the list of priorities for parents.


Joe Bruzzese