The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. - Lao-tzu
According to Harvard University’s Center on Developing Child, executive function and self-regulation skills are the mental processes that enable one to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. Just as an air traffic control system at a busy airport safely manages the arrivals and departures of many aircraft on multiple runways, the brain needs this skill set to filter distractions, prioritize tasks, set and achieve goals, and control impulses.
Students benefit greatly from opportunities to develop executive function and self-regulation skills. These skills are crucial for learning and development and academic success. They also enable positive behavior and allow students to make healthy choices for themselves and others.
Executive function and self-regulation skills depend on three types of brain function: working memory, mental flexibility, and self-control. These functions are highly interrelated, and the successful application of executive function skills requires them to operate in coordination with each other. Each type of executive function skill draws on elements of the others.
Working memory governs our ability to retain and manipulate distinct pieces of information over short periods of time.
Mental flexibility helps us to sustain or shift attention in response to different demands or to apply different rules in different settings.
Self-control enables us to set priorities and resist impulsive actions or responses.
Children aren’t born with these skills—they are born with the potential to develop them. If children do not get what they need from their relationships with adults and the conditions in their environments their skill development can be seriously delayed or impaired.
A focused, healthy learning community such as York that supports executive functioning development can therefore serve as a great boon for student growth. And when York educators and York parents partner toward that goal, students are more likely to find achievement.
Growth-promoting environments and adult facilitation of routines provide children with scaffolding that helps them practice necessary skills before they must perform them alone. One such critical routine is the use of a daily planner. With a planner, students can record assignments and due dates. Use of a daily planner can assist students in planning, organizing, and scheduling the many facets of a busy day and week so they can be more efficient and organized. Thus, a planner can function as a tool for improved time-management and self-management. Student planners are available in the York business office (room 7) and an example of using a planner can be viewed below.