Columnist: Make time for students to learn

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 29, 2016

Ernest Fannings

Contributing columnist

There’s a disturbing trend that I’ve been observing over the past few months. And even if you’ve made time to read this, you probably are as well. As full-time professionals, we’re all burdened by time poverty and chronic busyness, and likewise, this is also one of the biggest reasons our students aren’t as successful as they could be.

I have an interesting career. On a weekly basis, when not managing my team, I have the pleasure of academically coaching a diverse bunch of students from Lee, Chambers, Troup and Muscogee counties. Although many of the students in my student success system are just trying to pass their classes or graduate, 12 of them are high achievers.

When I ask these students what their biggest impediments to putting in more study are, they frequently cite the constant distractions of school and home life. In the long run, it’s not enough that our students have empowering parents and a student success system. Even when you add in strong study habits, a supportive family environment and positive momentum, students still come up short if they fail to make the time to succeed.

Students today are assailed with a variety of activities and distractions. In school they have many sports, clubs and organizations, and at home they return to numerous ways to spend time unproductively and family obligations. They’re scheduled to the half-hour with practices, events and everything else, and then have the burden of finishing schoolwork and preparing for exams, while maintaining life as a son or daughter and having time off to have fun. In order to succeed, students and parents must stop trying to find time — they must make it.

Making time to succeed isn’t an action, but instead a habit. Doing so consistently took most of my college years to develop. Nevertheless, here’s a couple tips for you and your student to get started.

One is to sit down with your student and find out the most essential activities to become involved with, and do those well. Look at not just the urgency and the importance, but also the significance of the activity, so as to ensure a long term benefit.

Weigh the pros and cons, and accept that there are always trade-offs. Make an effort to have less but better participation. You want to eliminate the things that don’t really matter in the long run and take more action on those that do.

Another way is to help your student develop a routine to section off blocks of time in your students’ day. Set aside a designated time to study and a time to do homework.

Figure out the distractions, such as home visits, mailman, TV, siblings, etc. that might pop up and how to prevent them from happening. Of course, with any student success strategy, action and consistency are the key ingredients.

All of our students deserve to succeed both inside and outside the classroom. At the end of the day, week, semester, year or high school or college graduation, their level of success will be the sum total of the good and bad choices they’ve made up until that point.

As speaker Michael Altshuler once said: “The bad news is that time flies, the good news is that you’re the pilot.”

Will you and your student make the time?

Ernest Fannings is director of Total Math Tutoring.