Can time management be taught?

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I have a group of students this year who seem continually stressed out. Admittedly, they have taken on quite a few challenges. They are middle school students who have been accelerated into more advanced math classes. Some of them are also taking honors science in addition to my honors English class. Most of them are also active in sports or dance or theater or music.

These students often bemoan the amount of work they must do, and they complain that they haven’t been given enough time to complete the work. I’ve really reevaluated the workload in my honors class this year. I admit that last year it was too much. But I scaled back this year, and I feel I’ve been more reasonable with my expectations. I’ve given a lot of time in class to work on big projects.

At the same time, I know that some of them spend far more time on assignments and quizzes than they need to. Two hours on math homework that should take fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes on a vocabulary quiz that everyone else finishes in five. Hours and hours on a social studies project that wasn’t even a big deal and could have been much smaller. I recently gave the students an assignment based on Benjamin Franklin’s “Plan for Moral Perfection” from his autobiography, and in the experiment they completed, many of those same students admitted to procrastinating.

I know these kids are young. They’re only 12 or 13 or maybe 14. I know they have many things to balance. In just my class, we continually have both long-term and short-term assignments to juggle. But it seems that some of them spend so much time on the little things that they then become utterly overwhelmed with the big ones. Or they become paralyzed when facing a difficult task. They want so much to do it perfectly that they don’t even know how to begin.

I want to help them develop skills to ease their anxiety. I don’t want students to be stressed out. I give them continual reassurances that it will all be fine and it doesn’t have to be perfect. I want to help them to figure out how to balance all the different things they have to do, but I’m not sure how to begin.

Can time management be taught? Can it be taught in the scope of a language arts class, or does it need to be done separately? I have asked the counseling department for assistance, but is there something I can be doing in my classroom as well?

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