I just finished my 15-page research paper for my library science class. It frightened me. After all, I hadn’t written anything that long since college. So I made sure to begin writing six days before the due date.
Yes, how very adult of me.
My planning helped: I stayed mostly on schedule and finished the paper yesterday with time today to tinker with citations and references and those annoying things.
This means that I also had time to help my students with their three-page essay, due tonight at 11 p.m., which I assigned last Monday and which 95 percent of my students likely began today.
You might think my students suffer from procrastination. I don’t think that’s it. Rather, I think my students think all assignments take one day and deserve one draft, no matter their length, no matter their difficulty.
I have to figure out ways to infiltrate that thinking and get my students to plan ahead.
One way is to build in more checkpoints. For example, I could establish more due dates along the way so that students understand that a large assignment should be broken up into smaller parts. This strategy, however, does the thinking for the students, and does nothing to prepare them for college.
Another thing I could do is suggest a timeline or have my students come up with their own. Earlier in the year, we did this in class to create a reading schedule for one of the novels. Some of my students struggled with making a plan, but they appreciated the activity.
Nevertheless, in order for a schedule to work, you have to stick to it, and my students sometimes think they can do more than what’s possible in a day. So what’s crucial is to get my students to be honest with themselves about how long it takes them to complete a task.
The problem with doing that, of course, is that it might overwhelm me. I might find out that even if my students spend 60+ minutes on my class every night, they still won’t complete the work.
(I think I’ve stumbled on what might be the truth: Many of my students are working 7+ hours a week on my class — and yet that’s not enough, and we have to figure out ways to find more time and to work more efficiently.)