Self management

When thinking about self management one immediately thinks of managing time and meeting deadlines but it's also to do with emotions. Students who have suffered a loss or had some bad news will not be able to function unless they can manage their emotions. this gives two categories:

  1. Organisation skills—managing time and tasks effectively, goal-setting, etc.
  2. Affective skills—managing state of mind, self-motivation, resilience, mindfulness, etc.

Organisational skills

During the day time we manage our students time for them with a timetable. We have quite a complex 7 day rotation with different length classes for HL and SL, to enable students (and staff) to know where they are we have an online school management system that I developed :-) All a student has to do is follow the schedule, the difficult part is done by the person making it. 7 (including TOK) subjects in five days is a bit of a puzzle, I often wonder how an online IB student would cope having to organise their own time to study 7 subjects. The online courses are asynchronous so not bound into any timetable, I wonder if anyone has actually managed the whole diploma online (Actually it seems no one since not all groups have online course yet IB online). During class we impose time structure, 10 minute test, 5 minutes to solve this problem, 10 minutes to put away apparatus etc. This should have the knock on effect that students become organised in their own life but it doesn't. Once away from the constraints of the timetable all of this is thrown to the wind. The main problem is that outside school time there are conflicts of interest, job, friends, sport, TV, social media, sleep, hobbies etc. Rather more complex that 7 subjects in 5 days.

I work in a residential school so we should be able to instill some order into the lives of our students but we fail. We have a big problem getting our students to meet deadlines. It's a very complex problem but it must be confusing when your physics teacher encourages you to go rock climbing on a Saturday afternoon that you could have used to finish that lab report. So what can be done?

Setting a good example

If we don't keep to our deadlines how can we expect ours students to do the same. When we collect in work to mark we should say when we will hand it back and make sure we keep to the deadline. This is most important with EE students, students often ask for help or want feedback on a draft, if we respond quickly it is helpful to them. For this to be possible we must also have good organisational skills. I have heard rumours of EE supervisors holding onto essays for months handing back the draft days before the deadline. This is not good.

Forcing good habits

To a certain extent we can force our students into doing the right thing. I want my student to review class notes between lessons and do all the relevant exercises in the text book. To "make" them do this I give tests at the beginning of every class. These tests are marked and handed back by the next lesson. Students who don't review don't do well, it's sort of obvious but needs continual reinforcing. Once a student realises that reviewing between physics classes gives results maybe they will start in other classes.

EE deadlines

I insist that all my EE students do all their practical work over the summer holiday. To make sure this happens I am in continual email contact. Most students send photos of their apparatus and tables of raw data so I can monitor progress. After the holidays I am quite strict about deadlines. Sometimes we have an EE day and I make sure I spend it with my students. I once got all 6 of them to hand in a first draft after the EE day in August. My students are always very grateful for my continual encouragement.

Google classroom

During the recent student investigation I used google classroom for the first time. This is system for collecting in and monitoring assignments. If a student works on the google doc version you can actually watch them type.

I found this a great help. I was able to give immediate feedback (even when not asked for) and could monitor and encourage students who were dropping behind. Not 100% success but much better than simply waiting for the deadline. Big Brother is watching you.

Coordinating deadlines

This is a difficult one and again one that we haven't solved yet at my school. IB schools offer a wide range of subjects in each group so it is not uncommon that within one year group there are no students with the same set of subjects. Each subject has different deadlines so making sure that there aren't too many deadlines in a given week is a big problem. The forst step is to get every subject to decide on it's deadlines and publish them. A student can then see in advance if there are going to be some difficult times ahead. The problem is that students think that a deadline is when you do the piece of work, it isn't, it's the last time that it can be handed in. If you have two deadlines on the same day it's not a problem, just hand one in early. This is where organisational skills come in. Problems occur if the deadlines are unrealistic. If you aren't given enough time to complete either assignments before the deadline then you have a problem. Placing a deadline at 0600 is just encouraging the students to stay up all night. This year we are trying out a deadline calendar which is part of the unit planners for each subject, will be interesting to see if this makes things better.

Stick to the schedule

Even the most organised student will be in danger of missing deadlines if the schedule is suddenly changed. I also can't cope with sudden changes. If next Wednesday is day off then I will plan to complete some work on that day. Take the day away and I am lost (and stressed). We have school calendars for a reason, let's not change them all the time. Personal rant over.

Affective skills

Organising the time to complete an assignment is one thing but being able to do the assignment in the allocated time is another, this has to do with motivation, mood and alertness (or sleepiness). This also goes for performing in class. It's all to do with knowing yourself and being able to prepare for the task ahead.


Resilience is the ability to bounce back, it's even mentioned on US teacher recommendations "reaction to set backs". Students needs to learn from their mistakes and not be put off by them. Students often come to me with raw data and say the experiment didn't work, the results weren't as expected. Unexpected results are much more interesting than expected ones. Risk takers are going to make mistakes so will need to be able to bounce back after them. Sometimes it helps to see how this applies to other apects of life. When learning to ski you have to fall over, if you don't then you haven't found the limits it will take a timid person a longer time to learn how to ski well that a risk taker.

Self motivation

Motivation is a lot about setting goals and achieving them. When I have a lot of work to I look at my deadlines then set my own that are ahead of the actual. The act of beating deadlines is quite satisfying. I actually go one step further and try to beat my own deadlines, this is a bit risky but I have a safety net, the real deadline is still achievable. So take risks but use a safety net.


This sounds a bit whacky but it's not really. According to good old Wikipedia "Mindfulness is the intentional, accepting and non-judgemental focus of one's attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment, which can be trained by meditational practices that are described in detail in the Buddhist tradition." Oops, what's that bit about meditation and Buddhists. I'm not a Buddhist but I think I have my mindful moments, they happen when I am bouldering (climbing small rocks) when doing this I am completely wrapped up in the process of climbing that bit of rock, I study the holds, clean off the moss with a brush, lay out my mat, concentrate, breath, stretch and perfom. I am using all my climbing knowledge from the past but I am living for the moment. Ommmmm.

If you can focus on one thing maybe you can focus on others.


Not something I suffer from but an increasing number of my students do. How can I hand in a piece of work if it's not perfect? If I just work on it a bit more it would be perfect. Better not to hand it in at all if it's not perfect. The problem with perfectionism is it is seen by some as a virtue. Ask a group of students or teachers if any are perfectionists and the ones that put up their hand will have a smile on their face. The problem is an essay will never be perfect so a perfectionists will not be able to hand any work in and that's a problem. No solution here, just highlighting the problem.

All materials on this website are for the exclusive use of teachers and students at subscribing schools for the period of their subscription. Any unauthorised copying or posting of materials on other websites is an infringement of our copyright and could result in your account being blocked and legal action being taken against you.