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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Prepare Children for Future Work-Home Boundaries in the Classroom

Prepare Children for Future Work-Home Boundaries in the Classroom

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Though this article is about your students in the classroom, it is helpful to start with the end in mind. The “end” I am talking about is the end to which all teaching is done: we want to see full grown, capable adults that contribute valuably to society. Indeed this is the great work which many teachers hope to be a part of.

However, there’s a problem with modern adults these days: many struggle to appropriately balance a family and professional life. Tension resulting from decreased interest in the responsibilities of home life contributes to major social issues like divorce, single parent-hood, teen delinquency, and teen pregnancy. Makes sense right? Parents who struggle to make themselves available to their spouse and children might encounter all of the consequences of a poorly maintained human relationship.

Research and common sense show that children who were able to get a grip on time management early in life are much better professionals, spouses, and parents. Through school, children forge time spending habits that will define the rest of their lives.

Your students can get pretty confused when they try to figure out when they are supposed to be doing schoolwork at home and when they are allowed to play. The younger they are, the harder this concept is for them. Take advantage of your own at-home and classroom preparation activities to develop ideas for teaching your students. Teachers can and should contribute to their students developing these habits.

Defining Work-Home Boundaries

You are teaching your students how to recognize the separation between work or school and home whether you as the teacher like it or not. Be considerate in how you assign homework to students of any grade or academic level. One teacher in El Paso Texas has adopted the Edmodo platform to help structure class. With this technology, she is actually able to make assignments only available in a certain time window, thereby mandating that certain times of the day be open for activity other than school.

For the first four or five years of a child's life, he spends this time learning by playing. Now, he's in a classroom and confronting the expectation that he will finish his work before being allowed to play.

Because younger children don't see the connection between finishing work and rewarding themselves with a fun activity, it's up to you and their parents to show them that link. For instance, when they finish a number worksheet, they can play. As they grow older, they will be able to see the separation between work and home and it will be easier to establish boundaries between work and home.

Development of Work-Home Boundaries

A recent study of adults and their strategies concerning time management was performed by psychologists and certified behavior analysts at the University of Cincinnati. They identified that working adults used three types of strategies to manage time between their professional domains and their home domains:

  • Collocation – being physically present in one domain while cognitively and behaviorally engaged in two domains
  • Distancing – shutting off connection to all domains that one isn’t currently present in
  • Crossing – using tools like iPhones as an aid for transitioning from one domain to another

The reigning wisdom on teaching children work-home boundaries is that distancing is the only effective method that a child might employ. However, the research shows that adults are using many different kinds of strategies to manage both of their domains, and currently there is no indication that one is more effective than the other.

Therefore, teachers can and should find ways to help students develop proficient skills in each of these time management areas.

Technology has many ways to enable students to practice any one of these strategies. Take some time to plan how you might prepare students to master time management skills and bring your ideas to school administration, and the broader community.

Meanwhile, use the tools you already have at your disposal. Explain the concept of "homework" to your students. Tell them that they are taking work home so they can continue to learn after school ends for the day. Remind them that, when they are done with their homework, they can separate the end of their "work day" by putting the homework in their backpack.

As children progress through school, they will become more familiar with this practice. By the time they graduate high school and college, they should be so familiar with the work-home boundary that they easily continue the practice in their adult lives.

Enlist Families to Help

If you haven’t realized yet, the project of helping students develop the ability to balance time will be a difficult project to accomplish without collaborating with parents. Much of the teaching of this principle naturally belongs in the home. However, sometimes parents need reminders and help teaching their children these principles.

The families of your students can and will help you to reinforce this concept. Reach out through multiple channels to your student’s parents. Traditionally schools have sent home notes with their children to deliver information. This method is very old and ineffective. Try establishing an email network, a social media network (Google+ is my recommendation), or even try unique community collaboration software like Trello, or MemberHub. These channels are much more dynamic because they provide the opportunity for collaborative efforts between teacher and families. With the right tools, families will be more willing to engage with you in the education of their children.

Develop plans to help children achieve better time management and ask the families for feedback and suggestions to make these plans even better.

Every time you work on teaching students about work-home boundaries, teach them that everyone has to learn how to set and use these divisions.

Change the Definition of Quality Time

"Quality time" means that parents and children spend time together, taking part in an enjoyable activity. Teach your students that they can spend quality time with homework, then when they are finished for the day, their quality time can be spent on playing or time with their families.

Teachers shape the future of our children. Time management is one front the rising generation stands more in need of than any other previous generation that came before them. How will you contribute to their mastery of time?

What have you done in your classroom to help children with work-home boundaries? General time management skills?

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