I’ve been an English teacher for 20 years now, and as all teachers in small schools know, you rarely get to teach just English. I’ve taught psychology and theater, and even in college, have taught study skills classes.
I’m back to teaching a class this year for which a large component is study skills. That is a very difficult thing for students to wrap their brain around. It is not that they cannot do it; it is that they want to set up these elaborate systems to keep themselves organized that will only actually set them up for failure. No one human can keep up with color coded pens and paper in color coded binders and books with matching color coded covers arranged in their locker in chronological order by class and have their study area at home complete with all their supplies for each class arranged in color coded and labeled bins that are arranged in order by the class with the most homework. Really now…
For about three days, they will do beautifully. And then real life will set in and they will actually have classwork and homework, and the whole system will crash and burn.
It is then that I again remind them, “Remember, I said to keep it simple.”
Organization can be accomplished by making it simple enough to maintain.
It is then that I break down the steps to organizing a binder, study area, or locker again with them, and talk about what steps they can take to achieve the same end, but do it simply.
Yet, some will still fight it because it seems too easy that way.
Newsflash – this is not supposed to be hard.
Every year in my English classes, I teach a simple process for creating a thesis statement. I lead my students through the model, show them the process, and they generally seem to understand it. However, when I turn them loose, I get all sorts of chaos and mayhem and strange overly complicated nonsense. Why, I ask them.
“Because I did it your way and it seemed too easy,” they reply.
Again, this is not supposed to be hard.
Why is it that we feel we should make things so difficult for ourselves? We want to be successful, but in making a task needlessly difficult, we make failure part of our game plan. We set ourselves up against impossible odds, and there is no way we can ever win.
So what do I tell my students who want to make organization a task that they will never be able to complete? What do I tell my students who want to make writing overly complicated and thus lose their grasp on clear communication? What would I tell an adult who is making him or herself jump through needless hoops in order to feel as if they are achieving a desired end?
This is not supposed to be hard.