Navigating the Yearly Calendar: Executive Functioning in March

Welcome to “Navigating the Yearly Calendar!” This is a monthly series where we will explore strategies and tools that intersect with the calendar and rhythm of the school year. 

There is a reason we as humans mark time. It is a vital part of our being that helps us make sense out of the world around us, as well as our own existence. Marking time is not new; it dates back to the earliest of civilizations. However, in our fast-paced world, marking time can be complicated, given all the simultaneous demands on our lives. Marking time has been further impacted by the COVID pandemic, during which time learning as we know it was disrupted. Even today, we are still grappling with the effects of this time disruption.

This series is designed as a reset of how we mark time as it relates to executive functioning skills. By looking at executive functioning on a monthly basis, we can help our children manage time, stuff, and information.

Let’s begin…

Executive Functioning in March: 

The month of March not only marks that the spring season is on the horizon, but the end of the “mid-year slump.”  In general, there are feelings of renewal and optimism as we move into the last few months of the school year. With the warmer weather, increasing daylight, and the arrival of the coveted spring break, it can be easy to lose focus on the day-to-day assignments, as well as the long-term projects and assessments. 

From an executive functioning point of view, March is a month where there are deadlines that need to be met for grading and feedback purposes. Additionally, many schools hold parent-teacher or student-led conferences in March. For these reasons alone, it is important to ensure quality work is completed and turned in on time, since the evaluation and feedback will strongly reflect what has been accomplished and turned in during the month. 

The executive functioning goal of March is to draw on the renewal of energy that returns from the exit of the winter months, and use this energy to push for focused learning and studying in order to maximize progress and production of high quality work. 

Here’s a list of things to consider in the month of March:

  1. Re-examine the after-school schedule and make adjustments as necessary. It’s not unusual for the schedule to change again in March, especially with regards to sports. As a result, changes in the schedule are warranted and also necessary in order to accomplish a balance between commitments to extracurricular activities and school work. The changes to the schedule are not a problem as long as adequate time is set aside during the school week and/or weekends to complete daily work, study for exams, and work on long-term projects. Consider the scheduling of any outside support (tutoring, coaching, therapy) so that these activities fit comfortably into the schedule as well. 
  1. Ensure that time slots continue to be set aside on the weekends to work on projects and essays. With the arrival of March, it can be easy to lose focus on long-term assignments or preparations for tests as students set their sights on enjoying the return of longer days and the arrival of Spring Break. It’s important to help children be mindful of maintaining balance and remind them of the goal to turn in high quality work on time. 
  1. Listen to the words being said by your child:

“This assignment doesn’t really count.”

“It’s only worth 5 points.”

“Doing that part is optional.”

Each one of these statements and other similar ones can be signs of deviating from a routine of following through with work to ensure it is complete and of good quality. When a parent hears these words, it’s time to pause and review the requirements and/or rubric of the assignment.

  1. “Show me, don’t tell me” is an executive functioning gem. Simply put, we don’t rely on what is verbally said. We rely on evidence, and evidence in terms of education is work that has been completed. In a time when many can lose motivation and momentum, arguing is not the answer. Asking a child to “show” you the assignments that they do and “show” you what has been completed is a powerful way to check in and clarify what action has been taken.

Wishing you a happy and healthy entry into Spring!