1.2 A day in the life of a non-digital student

We tried several approaches to help our son with his organization and time management skills challenges before going digital. The school prohibits students from carrying backpacks to class. Students must carry what they need for each class in binders, notepads, spiral booklets, in addition to their books. Everything else must fit in their student locker. The standard guidance for students is to split their school materials into two binders. One for AM and the other for PM. This forces a transition. Bad news for an ADHD/SID child. Our son would often incorrectly file the contents so that the AM work would be in the PM folder or vice-a-verse. The two red binders were too bulky to fit in the backpack so we decided to replace them with a single carrying case.

We then tried a couple of different carrying cases before deciding on basically a black box that looked like a cheap particle board briefcase with a metal frame and a handle. Well that just didn’t work out. Eventually, the cheap briefcase didn’t last as it couldn’t stand up to the treatment it received. Both our son and other kids thought it would be cool to sling it across the ice while waiting for the bus. This was not going to end well.

    Kids are often cruel as our son found out when kids began teasing him about his “briefcase”. Questions like, “where do you think you’re going with the briefcase, dude?” meant that bullies targeted him simply because he is different. If it meant that papers would not get lost and our son would have the materials needed for each class, we felt this solution could work. We would help him deal with the teasing.

    Unfortunately, it didn’t stop with a bit of teasing. It would later turn into bullying both at the bus stop and in the hallways at school. Kids would grab the briefcase and run with it or sling it across the icy ground.

    Then the name calling started as well. Labels like retard became verbal weapons to attack our child. Why? Because he is different. Ironically, after he later started using an iPad in school his popularity increased. Being different is OK if there is a coolness factor to it, or so it seems. We got the school administrative staff involved and the bullying died down. However, we were still left with a solution that wasn’t working for our son. An awkward briefcase often crammed with papers.

    The awkward looking briefcase was never going to work anyway as it became increasingly heavy and there was no clear way to patch the damage it had sustained quite quickly. We had concerns that the sheer weight of the briefcase might be causing posture issues for our son. As he walked, he shifted his weight and alternated his carrying hand trying to compensate for the strain on his arms. Oh, I nearly forgot to mention that he still carried a backpack as well as the briefcase. His posture was eventually going to suffer. The briefcase had to go.

As a replacement for the dreaded briefcase, we tried combining all of his school materials into one big white binder. That ended up needing several applications of duct tape and was on its last legs by the time we switched to digital. Although we had eliminated the need for transitioning between two binders by putting everything into one binder, not only was it unable to take the everyday wear and tear, but all the contents would be in varying degrees of crumpled. I’d look at our son’s binder daily with increasing concern. This was not what we had hoped for.

    The large binder wasn’t working for other reasons too. There was only one binder to deal with, but it was often disorganized and work was still not getting turned in. The problem was not just the lack of organizing skills, it was time management. If dad or mom wasn’t aware of what needed to get done and when, it often wouldn’t get done to complete closure. In other words, no matter how hard he had worked he wasn’t getting credit for it. That had to change.

Then there was the über man-sized backpack. The briefcase was gone and replaced  by a single large binder that would not fit inside of a child’s backpack. My wife purchased a larger backpack as a solution. This thing was so big that not that long ago we could fit our son inside it. It had to weigh over 30 pounds when fully laden with school materials. This was going to harm him physically. Once again I would watch with great concern as he walked to the bus stop. He’d lean forward to balance the weight as he walked up the slight hill from our home to the bus stop. A damaged back and other muscles at risk was too big of a price to pay for academic success. Frustration was really settling in. As parents, we felt desperate to find something that was an actual comprehensive solution to the problems.

    Between the binder from hell, the Mount Kilimanjaro Climber sized backpack, and the often late or missing work, we were not optimistic about the academic success of our son. I became convinced that we had to try something radical. It was time to at least research a digital solution.

    It was not long before I realized that the task of finding effective organization and time management solutions would take a lot of work. But first it was time to create clear goals for the project.

Click here to learn what we hope to achieve with the project.

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By Ken Granville

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