Excerpt From Book-Growiing Smarter: A Crash Course On The Intelligence Of Being Organized

•What People are Saying About the WorkCenter™ Organizer
Teacher Excerpts- Jim McDaniel, Head of the Upper School, Fay School

The WorkCenter Organizer, as it exists at Fay School, is the most effective teacher of organizational/study skills which I have seen in my twenty-plus years of working with middle school children in school settings. Having spent a major portion of my educational career at Columbia Teachers’ College studying the use of metacognition in remediation of learning and reading processes, I have found that this system most effectively develops this self-awareness in students. By teaching students to think about how they learn, organize and perform most comfortably and effectively, students will learn those conditions or strategies that produce the highest yield possible for them in the most efficient time frame.
The WorkCenter Organizer, with its well-designed set of pockets and folders, allows students to maximize their output (performance), because it enables them to most effectively capture, store and retrieve essential curricular input. Through uniform adoption of the WorkCenter Organizer, not only has the importance of organization and workflow been naturally brought to the top of the school’s cultural agenda in the minds of the students and parents, but it also receives the attention of the faculty as they work to more consistently interact with students across the different disciplines in our grades six and seven.
Teachers daily reinforce the process of capturing, storing and retrieving information using a common lexicon, which is the result of this uniform, color-coded binder system. For example, when a teacher asks her students to take out his/her notes section to take class notes, the actual mental/visual image provoked with this command is common for each student. If, in fact, a member of the class should happen to incorrectly transmit or misunderstand the oral command, the visual cues are present in the room to guide the student to proceed smoothly and independently with the class (i.e., a student can look left or right to see exactly where each of the members of his/her class is in their Organizer, such as in a red tri-pocket.
The positive effect of this subtle, but powerful feature on classroom management and student academic independence is not to be underestimated. When a student is able to comfortably manage workflow, successful academic results occur. Not only is that student’s productivity higher due to his/her learned organizational effectiveness, but the student gains confidence in his/her own ability to perform such academic tasks.
Faculty using these Organizers are naturally reinforcing lessons in organization while they consciously inculcate in their students their planned, discipline-related curriculum. The teachers may use the Organizer as a framework for their presentation of material, providing a consistent, logical study tool for the students. The shared medium of the Organizer makes the transmission between the two parties clearer, more efficient and more effective than in educational settings where teacher and students do not share such a common vision of integral work tools and processes within a classroom.
The teacher who has the luxury of teaching a classroom full of students with common WorkCenter Organizers has the benefit of clear and effective communication around the issues of note-taking, paper filing and homework retrieval. Significantly, both teacher and student are able to focus more clearly on the content of each lesson. In addition, with consistent teacher reinforcement, students begin to understand that there is a direct relationship between being organized and experiencing academic success. The depth of this learning experience is enhanced if the teacher uses either effort or academic grades as a reward for proper use of the Organizer. Students then more readily internalize this important relationship between process and outcome in relation to their individual academic success.

The power of guiding students in becoming organized, independent learners influences not just the students as individuals, but the entire school. Community self-awareness and pride around excellence are stimulated, providing a positive academic peer culture. When pride and excellence are valued by both the adults and students in schools, many successes occur because they are the results of what a liberated, supported student will do for him/herself in an environment which fosters individual responsibility and academic excellence in its community members.
At Fay School, the WorkCenter Organizer is an essential component of our strong, positive peer culture which motivates our students to perform at their top level each day. In short, academic success is valued by our students. The WorkCenter Organizer helps our students realize this success, providing a road map which allows them to most efficiently and effectively reach their personal educational goals. For the “organizationally challenged” student, it is used religiously. For the confident navigator, it serves as a general guide which may be more directional and strategic in nature. In either instance, our travelers are learning enough about themselves, their strengths and weaknesses to understand that if, in fact, they do lose their way, they will have learned to stop and check their own progress at the nearest service station, a.k.a., the WorkCenter Organizer.

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