Donna Goldberg pretty much launched the field of student organizing, and her 2005 book The Organized Student: Teaching Children the Skills for Success in School and Beyond is the first title I recommend for parents and teachers of middle and high school students. That said, there’s much in this volume that speaks to the needs of the university community, especially graduate students and faculty.
By middle school, children’s stuff and schedules gets increasingly complex, and teachers expect (and parents want) more independence with organization and basic time management. From this age, basic organizing skills are the critical–but often untaught–keys to success. Donna Goldberg provides a menu of options to optimize homework space, reference files, binder, backpack, locker, and planner according to the thinking style of the child and the requirements of the school. She also provides guidance about how parents can best support children’s independent management of their time and tools.
So why read this book if you don’t have adolescents in the house? Because it addresses the organizing needs of people who have two workspaces (home and school) and carry things back and forth between those locations on a daily basis (backpack or briefcase). Donna Goldberg discusses what resources to duplicate in both locations (i.e., basic office supplies, textbooks and other essential reference books) and what things to transport daily (hint: if there’s a lot of stuff getting dragged back and forth but not actually getting used, systems are overdue for revision). She’s also got a great run down on setting up a small but effective workspace (graduate student carrels, anyone?).
Finally, Donna Goldberg differentiates between the organization and time management skills needed by adolescents, and those needed by adults. If your own organizing skills are underdeveloped, this book can provide a reality check about when or why you might have gotten stuck. This book teaches many of the basics that my favorite titles for college students (Newport’s Straight A Student), graduate students (Single’s Dissertation Writing), K-12 teachers (Heyck-Merlin’s The Together Teacher), and faculty (Belcher’s Journal Article & Boice’s Advice for New Faculty Members) simply take for granted.
If you do have adolescents at home, I recommend that you also check out Leslie Josel’s amazing academic planners for the middle and high school crowd.