Here’s An Easy Fix to a Teen Calendaring Problem

Time management and organization are vital pieces for successful study habits and grades.

All too often, students do not have their cell phones or calendars attached to their laptops. In this video, I offer a simple way to connect and see the “big picture” of what needs to be done each week.

I am hoping everyone can benefit from this helpful tip!

For more helpful time management and study solutions for students, parents and educators please sign up for the Anti-Boring Approach to Successful Studying Course HERE

Take Notes That Make You Smile

Let’s play a quick word association game! When I say “note taking,” what’s the first thing you think of? I just *bet* that the word you thought of is more likely to make you frown than smile. But note taking doesn’t have to be that way!

Check out these cool notes that my friend Jo took at a conference she attended recently. I bet you’ll smile, too.

Hey there, while I highly recommend watching the video to get the full effect, here’s a short summary for you:

My friend Jo and I were at a conference and I noticed that she has some of the most amazing notes I’ve seen in a long time. So here are some of those tips.

  • Start with a large title at the top, so you know what that page of notes is about.
  • Next up, you can split a page up into sections. For example, you could draw a line down the middle, with the notes on the right, tips and tricks on the right, or other relevant information, perhaps the location of information you need.
  • Then we have the use of visual imaging. Basically, make small doodles along with your notes that help you visualize what the notes are about.
  • Try and use colors, as these can make notes more fun, and they help bring attention to the notes.
  • You can also try and group notes that are similar into chunks so that you can more easily find and take action on those notes.

Are you thinking, “That’s cool and all, Gretchen, but I need step-by-step support to figure out how to take decent notes?”
Then I recommend checking this out: In my typical anti-boring fashion, I’ll walk you through the two steps to note-taking that will transform your ability to capture the key points of a lecture or book, and four simple ingredients that you can apply to any note-taking method to make it more effective.

A Silly Way to Memorize Math Formulas

As midterms approach, that one math test is approaching. Yes, the one that has seven formulas to go with it. How are you ever going to remember all of the formulas without mixing them up?

Here’s a recommendation I made to a student regarding a silly, quick way to memorize math formulas! Check it out and let me know if there is a clever trick that works for you!

Don’t have time for the full video? No worries, I’ve got your back with this short summary:

While many teachers nowadays allow students to have little flashcards or cheat sheets with their math formulas on them, there are still plenty that don’t. So in the case that you need to memorize your math formulas, I recommend finding some silly anti-boring methods for how to get these formulas into your brain. My client Sam and I were doing just this today. He needed to memorize the formula for compound interest which is A=P(1+r/n)nt. Now our brains work very well with narrative and imagery so as I was looking at this formula I came up with a story.

First I noticed that A=P made me think of “ape” so that’s the start of our story. Next, the parenthesis reminds me of a couple of bananas. So the story goes, “Once upon a time there was an A=P, and that ape really wanted some bananas (). So he started by picking 1 banana, but something scared him so he ran off (+r/n), so he did not (nt) get any more bananas.” After we came up with this little story for remembering the formula, I quizzed Sam on the formula verbally and in writing, so we were using all the study senses, and he got it down pat. Afterward, I recommend to his family, that they spend some time coming up with stories for the other formulas he needed to study.

I hope that this tip helped you, and if you have a silly method for memorizing math formulas let me know down in the comments. And if you want more tips on how to study in silly anti-boring ways please consider checking out my course.

How to Tell Your Professor About Your Learning Difference

Do you have a learning difference that impacts your experience of school?

How do you feel about telling your teachers and professors about it?
Many of my clients resist telling their professors because it’s such a vulnerable thing to admit! However, this is such an important conversation, it’s important to know how to psych yourself up for it.

Here’s how I recommended that one of my clients inform their professors about her learning difference.

Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, here’s a short summary:


I was just walking around a lake near my house with a client of mine, who goes to college out of state, and when she came back after this last quarter, we decided to do an outside meeting instead of the usual meeting in my office. And it was so great to hear her reflections about what she learned in this last quarter, and I there was one thing, in particular, I wanted to discuss with you all today that she told me about.

This client has a learning difference, and she had an interesting reflection around how she wants to discuss this with her professors in the future. She has a piece of paper she usually presents to her professors at the start of each semester, that states she is entitled to extended time on tests if she needs it. However; what she realized, is that she wants to make this presentation in the second week of class, that way she has time to look over the syllabus, get to know how this professor teaches, and to make some notes for herself about what specific problems she might have in this particular class, with their specific syllabus, and their specific teaching style. This way, when she goes to talk to her professors she can personalize the presentation and discuss with her professors what troubles she might have and have some open dialogue with her professors about how she might get help with those specific issues she might have.

Want more tips and tricks for how to handle a learning difference? My course has lots of great tips, tricks, and ideas that can help you to manage your learning difference and be successful, so please consider checking it out!

An Easy and Fun Way to Memorize Anything

It’s officially fall! As the temperature drops, the semester is just heating up. Students are starting to sweat through harder tests and more complex assignments. Is this true for you?

Recently, a client who has difficulty with short term memory was assigned one day to memorize the preamble of the constitution. For a young man with a learning difference, this was a Herculean task!

We came up with a fun approach that might be helpful to the rest of you, so I wanted to pass it on.

Take a look at this quick 2-minute video explanation. Then, use the comments section below to tell me whether you think this might work for you. Are there other memorization tricks that rock your world?

Don’t have time for the full video? No worries, I’ve got your back. Here’s a short summary:

So as I said, I was working with a young man who needed to memorize the preamble of the Constitution, and this can be used by anyone who is struggling to memorize material. The first thing I had him do was look at the preamble and take note of how many parts there were to the sentence or material. In the case of the preamble, there were 8 sections that he noted. Next, we went part by part and drew a picture to represent each part. The first picture I drew was 3 stick people which represented “We the people”, and every time I held this up I made him say “We the people”. The second image was two wedding rings to represent “in order to form a more perfect union”. As before, I start by showing the first image, then the second and made him repeat them both. From there we kept going, doing an image, practice all images in order a few times, and then we’d move to the next image.

By the end of it, he hadn’t quite memorized the whole thing; however, he could do it with the pictures. So I had him practice it some more on his own, and the next day, when I texted him to check up, he had it memorized! The key here is breaking down something large into smaller more manageable pieces and then using images to help create connections in our brain.

Did this trick help you? Want more awesome tips and tricks like this one? Please consider checking out my course.

What to Do When You Think Your Teacher Sucks

Lately, I’ve been hearing a common refrain amongst some of my clients to explain why they are performing poorly in a class:

“My teacher sucks!”

Today in my session with Claudia, this was her excuse about her lower-then-expected performance in geometry.

“My teacher doesn’t teach! He just jabbers away at us for the full period, and my brain is too full. I can’t think! He doesn’t give us time to practice what he’s sharing with us!!”

Sigh. Human beings can be so brilliant about what they need — and so blind!

I love that Claudia’s complaint shows a deep and intimate understanding of her own learning process. She wants to get a small chunk of information, and then be allowed to practice that before she moves on to getting larger chunks of information! It turns out that Claudia’s desire (what I might call her “inner authority”) is confirmed by research (which I’ll call “external authority), which suggests that brains take in information in 20 minute chunks.

How wonderful that Claudia knows what she needs in order to learn geometry more effectively! And how disappointing that in THIS teacher’s classroom, she is feeling overwhelmed with too much information.

Does this mean, as Claudia has interpreted, that her teacher “sucks”?

Consider this: I’m less interested in judging the teacher’s methods, and MORE interested in helping Claudia figure out how she can be a better teacher to herself!

Take a look about this conversation that took place during our coaching session:

Gretchen: “So tell me about the test review on which you scored 0/5 points. What happened there?”

Claudia: This was a review for a test. We’re allowed to use our textbooks, but I like to take my reviews the way I’ll have to take the test: cold, without looking things up. I feel like that’s a better way to see how I’m getting the information. But it’s stupid that my teacher grades reviews for the tests. I think they should be assessed without actually being graded!

Gretchen: Great! Yet again, you’re proving how naturally insightful you are about your learning process. Research also shows that the best way to prepare for a test is to simulate testing conditions, so I applaud you for figuring that out on your own.  And yes, it does seem counterproductive to grade what is meant to be a helpful review for a test. However, the reality is that your teacher DOES grade the review. So let’s not fight with reality.  Instead, I’m noticing a potential blind spot in your otherwise excellent process; may I point it out?

Claudia: (looking dubious but giving her assent)

Gretchen: I’m noticing that you waited for your teacher to grade the review; as you tell it, this makes you somewhat of a victim to his decision to grade your review. But there was something else you could have done prior to turning it in, to take the teaching (and the power) into your own hands. Got any ideas?

Claudia (thinking): Can’t say I do.

Gretchen: It occurs to me that you could have taken a few extra minutes to get out your textbook and double-check your answers before you turned in the review.

Claudia: Oh. Yeah. I guess I could have. It didn’t occur to me.

Gretchen: How might this have helped you?

Claudia: Well, I would have been able to catch some of my mistakes, and correct them before turning them in. I would have gotten a better grade…

Gretchen: AND you would have learned the concepts more deeply. When you take the time to teach yourself, you are also strengthening the neural pathways in your brain for this information. So, I’m curious: can you see a reason NOT to try double checking your own work next time?

Claudia: No, I guess not. I do think it’d help. I just never thought about doing it before. I’ll try it next time.

In this conversation, Claudia was willing to admit that she’d had a blind spot, that there was something she could do to support her own learning. This took courage and humility!

So now back to you, dear reader. Next time you think your teacher sucks, try the following simple steps:

First, notice whether your judgment is helping the situation.

Next, look at your own behavior. Is there any way you can shift your process so that you are being more responsible for how you are learning?

Finally, check this out these step-by-step instructions for how to become a better teacher to yourself. It might take a bit more effort on your part, but it also will make you a much more effective life-long learner. You won’t be dependent on teachers to make you learn.  It might even shift your relationship to that teacher; whether or not the teacher “sucks”, you get to learn a lot and make awesome grades in the process.

Photo Credit: From the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

What To Do When You Think Your Teacher Hates You

My client Jose told me that he is sure his science teacher doesn’t like him:

“I was asking so many questions in class, and my teacher was getting really annoyed. His breath changed and his face looked tense.”

I highly doubt that Jose’s teacher doesn’t like him, but it’s clear that Jose feels as if there is a disconnect with his teacher. And that feeling of disconnection deserves to be honored and addressed.

(Side note: Did you know that the teenage brain has trouble reading emotional body language in other people? For example, this study shows that teens often misinterpret “fear” as “anger.” Perhaps this is one reason why so many of my teenage clients complain that the adults in their lives are “angry” at them.)

Thus began a discussion between Jose and I about how he might communicate his concerns to his teacher. At first Jose was shocked: “I can’t just ask my teacher if he likes me!!” But the more we talked, the more he realized that it’s possible to communicate directly about his experiences and needs.

Ultimately, he wrote the following email to his teacher:

Dear Mr. D. I feel like I should tell you ahead of time that in science class I often have a million questions, and I don’t want to disturb the class, but if I try to hold it in I’m afraid my head will explode (I’m planning to become an astrophysicist when I grow up, so I am always curious about these things). Can you please tell me what your preferences would be if I have these questions? You can respond by email, or I could talk to you in person.”

I’m so proud of Jose for his heartfelt, honest self-advocacy. His teacher ended up following up with him in person, telling Jose that he is not at all bothered by his questions, as long as they are related to science. Jose feels closer to his teacher, and now is convinced that his teacher doesn’t hate him — and in fact, actually LIKES him! Go figure.