Teens often start their coaching sessions with me super emotional. “Do you know what just happened?! My parents just ambushed me!” We then spend the next 5-10 minutes of our session processing anger, resignation, and tears.
An ambush is a surprise attack. For teens, this means that they’re often going about their day, feeling pretty good and with their own sense of a plan for what needs to be done. And then wham!! Suddenly they are faced with an angry parent accusing them of getting a zero on an assignment, or not following up with a task they were supposed to do.
In this video, we look at how to catch yourself when you might be about to ambush your teen, and what to do instead. After all, if a student feels accused, they’re less likely to follow through on the task that you think they should be doing! So you can’t really go wrong if you spend time learning how to communicate in a way a teenager can hear.
Check out the video here:
If you are a teacher, tutor, or academic coach, or perhaps even a parent, interested in learning about how to help your students become independent learners and test-taking powerhouses, please consider checking out my course, The Art of Inspiring Students to Study Strategically.
Have you been looking for a quick and inspiring way to set a new intention to improve your teaching this spring?
Classroom teachers are such overworked and underappreciated educators that I sometimes hesitate to make suggestions for how they can transform their teaching to be more “study” friendly.
I’ve been challenging myself to come up with a list of short, 30-second habits that are relatively easy for educators to incorporate into their classrooms…and that pack a punch in terms of results with students.
Check out the video below, during which I share the 3 steps to designing a tiny habit that might transform your teaching this semester…with relatively little extra effort!
Don’t have time for the full video? No worries, here’s a short synopsis:
I want to ask you, “What if one 30-second habit could absolutely transform the way you teach and the way your students respond to your teaching in terms of being more self-sufficient and becoming more independent with their learning?” I’ve been playing around lately with lists of habits that if teachers just took one of these habits on, how it could vastly change the dynamics of their classroom. Today I’m going to be talking about what the parts of a tiny habit are, and I’ll be sharing some tiny habits at a later date.
So let’s look at a tiny habit. A tiny habit consists of 3 parts.
First off, a tiny habit is 30 seconds or less. Then they are attached to something you already do in the classroom or at home when lesson planning and that you’re already doing habitually. The third part is that it completes the sentence “After I [do habitual task] I will [do new habit].” For example, “After I write the task on the board I will ask students how will you prove that you know this information?” This is an example of one tiny habit that I am convinced that teachers can easily incorporate into their curriculum without a lot of added effort. In this case, it’s about asking a certain kind of question that gets students thinking about their learning.
If you are a teacher, tutor, or academic coach, or perhaps even a parent, interesting in learning more about not only tiny habits but about how to help your students become independent learners and test-taking powerhouses, please consider checking out my course, The Art of Inspiring Students to Study Strategically.
Do you ever notice that you are more likely to be more productive at certain times of the day and less productive at other times?
I was just blown away by the self-awareness of one of my clients. Sixteen-year-olds, and especially boys, aren’t always known for their keen self-awareness. But this young man pointed out five things that he’s learned about himself that help him be “way more productive” when he comes home from school. So productive, in fact, that he might be willing to postpone playing video games to get work done.
Check out this video (made five minutes after this young man’s session, so the content is fresh!) where I summarize the brilliance that he shared with me.
Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, here’s a short summary:
Every once in a while I’m just stunned by the self-awareness that the teenagers I work with have. Today, in particular, I was talking to a 16-year-old boy and he brought up, on his own accord that when he first gets home he keeps trying to remind himself to just sit down and start on his homework because he’s way more productive. Specifically, he listed the following reasons why he finds this to be true:
See, he noticed that when he first gets home he has more energy for doing his homework than later on in the evening. On top of that, he still has his ADHD meds in his system when he gets home, and they help him to remain focused. These are two great insights into his own productivity, but he has a few more. He also noticed that when he first gets home and has the house to himself the peace and quiet of being alone helps him to focus, a very astute observation. Furthermore, when he first gets home he says he can better assess how long his homework assignments will take. He’s fresher and has the energy to actually do his homework at the rate he thinks he can, but if he waits until later he’ll have less energy and be less focused so he underestimates how long homework will take him. The final thing he noticed is that when he first gets home he can better remember what he needs to do for homework; however, I really wish he’d write it down instead, but we’re still working on that.
I hope you found these observations to be as interesting as I did, and if you feel like you could use some more tips and tricks on how to be more productive, please consider checking out my course, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying™.
Do you ever need to email your teachers because something they did or said is confusing, and you need clarification?
One of the skills I work on with teenagers is how to communicate respectfully with teachers without sounding like you are blaming or accusing them. This is a HARD lesson for many teens to learn and takes some practice.
Listen in as I share a story about a recent young man (sophomore in high school) who caught himself writing some blaming language to his teacher, and figured out — all by himself! — how to correct it.
Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, I’ve got your back. Here’s a short summary:
One of the skills I end up working on quite often with students, that I hadn’t originally thought I would, is writing emails. And this week I was talking with one of my clients, and he needed to write an email to one of his teachers. He was walking himself through it, and while I usually walk my clients through the email writing process, this young man is a good communicator and his parents work hard with him to help him be a good communicator. Anyways, here’s something that he caught himself doing that I wanted to share with you.
As you can see above we have a little image of my client typing up his email and what he noticed was that he was starting to write “You were confusing in class today”, but he stopped himself and rewrote it as “I have confusion about what we were doing in class today.” And this is something he said his mom drilled into him last year ad nauseam, the importance of not blaming the teacher with your language; regardless of whether you think it was the teacher’s fault or not. We want to try and take ownership as much as possible in our email communications, as we will get better help from our teachers if we are generous with our communication.
So I just loved that he caught himself there and the truth is that “I have confusion” was very true, as he is confused, regardless of what the cause of the confusion is. And by checking his language and tweaking it so he took responsibility for his experience, he is much more likely to get help from his teacher now, and in the future.
Do you ever have the strong, stubborn feeling that you just DON’T wanna do your homework?
In a client session recently, a junior in high school reported in that she just couldn’t motivate herself to get her work done over the past weekend.
When I questioned her about what was in the way of taking action (I have a checklist I use to help students identify what’s going on when motivation flags), she pinpointed her “mindset” as the problem. So, I helped her investigate how she might shift her mindset to take quicker action in the future.
Check out this video, where I summarize our subsequent conversation:
Hey, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, here’s a short summary:
In the last week of September, I was talking with one of my clients, she’s a junior in a very rigorous high school, and she said that this was the first weekend she just didn’t want to do her homework. So we did a little investigating about what was going on in her brain that was making it so hard for her to take action on her homework. First, we investigated the idea of “I don’t wanna”, but I put “because” after that in order to see the beliefs behind the strong stubborn feeling of “I don’t wanna”. As a result, we came up with a list of beliefs that she had that were holding her back.
So the first was that there was too much homework, the second that it was too hard, and the third was that she didn’t know what to do. Once we had this list, we asked, a couple of questions of each belief. First, we asked, “is it true?” and as we were discussing it, my client said, “You know, there really wasn’t too much once I looked at it, but I hadn’t looked at it when I had this belief, so I just was convinced in my mind that there’s too much.” So in this case, asking “Is it true?” and then checking to make sure that’s actually the case, can help you overcome this belief. Similarly, the belief “it’s too hard” she couldn’t know if it was true as she hadn’t started yet, so once she started she realized it wasn’t, and if she first checked she’d have seen that it wasn’t too hard. Had the homework actually been too much, or too hard, she could have then asked herself, “What’s the next small action I can take?”.
Now, the reason these questions can help you shift your mindset and allow you to take action is that the statements, the beliefs, on the left of the image are what’s known as fixed mindset thinking. These are items that come from a place in the brain where we think that it’s always this way, this is the truth, the truth doesn’t change, and everything is locked in place. On the other side though, we have growth mindset thinking, which is based on the fact that our brains can be changed over time through practice.
Do you hate one (or more) of your classes? I don’t mean mild annoyance or frustration with difficulty. I mean absolute hatred of the subject you’re learning?
One of my clients truly detested a subject area she was learning, and we worked hard this year to convince the powers that be to take it off her plate. In this video, I describe how this one shift made a world of difference in her motivation at school… and why it might sometimes be appropriate NOT to force kids to suffer through a class just because it is a “requirement.” Especially in the case of this client, who tried HARD to like this class (she stayed in it for two years), it became apparent that a change was necessary.
Tune in to the video to find out what class this was, and how letting it go turned things around for this client.
Hey, don’t have to watch the full video? No worries, here’s a short summary:
I have one client in particular with whom I’ve been talking about motivation in very specific ways lately. This young woman has been with for 3 years, and in the first two years were quite a struggle; however, this last year things have been going extremely well. There are three main reasons for this change. The first reason is that she’s not doing the dance team this year, which has increased her free time; however, this wasn’t as nearly as important as the other two.
Of the two other the first I’d like to discuss was the topic of last week’s video, “Why Working Out Helps You Be a Better Student“. As I discussed last week, this young woman enjoys working out, but more importantly, the cardio she’s doing this year seems to be helping her much more than the dance team did last year. And as we discussed in that video, there has been a marked increase in her motivation to complete her homework when she’s getting regular daily exercise as compared to when she isn’t.
With that said, the final and most important change from to this young woman’s school life that has drastically increased her performance was the removal of a class she simply detested. For her freshman and sophomore year, she was taking French, and she simply hated it. She hated the way the language sounded, she hated speaking it, etc. She simply didn’t like the language. Finally, the adults helping her, myself included, got the picture and she was able to drop French in exchange for taking Sign Language at her local community college.
You see, there’s something about when you absolutely hate a class and how it ends up tainting everything else. When you hate something heavily, it ends up draining your energy. So if you or a student who you know and love is in a situation where they simply can’t stand a class and it’s affecting their other grades as well, you might want to experiment with removing that course or changing it out.
Do you ever struggle to follow through on an assignment because it feels pointless?
A client of mine was recently complaining about the pointlessness of his English class assignments, and you’d better believe this isn’t the first time a student has struggled to find his teacher’s assignments meaningful or relevant to his life.
I helped him explore whether it is true that his class is pointless, and at the end of the investigation, we came up with a fascinating way to make it pointFULL instead. Tune in to find out what we came up with.
Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, here’s a short summary:
My client a couple of days ago was complaining that the assignments in his English class felt pointless. He has been finding that the class feels like it’s moving slowly, and the “do now” assignments seemed meaningless. He said that he didn’t feel like he could respect the class, it just felt so meaningless and he noticed he was doing less and less of the work. Then we talked through it a bit and went through some strategies I have for investigating the things that we tell our selves and seeing if they are true or not, and one the things I had him really think about was ” is it really pointless?” Now we went through far too many layers for me to go over, but what we came to at the end of it all was a key question. I asked him, “what would give it a point for him?”
He said, “Oh, maybe with every question the teacher asks I could give a class analysis for it.” Class analysis, not like “school classes” but societal classes. Anyways, I said sure, why not? Maybe not in writing each time, but in his head, he could definitely be thinking about the questions from that point of view, that way it would feel to him more meaningful. So he’s going to be trying that this next week, and I’m super excited to see how it goes for him.
In the meantime, I want to walk you all through these 3 steps that he and I went through.
You are the one responsible for the sense of meaning in your life. Not your teachers or parents. Sure it’s nice if they contribute to the meaning of your life, but you are the one who’s responsible for the meaning.
Be clear on what ideas or activities will give you a sense of meaning. For my client, thinking about class and governments is interesting and thus thinking about questions or assignments in a sense of the effect of the subject matter in different classes gave it meaning. For me, I enjoy making artful creative notes. So as long as I can take fun notes, I can make any subject matter meaningful. It’s all about finding the ideas or activities that will give it meaning for you.
And finally, talk about it with others. My client talked with me, and I love showing others my notes. By sharing it with others we can help keep our interest high.
Do you have great intentions for following through on new habits, but then find yourself struggling to keep the momentum?
This happens to me all the time in the transition between summer and the new school year. So this year, I got creative! Check out my new habit tracker, and listen in to why simply TRACKING your habits can be so powerful (even if you don’t actually follow through).
Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, here’s a short summary:
So this particular school year, 2017, has been so hard for me personally to transition from the wide-open summer to the regimented school year, and I have had to do something I haven’t had to do in a long time. I’ve made myself a star chart, and I’m noticing that a trick like this is the best way for me to rev up my habits in a quick period of time. And the way I use this is I have some double-sided tape (or in my case tape rolled up so it’s sticky on both sides) and I have it placed on my mirror with some stars next to it. That way I’m guaranteed to see it every morning and night!
Now, let’s discuss how to make this and how it works. As you can see I have it divided into 4 sections, my morning routine, my evening routine, the exercises I want to do every day, and diet/water. Here’s the deal, I don’t expect myself to be perfect. I’m simply tracking, what am I good at vs what am I not good at. The beauty of this though is that let’s say I don’t feel like flossing, but I see the star chart it makes me want to do it just so I can put a star on it.
That said, I don’t recommend that parent’s make these for their students; however, I do recommend to students that you make something like this for yourself to get you revved up for the school year. Because until your about 21 you’re going to be going through the cycle of starting a new semester and trying to build habits, then slowly losing them, and rebuilding them, and slowly losing them.
How many notifications pop up on your desktop or smartphone each hour? I’ve noticed with my clients that they get gazillions of notifications!!
I’m on a mission to banish the notification from you and your teen’s technology. Parent’s aren’t excluded here!!
Check out the video to hear more, and pay attention to the one exception I’ll allow.
Hey, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, I’ve got your back. Here’s a short summary:
I have a new… tirade. You see, I work with most of my clients via Zoom on the computer, and I have my client’s share their computer screens so I see what they are doing. And I have seen far too many teenagers when they are on their computer getting nearly constant notifications! This drives me crazy because I watch as their eyes flick over to each one, and while usually, they come back to attention pretty quickly, I’ve noticed that there is usually a pause… and their thoughts are distracted and or slow to think about the next thing. As a result, I’ve decided I want all my teenagers and their parents to practice stopping all notifications.
The brain science is so clear that all these notifications are draining our energy and fracturing our attention. So I am challenging all my clients and their parents to stop all notifications, at the very least, during the time you are trying to study or work, with one exception. Notifications from your calendar/reminder app that are there to help keep you on track. But I want those to be the only notifications.
Do you struggle to take action on new habits and routines that you know would be good for you? Recently, a client of mine was having trouble jumpstarting “The Set Up Routine,” which is a process I recommend to students for setting up their study space right when they get home from school. I realized that during last week’s session, I’d failed to help him truly envision himself doing the habit! This is a 30-second trick that can really make a difference. Check out the video, where I describe it in more detail.
Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, here’s a quick summary:
So, I have a quick 30-second trick to help you, or your child, or your client (if you’re an academic coach), get a jumpstart on a new habit. And this is something I was doing with a client just this last week. He knew he needed to do what I call the “setup routine”, which is to come home from school, walk in the door, and get your study space all set up. The problem was that while we’d talked about it the previous week, he wasn’t following through, and I realized we really needed to walk through it in much more detail.
So I had him imagine actually doing this task, in as much detail as possible. I asked him what the front door looks like, what it’s like on the inside of that door, where he has to go to put his study materials, where the table is, what’s in that space, etc. Then I asked him to imagine himself taking his books out, where he’d put them, what else he needed to do to set up, etc. And he was really able to see it in his mind, almost like a movie. One of the benefits of this was that it allowed me to see where he was getting stuck and help fill in the steps. It also benefitted him, as he was able to get a real feel for how the habit would go from start to finish.
Do you have questions about College Admissions? Want to know the secrets to getting into College and get all the tips and tricks others wish they knew?
Well, luckily that’s what I’m here to tell you today, along with guest host, Megan Dorsey – who some of you might recognize is from The College Prep Podcast, which we co-host weekly together.
This recording is from a webinar Megan and I did in the summer of 2015, so sit back and strap in, because this recording is packed full with information.
Now, as I said above Megan Dorsey and I co-host the College Prep Podcast, which is a weekly podcast where we discuss advice for everything ranging from College Admissions to Study Skills, and everything in between in the field of education. It’s aimed any students from Middle School up to University, so there’s a little bit of something for everyone in education still.
With that said, I’d like to give you a little information about Megan Dorsey. Megan is a former SAT essay reader for the College Board, a Texas Education Agency, a certified highs school teacher and counselor, and a successful educational consultant. She earned her B.A. from Rice University, her M.Ed. at the University of Houston, and her Certificate in College Counseling at UCLA. She went on to found College Prep, LLC, and now offers a variety of services to help families navigate all aspects of college admission, including:
My Vocabulary Success Coach
Online SAT prep classes
SAT and ACT private tutoring (in person or via Skype)
And if you need help with school, whether it’s raising your grades, studying, getting homework done, or managing your time as a student, please consider checking out my course, The Anti-Boring Approach.
Hey there, do you have trouble with tests? Do you study by rereading your notes or textbook? Even if you don’t, it’s very likely that you use the same method every time you study right?
Well, I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that the way you’ve been studying is most likely being wasted. The good news, I have the solution right here, and I’m going to share it with you.
Hey there, while I HIGHLY recommend watching this particular video in full, here is a summary:
The Study Cycle is composed of 3 steps and is the most effective, efficient, and anti-boring method I know for studying. So before we begin going over the steps, I have a little image here, which we will be referencing.
We start with the basket of knowledge and skills at the bottom of the image, this is what we need to learn, and we need to get this into your beautiful brain at the top. So step 1 is encoding the information from the basket into our brains. In this step, we are getting the information into our brains, whether we are teaching it to ourselves or it’s being taught to us.
Step 2 of The Study Cycle, which the majority of students skip, is practice retrieval. This is the process of getting the information out of our brains and assessing what we actually learned. By doing this, we get two very important pieces of information. The first is what we do know, what we actually did learn in step 1. The second is what we didn’t encode in step 1. What we didn’t learn, or encode, we put back into the basket of knowledge.
Then we have step 3. Step 3 is one of the least practiced steps, but just as important or more important than the other 2. Step 3 is to encode the information we assessed we didn’t learn in step 2 in a NEW way. The important thing is NOT just to try to re-encode it the same way you did in Step 1, but to encode the information in a new way.
Back in July 2015, I presented a webinar, “5+ Oddly Effective Tools That Build Great Habits” with special guest Thomas Frank, from CollegeInfoGeek.com. This webinar was to help introduce high schoolers and college students to some unique and potent tools that they could use, and Thomas was excellent, showing us a wide variety of tools that were unique, creative, and very effective that everyone could add to their toolboxes.
So tune in to see what crazy ideas Thomas shared with us.
The tools demonstrated in this video are quite a few, and a summary wouldn’t do the video justice; however, I do want to give you all the links to the different applications and sites mentioned in the video.
Buffer is a social media management suite. It allows you to schedule posts, set up a queue of repeatable posts, etc. for Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, etc.
IFTTT is an application that allows you to connect two different websites/applications. In the video, IFTTT is used to connect Beeminder with Buffer, so that when a post from Buffer goes live, a data point gets added to Beeminder.
Beeminder is a website application that allows you to have a system of accountability for your goals. You can set up goals, and if you don’t complete the goals, then you have to pay Beeminder. So, for example, if you don’t send out one post on Facebook a week then you have to pay $5 for each one you miss per week.
Habitica/HabitRPG is a habit tracking website. Effectively this website is a game based on your habits. The more habits or routines you complete, the stronger you get and the better you do. You can do a wide variety of things here, so here’s an example of what you can do: Let’s say you want to make sure you do your HW every day. You can schedule out your HW that you have in your planner, and then every day you can check it off, and you’ll gain EXP, items, etc.
ToDoist is a great place to keep track of all your tasks that you need to take care of. You can add tasks here to keep track of everything that you need to take care of.
Google Calendar is basically a planner that’s online. You can use it to schedule out all your time in a visual schedule. This offers a wide variety of features, including multiple calendars that can be turned on/off easily, time slots that can be overlapped and color coded, and much more.
As you can see there were a variety of tools listed in the video, and the system surrounding these were even better, not to mention starting at around 39:00 minutes into the video, Gretchen and Thomas answer a wide variety of questions from high school and college students. For a little sample, there’s one discussion about part-time jobs, another question about meta-habits, and so much more!
If you found this useful, I highly suggest you check out Thomas’s site, CollegeInfoGeek.com. He has a regular blog, podcast, and more for college students with tips and advice. And you can get even more tools and tips in my course, The Anti-Boring Approach.
Ann Marie Dobosz is a psychotherapist and writer in San Francisco. Her book, The Perfectionism Workbook for Teens: Activities to Help You Reduce Anxiety and Get Things Done, was published last year by New Harbinger. She specializes in helping people who are really hard on themselves feel calm, happy, and “good enough.” She works with adults and adolescents who struggle with mental health issues that arise from perfectionism and self-criticism, including anxiety, depression, obsessive thinking and compulsive behaviors. You can find more about her at www.annmarietherapy.com, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
Do you ever feel lost or stressed when it comes time to start studying for final exams?
I know a lot of my clients have over the years, and so I wanted to share with you all my favorite technique for how to organize your final exam study plan.
Don’t have time for the full video? No worries, I’ve got your back with this summary:
In this video, I show you my favorite way to organize how to study for final exams and get it all on one page. And this, especially when you have multiple final exams, is very important as you have a LOT of details you have to prepare. So to start, you want to start about 3 weeks out, even if you haven’t received all your information for the final exams, and draw out on a sheet of paper a calendar as seen below.
Basically, you want to start out with a blank sheet of paper or white board, and then draw a table that has 7 columns and 3 rows (or more or less depending on how many weeks out your finals are. Then above each column put the day, and I like to start on Mondays and have the weekends grouped together. Then we want to number the days, so Monday the 1st, Tuesday the 2nd, etc. Next, on the final week we want to put in when our final exams are, so if you are in high school you likely have 2 exams a day and it might look something like above, with English and History on Monday, Math on Tuesday, Science on Wednesday, etc. Then in the weeks prior we plan out what we are going to do to study. In the example above I said that on Tuesday we’d study English with 10 flash cards, math on Wednesday with 10 flash cards, and then take a math sample text on Thursday. And my final tip is to leave Friday’s empty that way you can really focus your studying on the weekends when you have free time and give yourself Friday afternoon’s off; because let’s be honest, no one wants to do anything on Friday afternoon.
Hey there teens, do you feel like your parents are checking in on whether you’re doing your homework or not too often? Parents, do you feel like your teen isn’t getting their homework done – and are you checking in on them regularly?
As an Academic Life Coach, I meet with both my clients (who are often teenagers) weekly and also their parents for checkups. And so I have a client I just had a session with who is finishing up his freshman year in high school, and one of the things we were talking about this week is how often his parents should be checking in on him regarding his homework. This week’s video is for both you parents and teenagers out there, regarding parent’s checking in on their teen’s homework.
Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, I’ve got your back with this summary:
As teenagers, and we’ve all be there, we start seeking our independence. It’s not unusual that when we hit our mid teens that we start wanting to fend for ourselves, and this includes academically. As I was saying, I have a client, who is just finishing up his freshman year in high school, and he feels that his parents are checking in on his homework way too much. Now, he has ADHD and a bit of a perfectionist, and therefore in his previous years he’s had a history of not getting homework turned in on time or at all. As a result, his parents would regularly check in with him regarding his homework to make sure he was getting it done, and in middle school, this worked great. However, now he’s pushing back against them, and he said something that I felt was very insightful.
“I don’t want my parents to be right. I don’t want them to think that I’m doing my homework because THEY told me to.” He wanted to be doing it because he knew he needed to for his future. And I can totally relate to this, and I’m sure a LOT of parents out there if you think back to your teenage years you’ll have a similar story to mine. I remember in high school I had an Algebra teacher who told me and reminded me regularly, that I could have an A in his class. My father, who is a mathematician, also was convinced I could have an A, and so they both regularly were checking in on me and pushing me to get an A in that class. As a result, I pushed back, and decided, “No, that’s their goal, I don’t care, and I’m not going to get an A.” Sure enough, I got a B in that class. Similarly, my client says that most of the time when his parents check in on him he’s already doing his homework, but because they check in with him, that makes him feel stubborn and he will often STOP doing his homework because of it.
There comes a time when teenagers want to start feeling more independent, and we as parents and guardians need to let them accept the consequences of their actions so that they can learn from it. Now, of course, this advice isn’t applicable to all families, as I don’t know the specifics of your situation and your parent/child dynamics; however, I did think this was a theme worth sharing – that sometimes when we as a family check in too often on our teenagers we are getting in the way of them experiencing their own independence.