“My teacher doesn’t explain things well!” This is a common refrain in my coaching practice when I suggest that students seek their teachers out for extra tutoring outside of class.
Recently, I’d been watching as a client saw her chemistry grades plummeting and plummeting. When I asked her more about it, she kept on telling me how hard chemistry is and how she doesn’t understand the material. When I suggested she talk to the teacher after school, she insisted that there’s no way she’d be able to understand his explanations then, because they felt undecipherable in class.
Surprise! Surprise! This client reported in that she finally got the after school tutoring at the teacher’s insistence, and it went MUCH BETTER than she expected it would.
Listen in for an explanation of what my client discovered.
I just started taking a water aerobics class at the swimming pool of a local high school. Sometimes there are high school students working behind the front desk, and this particular day we got in a fascinating conversation as I was leaving.
I was so inspired, I couldn’t wait until I’d showered and dried my hair to tell you about it — so please enjoy this “come as you are” video in which I’ve got wet hair, my wrinkles and gray hairs are extra visible… and I tell you this story of this super fun — and tip filled! — interaction.
Listen in as we discuss the idea of potential, why it’s not enough to get you into college, why it doesn’t necessarily matter whether you get into a “good” college, and some easy tips for how to make the most of your education now matter where you go to school.
P.S. If you want more great tips about college and studying check out my College Prep podcast here!
Do you ever struggle to read difficult texts? I’ve had a few different videos on this topic lately because it’s such a buggaboo for many of my clients.
In today’s video we explore a way to THINK about reading that might shift your ability to understand what’s in the text.
This tip comes to you courtesy of a client of mine, who made a brilliant observation about her own reading process. I just LOVE IT when my clients try the techniques I give them, but then come back with an even more brilliant observation of what works for them.
Check out the video to learn a small little tweak my client has made in her thinking that has given her the grit to get through a difficult reading.
Below are two questions about the SAT and Advanced Placement tests that we got recently from two moms:
(1) “I just heard someone talking about their 2nd child who took a gap year and delayed taking the SAT until after high school. For kids who just aren’t ready for college or who haven’t progressed to Pre-Calc by their junior or senior year, is there a benefit, or even an option, of taking the tests later?”
(2) “A fellow mom and I have been having a long conversation about what colleges can and can’t see from your college testing record. This includes your SAT scores, your SAT subject test scores, your AP scores. […] My question is – can you still list [a course] as an AP course, but not report your testing score (say you do great in the class, but not so great on the test or does that look like your school is weak?) Or do you only report the class as an AP course if you have a score that is worthy of reporting? Otherwise would you simply call it Honors?”
I spent all weekend creating videos and downloadables for the course. Super exciting to see things coming together, and to meet the INCREDIBLE educators who are signing up for the course. You will be in professional development heaven with this new cohort from around the world.
Here’s a sneak peek of what the course looks like from the inside:
Also, I’ve been hearing soooooooo many success stories — from BOTH the alumni of my program AND the participants in my recent Study Cycle Masterclass — about how the Anti-Boring Strategic Study tools are already making huge shifts for their students this semester!
“One of my high school students is really putting the Study Cycle to work for her….it’s AAMMAAAZING to see, and another student could totally tell me what he was going to do after he tested himself,” academic life coach Sarah Weidman reported on Facebook.
“I was so super proud of a student today who I know I haven’t discussed the study cycle with in about 8 months or so and she was able to pull it out of her brain when I asked her for a refresher,” tutoring company owner Anna Hasbun added.
It’s not an accident that Sarah’s and Anna’s clients could remember the Study Cycle after several months “off”. I’ve done the hard work to figure out EXACTLY HOW TO TEACH this brain theory, and all the accompanying Strategic Study tools. When you follow my formula and combine it with your own “special sauce”, as Sarah and Anna have done, these lessons really, truly STICK in students’ brains.
If you don’t want to re-invent the wheel — and DO WANT to learn the fastest, most effective ways to teach students how to become agile, independent learners who confidently rock their tests and their learning — please join me for the upcoming course.
Did you know that WHERE you study can make a difference in how well you get prepped for a test? More about that topic in a moment.
But first — wow!! We had over 180 educators (and parents!) sign up for the Study Cycle 101 Masterclass yesterday. I was particularly impressed at the countries that were represented: Peru, Venezuela, Azerbaijan, Beirut-Lebanon, Canada, Australia, Canada, and more!!
It’s not too late to sign up if you’d like to watch the recording, and then participate in tomorrow’s Practice Labs! (Hint: During the masterclass I’m giving out a $100 discount code to my upcoming Art of Inspiring Students course, so if you’d like access to that, make sure to sign up. The discount is good through Friday evening).
But now — given it’s Wednesday! — I bet you’d like my weekly video tip. 🙂
Students, today you’re off the hook because I have a super hard question to ask your parents and teachers!
To all you grown ups — do you expect more of the teens in your life than you sometimes expect of yourself?
In today’s video — filmed “on location” on my parent’s front porch in Houston, Texas (I’m here for a high school friend’s wedding) — I share some reflections about a trend I’ve been noticing.
Over my 10+ years as an academic coach, I’ve been seeing an increase in adults expecting certain follow through from students that they don’t necessarily expect of themselves! I give two examples, one about teachers and another about parents. Please check out the video to hear more!
Also, if you’re ready to walk your talk, parents and educators, I highly encourage you to sign up for my FREE Masterclass: The Study Cycle Live! which will teach you how to actually get students to study effectively for tests and quizzes. Let’s learn how to apply the Study Cycle in our own lives AS WELL AS learn to teach it to students?
After all, we ALL would benefit from learning how to save time and energy by studying strategically.
?Do you teach students learning styles at your school, or in your classroom or coaching sessions? Do you assume — as many educators do — that knowing your learning style can help you study and learn more effectively?
Well, the research shows that this is not necessarily true! In this video I make the case for why we should all stop teaching learning styles — or at the very least, tweak the way we teach them.
If you agree that you’d like to teach a simpler, more research-based and brain-science-infused model for helping students learn to learn — I invite you to sign up for one of these FREE classes:
– Click here to take Study Cycle 101, (if you prefer to read all the lessons at your own pace),
– Click here to attend a live Master Class, if you prefer to learn it live from me, or
– If you watched the video and realize that we need EFFORT and VARIETY in order to learn, sign up for both! 🙂?
I interviewed Melissa Sprock, Indiana Wesleyan University’s Learning Center Director. I recently trained their staff in my Art of Inspiring Students to Study Strategically toolbox. As a result of this training, the Learning Center has overhauled three key services they provide students — their peer-to-peer tutor training, a student success class for “Conditionally Admitted” university students, and academic coaching in the TRIO program. This experiment has been so successful that Melissa and I are starting to do presentations at conferences around the country. However, I thought it’d be fun to do a “sneak peek” special for you, the folks in my community!
Anyone was invited to attend, though the conversation is probably most relevant for high school teachers, college faculty, administrators, coaches — or anyone curious to see concrete examples of the Anti-Boring Approach™ tools in action.
For the first half hour I interviewed Melissa about the process of transforming her learning center. Then for the second half hour we will see if you have any questions and open it up for conversation about how to teach study skills on the university level.
Do you, or a student you love, struggle to keep a calendar?
I’d like you to meet Sarah Weidman, one of my star Anti-Boring Approach™ Certified Coaches. It’s August, we’re all revving up for the new school year, AND I’m excited to show off the expertise of the coaches who now use my Anti-Boring Study Cycle model in their coaching (learn it for free here!).
Towards the end of the last school year, Sarah had a client who told her that she didn’t like keeping a calendar. She felt overwhelmed by all of the assignments and activities listed. Sarah totally understood where her client was coming from (that’s the sign of a good coach!) and worked with this young woman’s concerns.
Tune in to discover the steps they took to make calendaring less overhwhelming… and more useful.
This article first appeared on Medium.com and you can read it here.
I’m back from my month-long vacation in the great outdoors, and wow!! Transitioning back to work as an educator and academic coach has been a buggaboo.
I’m back from my month-long vacation in the great outdoors, and wow!! Transitioning back to work as an educator and academic coach has been a buggaboo.
Do you struggle with transition this time of year? It’s a big hard deal, and we are all in it?—?students, parents, educators.
Few people talk about the start reality of it. So let’s go.
Get ready for some honest truth about how my transition was, and how I dealt with it using the very same tools I teach students during the school year.
First things first, we (or at least I) go into summer vacation with such high hopes for rest, relaxation, adventure, and decompression time. I rented two different camper vans and took off to the Yuba River for 7 days (see me sitting in the water up there? heaven!) and the Eastern Sierras for 10 days (check out the converted Honda Element and the gorgeous sunset). Gazing at mountains, sitting in rivers, and hiking along mountain creeks was the plan, and also the reality! Parts of this trip were truly magical.
Inevitably, though, vacations often don’t go quite as we (I) had hoped.
In my case, I got a horrible migraine while I was camping alone outside of cellular range. It was horribly painful and took several days to recover from completely. Being in that much pain alone in the wilderness brought out a deep loneliness that I didn’t want or expect.
Fast forward to a week ago Thursday. I was having dinner with a friend. She’s the mother of a former client (he just graduated from high school! woohoo!!), a middle school administrator, and through the years that I’ve been coaching her son, has become a good friend.
She asked me how my summer vacation went, and I immediately launched into:
“I hate transition! I had a good time on my trip but it wasn’t nearly as good as I fantasized it’d be, and now I can’t bring myself to go back to work. I feel horrible. I hate this time of year!”
(Ok. I don’t know if I was that dramatic, but that’s how I felt on the inside).
She nodded vigorously, smiled, and said, “You basically describe me!”
Idon’t think we educators talk ENOUGH about how hard transition is.
Not many other professions go cold turkey on work for a couple months, and then have to start up full steam in the fall.
Frankly, it sucks. Though I love the opportunity to savor a long vacation, I hate how hard it is to start working again.
For years now, I’ve been telling friends and clients a pet theory of mine, based on thousands of hours coaching teenagers and talking to their parents: the root of all human difficulty takes place during transition.
That sounds like an overblown statement, right? For the time being, though, let’s assume that this statement is true.
Specifically, since I’m an academic life coach for students, let’s think about the impact of transition on students.
Consider this: how many transitions do students go through in the course of a standard school day?! I count a minimum of 7 for the average middle or high school student: (1) Wake up, (2) Get out the door , (3–9) Arrive at school and then transition through 7 classes, (10) Go home, (11)?—?Start homework , and (12) Go to bed.
That’s a BUTT LOAD OF TRANSITION… and most students have even MORE transitions than these (count ’em up! you’ll see). As a double whammy, most of these transitions are controlled by external forces and are not internally chosen or driven.
I don’t know about you, but in my average work day as a grown up, I have many fewer transitions than that. And my brain is fully formed! Imagine if you have a growing teenage brain that is basically designed to struggle with executive functions like task initiation, planning and organizing, self monitoring, impulse inhibition and more!
For the reasons outlined above, I consider that my main job as an academic coach is to help students navigate transitions. I want to give them the TOOLS to navigate these transitions as effectively as possible, as well as help them PRACTICE USING THESE TOOLS in their own lived reality.
The 5 categories of tools that academic coaches help students collect are pare:
Organization?—?tools and strategies for organizing things and ideas so that you can find them easily when you need them
Time Management & Planning?—?tools and strategies for organizing time and following through
Strategic Study ing— tools and strategies for effective and efficient learning, so that students are prepared for every test
Self Advocacy?—?tools and strategies for noticing what you need and speaking up about those needs with peers and adults
Self Talk?—?tools and strategies for countering the negative thoughts that often keep us from feeling good about ourselves and following through
Through my 10+ years in this work, I have countless stories of how students are calmer and more confident after they collect a chock full toolbox of strategies in these five categories, and then practice applying these tools so that they can do so fluently, without much conscious thought.
It simply feels GOOD TO KNOW that when hard things happen in life, one of the tools in your toolbox will likely help you.
As the airlines constantly remind us, it’s important to put on our own oxygen masks first. How can we expect STUDENTS to practice using transition tools if we?—?the adults who parent and teach them?—?don’t have enough tools in our own toolboxes!?
I’ve seen with my own two eyes that parents and teachers often expect students to be able to create and sustain habits (for organization, time management, studying, self advocacy and self talk) that the adults around them aren’t able to create themselves!
That doesn’t seem fair, does it? I don’t think so.
So this school year?—?as I gear up for a new round of my flagship course for educators?—?I’m also starting to do a ton of writing. I’ll be reflecting regularly about all the ways that I integrate the these five sets of tools into my own life, to make sure I’m being in integrity with the students I teach.
How do I put “the oxygen mask” on myself first in regards to using all the tools I teach students? How does this practice help me be a better coach and teacher? How might other adults follow this practice too?
To provide an example of what I mean, I’d like to take the rest of this article to reflect about MY transition back to work this school year.
Because it’s important for me to practice what I preach, I’d like to demonstrate how?—?when I was stressed beyond belief on my first day back to work?—?I was able to access my own personalized transition toolkit to ease myself back to work with some grace and joy (amidst the whining; yes, there was still whining). I’m so grateful for my toolbox!
When I got back from the camper van vacations described above, I actually had the foresight to plan an entire week’s buffer between vacation and work.
Even with that buffer, however, when Monday August 6th rolled around, I couldn’t bear to open my computer that morning. I felt anxiety in the pit of my stomach and I wanted to, well, run screaming.
Dare I be this honest? I actually do love the work I do, so I KNEW that if I just got started, and took one little step at a time, I’d be ok. However, my poor nervous system didn’t know that. Whenever I looked at my computer, or even thought about my email, I felt a pang deep in my belly that seemed to say, “Run! You’re in mortal danger! You’re being chased by a tiger!!”
Luckily, I know myself. I’m aware I need to ease in.
I’ve been working very hard over the last decade to put together my toolbox to help in just these moments. When the anxiety set in, I momentarily forgot that I even had a toolbox. But as soon as I remembered, I took a moment to remember what my favorite transition tools are:
Gretchen’s Unique Personal Toolbox for Navigating Transition
Incrementality. Take action! Any action! No matter how small!
Self Advocacy. Reach out, let others know the state of my nervous system, and ask them to check in on me.
Creativity. Make something creative. Bonus points if it’s pretty or involves paint or collage. Make sure that whatever I decide to make is somehow connected to the thing I am procrastinating or feeling axious about.
Meander. Ease off the “driver” mentality. Let myself meander and follow my desires and impulses, but do it in a time bound way so that I have a clear end.
Exercise. Get exercise and move my body.
What a great list! As soon as I remembered it, I felt calmer. Here’s what I did next:
First, I texted about 10 people in my support network (these are folks with whom I have a spiritual and emotional connection and who I trust to receive my raw truth with care and love). Here’s what I said (edited slightly so that I feel comfortable sharing my words with the internet):
“I’m noticing I’m wanting my community to witness the fact that I’m going back to work today. It feels really scary. There are parts of me that don’t want the responsibility of caring for all my clients and having to make money to support myself. […] If you have time and space to check in with me later today and see how the day has gone, I would love that! If not, I totally understand.”
After sending the text, I noticed the impulse to make some art. So, I set up a new empty paper on my art studio wall. I asked myself what color I wanted my business to feel like this semester, and yellow came to mind. I let myself paint in broad, brush strokes, and even used up my whole jar of yellow. It felt so satisfying.
As I was painting, I remembered that my business coach had sent me a kit for making her “Right Brain Business Plan” process. I realized: Oh! Wouldn’t it make sense for me to get more clear on my vision for my business this semester BEFORE I dive into responding to client requests? And what if I did that by making a vision board?
The rest of the afternoon I spent collaging. As you can see fro the picture above, I made quite a mess! But I’m so pleased and proud of the collage filled with images of how I want my work to FEEL this school year:
Occasionally my cell phone pinged with a friend responding to my morning text, checking in on how I was doing. Each time someone reached out, I felt a warm glow in my chest that hadn’t been present early in the day, when I was so anxious.
I took a couple breaks: one to go to a yoga class, and another to take a walk around the nearby Lake Merritt, which I was willing to do because I remembered how important exercise and being outdoors is to my motivation.
Although I never did check my email that day, I DID reach out to my assistant to find out whether there was anything pressing. And I made a plan to check email right after my “welcome back” meeting with my assistant the next day.
And most importantly, I felt completely inspired to come back to work in a way that would make the feelings in my collage a reality. Here is my final product of what I’d like my work to feel like over the next year:
I LOVE that I had such a robust toolbox of self care tools to help me manage my anxiety during this confronting transition from summer to school year.
I think it’s particularly cool that my toolbox is very similar to the tools I teach my student and adult clients! Check out how my own actions this past week correspond with the five toolkits students need to navigate their own transition:
Organization: I have an overflowing toolbox of self care strategies that I have memorized and easy access to. I surround myself (at my home office) with all the tools I need to put these strategies into action at any time (paints, a blank studio wall, magazines for collage, glue, scissors, my support network bookmarked in my phone, etc)
Planning and Time Management: I had built in a time buffer (i had planned my transition back so I didn’t have to be “balls to the wall” so to speak, and I had time for creativity AND the practical.
Strategic Studying: Although I technically wasn’t “studying” per say, I was employing a central tenet of my Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying (which is my wacky articulation of a brain-based approach to teaching students how to study). I didn’t paint just for fun, as a way to procrastinate. Instead, I knew how to connect the creative act of painting and collage to the CONTENT at hand?—?I used the painting and collage as a vehicle for getting clear on the vision for my business.
Self Advocacy: I have a community of support and a lot of practice accessing them. I no longer feel ashamed to reach out, and I’m good at knowing how to ask for what I need.
Self Talk: There were a few moments when I had a mean thought sneak into my head. “You’re so lazy! Look at you, painting and collaging instead of getting to work. You’ll never build a successful business this way! What privileged baloney you preach!” Ugh. That’s super mean, isn’t it? Luckily, I have a bunch of tools (that I don’t have time to talk about here) to help turn the volume down on all my mean voices, and I used those tools during the day.
So what’s the point? Why am I writing about this here? what does this have to do with students and learning? Or being a teacher or an academic coach?
I guess for one thing, I simply want to affirm that TRANSITION IS HARD! For all of us. Especially this time of year. Please don’t beat up on yourselves if you are feeling that.
I also want to ask the parents and educators out there?—?what tools are in YOUR personal transition toolbox? Do you have easy access to those tools? The school year is a stressful time, so we need our toolboxes replenished, out and visible. Have you put your own oxygen mask on first and organized your own School Year Sanity Toolbox? I hope so.
And if you haven’t, that’s ok too. But please mark some time on your calendar to do that. And if you have no idea where to start, please reach out to me via my website! Perhaps I can help get you started.
Has your school gone digital, but you and your kiddo are at a loss on how to keep assignments straight?
I’d like you to meet Marni Pasch, one of my star Anti-Boring Approach™ Certified Coaches. It’s August, we’re all revving up for the new school year, AND I’m excited to show off the expertise of the coaches who’ve gone through my Art of Inspiring Students to Study Strategically training.
Towards the end of the last school year, Marni had a student who couldn’t keep track of their assignments because their school had gone digital! Keeping paper assignments organized has its own challenges for teenage students, but organizing digital assignments can also be quite a headache.
Marni’s student figured out a modern way to survive in a digital school system… and Marni shows off this simple but brilliant idea in the following video:
It’s possible to receive accommodations on the SAT & ACT for students with physical or learning differences. However (and this is a super important point for families of these kinds of students): you need to apply in advance.
Both SAT & ACT have tried to make the process easier, but unfortunately not all families know this is an option.
I’m so excited to introduce you to Nicole de Picciotto, who is a wiz at coaching students and one of my brand new Anti-Boring Approach™ certified coaches. Now that it’s August, it’s time to start up with our study tips to get the school year started (don’t know if you noticed, but we took a little break in June and July). So let’s get started with a math tip!
Last school year Nicole had a client who would tense up whenever she encountered an unfamiliar math problem. As they brainstormed how to solve this, she and her client came up with three steps to help her relax. It turns out that the more she could relax when she worked, the more confident she’d feel, which led to her doing a better job at math! Go figure.
Check it out here:
Here are the tips we came up with to help her feel more confident and successful with math!
1) Get comfortable with not knowing what to do. Take a deep breath. Relax and just start with what you know.
2) Remind yourself that it’s ok to be confused and not know how to proceed.
3) Let yourself be a curious explorer and discover what to do next rather than fixating on the right answer.
Want more of Nicole? She’s a GREAT academic life coach based in Portland Oregon, but available anywhere thanks to the miracle of the internet. Contact her For more information about Nicole de Picciotto and Academic Life Coaching, visit nicoledcoaching.com
How well do you rest? Are you a pro at taking deliberate down time, or do you struggle to keep up with all your responsibilities?
I try to be good at taking time to rest, but after reading this book I realize I haven’t been deliberate enough about my rest.
In this final post about the power of rest, based on the book Rest: How to Get More Done When You Work Less, , I say more about what it means to rest deliberately, and share five different ways to rest. Which ones are you good at? Which could you stand to improve?
I also do a little reflecting on how hard it is for high school students to rest effectively, given their tight schedules and mountains of work.
Check it out here:
As summer comes to an end, I recommend challenging yourself to rest in all five of these ways — and then see how many you can continue to do once the school year starts up again.
There is a certain subset of students with whom I work who really struggle to do well on tests. It turns out that the reasons why are more obvious than they think: they’re not doing their homework, and they’re too scared to go talk to their teachers after school.
As I recently learned with a client of mine, these two issues are totally links, and if you can solve both of them at once, they become a winning formula for doing better on tests.
Listen in as I tell you more about what this particular client discovered about how to apply this winning formula to score better on her chemistry tests.