Today's students have the chance to do what no generation of kids has ever been able to do

Updated: Apr 26

I stopped teaching in 2018. I'm out of the game.


But if I was still in it, what would I tell my kids?


This:

No generation of kids has ever been able to set their own schedule. You can!


What would I tell their parents?


This:

Planning their day may be the best thing for your children's development.


Every other generation went to school during the school's hours. We went to class during times set by the adult world. As we moved from primary to secondary school and even on to college, there was the illusion of greater choice.


But we were always fitting into others' schedules. Then, when we entered the adult world, most of us became employees. I, for example, went into the Air Force where I was plugged into a schedule that was there before I was commissioned and still there after I was discharged. Later, as a teacher, I taught according to the school district's calendar and my school's bell schedule.


There have been exceptions. Entrepreneurs learned to create their own schedules. Microsoft pioneered the idea of hiring self-starting intrapreneurs then letting them work whatever hours worked best for them. Many Silicon Valley companies adopted that practice.


The rest of us worked when we were told to work - and that's fine. For many professions, it's essential. You can't have doctors, truck drivers or custodians working only when they're in the mood. Yet that doesn't mean that the ability to set and, more importantly, adhere to a schedule we set for ourselves isn't a vital skill.


When we're off the clock, are we able to carve out time to exercise, pursue something we're curious about or learn a new skill? Or, when we don't have to be anywhere or do anything, are those precious minutes wasted on stupid stuff that gets us nowhere and makes us depressed?


If it's the latter, it's probably because we never had to make our own schedule. Someone made if for us. So when we have precious "free time," it doesn't cross our mind to schedule something meaningful, productive and life-enhancing. We were never taught how to do that.


It wasn't until I retired and didn't "have" to do anything that I realized that if I didn't structure my day, most likely I wouldn't do anything.


That terrified me. It didn't take long before I structured my days.


It worked. Each day is full. Each day has goals. I'm never bored. And because I set my own schedule, it doesn't matter if I start or stop a little late. There's less stress. It takes self-discipline, but self-discipline can be learned - sometimes the hard way. I found that unstructured days did depress me and motivated me to be better the next day.


For years, I'd hear from professional educators that "kids need structure." Yeah, no shit. So do adults! But that doesn't mean kids can't learn to create their own structure.


Unless they were expertly educated in the Montessori method or something like it, kids won't be very good at creating structure. They'll need guidance. The younger they are, the more navigation they'll need. First graders may create 10% of their day, tenth graders 90%.


My #1 buying recommendation during the Coronavirus time is an inspiring planner. Present it to your students. (And it won't hurt to buy one for yourself.) Then sit with them and, together, create a schedule.

Be intentional about teaching students that learning to set and stick to a schedule is at least as important a skill as any of the subjects they're scheduling! Make sure they know that, once this is over, and they have to return to someone else's schedule, the self-determination the pandemic forced upon them and the self-discipline they learned during it will be an asset for them for the rest of their life. And that no other generation has ever been given this opportunity.


So don't blow it.

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