3 Ways to Help Disorganized Students

Fifteen years ago, NYTimes reporter Alan Finder visited my Los Altos office. He followed me around for three days before writing this article about my work helping disorganized boys.  This led to my first book, That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week.

This week, Wall St. Journal reporter Julie Jargon wrote this piece on the struggles of boys around organization – it is as if very little has changed in the intervening years.

But! There is hope.

In good news, I’ve spent years (15+!!!) working on long-term solutions. For my latest book, ERASING THE FINISH LINE, I went back and interviewed my former students, now in their early 30s (including a few who were in That Crumpled Paper…), about the skills they learned in our office that they use in the jobs and lives today.

I’ve also spent the last six years developing, piloting and now implementing the Life Navigator School Program, our non-profit advisory curriculum to teach these skills in schools – because educators, parents/caregivers and students all need support in developing these skills.

If you are interested in learning more or supporting these efforts, please visit our Luminaria Learning website. 

Among the success stories: we’re working with a wonderful K-8 all-boys independent school, as well as implementing at a high school serving low-income families with great results.

This upcoming year, I will be speaking at several conferences. Some include the National Association of Independent Schools and SXSWedu about Transforming School Culture Through Teaching Executive Functioning Skills.

As we head into the final weeks of the year, here are three tips for helping 2024 become a time to develop these skills:

1. Reflect: Do an audit. Reflect on (and write down) the tasks that you or your parenting partner currently help with that your child will have to do when they leave the home, go to college and/or join the workforce. The biggest one: getting up and being ready on time in the morning.

2. Collaborate: Have the child/teen/young adult do the same audit (and see if there are overlaps), and also do a self-rating. I have students rate themselves 1 to 10 on their ability to organize, plan, prioritize, start and complete tasks, and be adaptable when something doesn’t go as planned. It is a great way to start the conversation around areas of strength (maybe they are great at organizing and prioritizing) and areas of growth (maybe they struggle to get started).

3. Identify: Who, what and where are the appropriate resources to provide effective time, structure and support? Appropriate means they are available, effective and will be supportive to all involved. It can mean finding an accountability buddy in a friend or family member, or outsourcing to get support (which is one way people find their way to our office). Think through who the best messenger for the information would be, and how to get their buy-in.

At our Green Ivy Educational Consulting office, we’re doing a special day of back to school organizational workshops on Sunday, January 7, 2024 – we’ll be in the office and doing one-on-one workshops in person and via Zoom for middle school, high school and college students. Spots are extremely limited – please be in touch if you’d like to schedule.

Warm wishes,


Links of Interest

Learning Loss Hit the U.S. Hard. It’s as Bad or Worse Across the World.  (WSJ)

Academic Success Tip: Help Students Prepare for Final Exams (Inside Higher Ed)

AP African American studies adds lesson on sports and racial justice (Washington Post)

How Brian Ray’s flawed research legitimized American homeschooling (Washington Post)

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