A Story of 3 Students

I’ve had a theory for a while about kids and planning systems.

I really feel that often when I am working with a student and trying to get them to implement a planning system, that I’m just planting seeds.

What do I mean? A tool that they will use in the future. Let me tell you about my experience and then explain the brain science behind these thoughts.

A few years ago, I followed three students into college. I had coached each of them for at least two years in high school. During that time, with each of them, I had used many systems…well actually there were A LOT!

We tried a good old fashioned paper planner, bullet journals, white board calendars, digital programs like My Homework, To Do, Trello, and even an Excel spreadsheet; just to name a few.

With each of them, I would see them use it for a few weeks but then they would just stop.

There was no consistency. We would try alarm reminders, alerts, and text message reminders. This was when I realized that for many of my students, I would just be modeling how to use tools but not expecting them to consistently use one.

This idea was reinforced when I followed these three students to college. Within the first week of classes, each of them began to use a system that they used the entire semester.

In fact with one student, even though I have not seen him in over a year, I can see he is still using his system. Why did this click in place at this time when it never had before? Developmentally they were ready for this task.

I was reminded of a week when I attended a training with Sarah Ward. She was going over the time horizon and developmental norms.

When I saw that kids in 6-12th grade could only see forward 2-3 days, I wondered if this is why they really weren’t using planning systems consistently.

I asked her if we were to expect that until someone is developmentally ready, we would mostly be modeling tools and she said yes. She said until they are developmentally ready, we are modeling tools so that they can become independent once they are ready and close the gap.

So this was why my three students were able to pick up on planning systems so quickly when they started college. If you know me well, you know one of my favorite phrases is that all of our brains are unique, and we are trying to figure out what our brain needs in order to be successful.

Each of these students ended up using a different system they had been introduced to in high school. One used a small and large white board system, another, an Excel spreadsheet, and the last used Trello. Each found a system that uniquely worked for them.

So, parents and coaches do not fret; organization and planning skills will come in time, but it’s when students are developmentally ready.

Until then, as adults, we need to be our student’s frontal lobe while theirs is still developing and model tools so they will click into place when they are ready.

Executive Function Day

Remember most of our kids with executive function challenges can have up to a three year delay. So, when looking at the time horizon, subtract those three years and this is more than likely where your child will be when it comes to looking forward in time

Crista A. Hopp, M.A.
Crista A. Hopp, M.A.

Crista is trained to coach as an Academic coach, Executive Function (EF) coach, and individuals with ADHD. Crista can be reached through her website at www.ConnectedPathwaysCoaching.com/contact-us.