One Way to Get Better Help From Your Teacher

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.

Gretchen Wegner, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying, Email, Emailing Teachers, Communication, Teacher and student relationships, student email, teacher, teachers, students, teenagers, high school

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.

I hope this tip is helpful, and if you want more tips and advice on communicating with your teacher, please consider checking out my course, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying™.

Don’t Wanna Do Your Homework?

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.

Gretchen Wegner, Homework, Procrastination, Stubborn feelings, mindset, how to shit your mindset, Academic Coach, academic coaching, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying

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.

And if you feel like you want more help getting or keeping yourself motivated and on track, please consider checking out my course, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying.

Can You and Your Teen Stop This One Tech Habit?

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.

Gretchen Wegner, Notifications, Social Media, Computer sounds, Attention, Energy, Brain science,

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.

So, let me know how it goes. Feel free to send me an email at Gretchen@gretchenwegner.com and let me know what your experience with this is. I’d love to hear from you. And if you want more academic and life tips and guides based on brain science please consider checking out my online course.

A 30-Second Mind Trick to Envision a New Habit

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.

I hope this little trick helps you, and if you want more tips and tricks, please consider checking out my course.

5+ Oddly Effective Tools That Build Great Habits with Thomas Frank

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, Tool, Tools, Habits, Habit, Thomas Frank, Gretchen Wegner, High School, CollegeBuffer 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, Tool, Tools, Habits, Habit, Thomas Frank, Gretchen Wegner, High School, College

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, Habit RPG, Tool, Tools, Habits, Habit, Thomas Frank, Gretchen Wegner, High School, College

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.

College Prep Podcast #165: How to Help Students Budget Their Money Before College

Megan Dorsey, Gretchen Wegner, College Prep Podcast, Budget, Budgeting, Money, Teens, students, college, financial, financesBudgeting is a skill that many adults don’t have! However, it’s a super important skill to teach your students before they go off to college.

On today’s episode, Megan and Gretchen discuss some tips for how to get started helping teens practice how to take care of their finances.

We discuss:

  • what specific skills do students need to master before leaving for college
  • how to talk to your teens about how to make financial choices
  • what financial problems to look out for in their first year of college,
  • and more!

Click here to tune into Megan and Gretchen’s discussion on finances, budgeting, and preparing your student for college.

College Prep Podcast #163: Why Perfectionism in Teens Is Not Always Healthy

Perfectionism, Teens, Students, Gretchen Wegner, Megan Dorsey, Ann Marie Dobosz, SchoolAlthough perfectionism can seem like a good thing, students with perfectionist tendencies can struggle with exhaustion, poor self-esteem, and unhealthy habits related to school/life balance.

Guest expert Ann Marie Dobosz sheds insight into how perfectionist students can transform their perfectionism into healthy striving instead.

Tune in to hear more about:

  • What perfectionism is and isn’t
  • What the underly beliefs are that provide the root of perfectionism
  • What behaviors in teens are signs of unhealthy perfectionism, and
  • What teens and parents can do about perfectionist tendencies, including when to address the behaviors versus the underlying beliefs

You can hop over to The College Prep Podcast and listen to this episode by clicking here!

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

Should You Remind Your Teen To Do Homework?

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.

Should You Remind Your Teen To Do Homework?, Parents, Teenagers, Adolescents, Teenage Stubbornness, Homework, Accept Consequences of Actions, Independence, Freedom,

“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.

As always, if you found this tip useful, or if you have any questions feel free to email me at Gretchen@GretchenWegner.com and if you feel you need help with your academics please consider looking at my online course!

College Prep Podcast #162: Summer Programs, Study Guides, Improving Vocab, & More

Gretchen Wegner, Megan Dorsey, Q/A, Q&A, Q & A, Questions and Annswers, Summer Programs for college prep, Teachers, Incomplete Study Guides, Apps for Vocab Improvement, Singing to Music When Studying, What's Wrong with my college application?, University, Universities, You’ve got questions, and we’ve got answers! Join us as we discuss the following questions:

Summer Programs for College Prep: We are looking at the Stanford University “High School Summer College” program for our son. The classes are interesting, and it looks like a good experience. My question is will this help him get into Stanford or other similar schools when he is a senior?

When Teachers Give Incomplete Study Guides: What do you do if your teacher doesn’t list some facts/ideas on the study guide but does put those questions on the test? How do you study?

Apps for Vocab Improvement: I’m wondering if you know of any apps or programs that would help a high school student develop a deeper understanding of words… I imagine through word study including roots, prefixes, and suffixes. I have some old=school tools but would like to give her something a little more user-friendly for working on at home. Ideas?

Singing to Music When Studying: I’ve heard you say that it’s ok to listen to music while studying, but what about if you are singing along with that music? Can you really concentrate and use your full brain if you are singing while doing your homework?

What’s Wrong With My College Application? My son is completing his 12th grade and has applied to several good universities. He did his 9th and 10th from a school in India and will graduate from high school in Texas. He scores A*s in all subjects. His current GPA is 4.1. He scored 800 in SAT Math and 760 in English. He plays guitar, is a black belt in Karate and knows multiple languages- English, French, German, Hindi. With all these qualifications he is still not getting selected by Universities. Why? What is missing for him? How can we supplement his existing applications in other universities? Can we appeal?

Click here to listen in as Gretchen Wegner and Megan Dorsey answer your questions!

College Prep Podcast #146: Scams to Watch for Related to College Planning & Admissions

Scams to Watch for Related to College Planning & Admissions | Megan Dorsey | Gretchen Wegner | Parents | StudentsWhen parents and students are afraid of their college prospects, they’re more susceptible to scams that prey on this fear.

In today’s climate of expensive schools that seem increasingly competitive, this fear and susceptibility can be a problem for families. During this episode, Megan helps us identify:

  • what is a scam versus what is a legitimate opportunity
  • the top five kinds of scams you should be on the look out for, and
  • questions to ask yourself to make sure you’re not spending money on a scam

Click here to head over to the College Prep Podcast to listen to this episode.

College Prep Podcast #145: Start Now to Plan Meaningful College Experiences

Start Now to Plan Meaningful College Experiences | Gretchen Wegner | Megan Dorsey | Teens | Parents | Summer | Colleges | Universities | Volunteer | Experiences | TravelTeens and parents! What will you do this summer to have experiences that are both meaningful and impress colleges on your applications? Looking for free and low-cost solutions?

Now is the time to start planning. We know it seems super early, but the truth is that many of these opportunities have application deadlines mid-semester. We don’t want you to miss out just because you put off planning.

Here are the 5 types of experiences that Megan suggests students and parents consider; tune into the episode to hear details about how to find each of them:

  • Subject-specific camps at colleges and universities
  • Hands on work in the field of study that interests the student most
  • “Big” volunteer experiences that meet or exceed 80 hours a week
  • World travel through organizations like your local rotary club or the state department
  • Full-time jobs that actually clock 40 hours per week

Click here to head over to the College Prep Podcast to listen to this episode.

Having Trouble Paying Attention? Maybe It’s This

Recently, a client’s teacher emailed me to say that in his physics class, this teen seems glassy-eyed and has trouble focusing. When I checked in with my client, a high school senior, he reported that indeed — he has trouble keeping his eyes open in that class. Low energy!

We talked it over and realized that the problem is probably what he’s eating for breakfast! Check out what we discovered — and how he fixed the problem.

Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? Don’t worry. I’ve got your back. Here’s a summary:

This past week I had a discussion with a student, that I’ve never had before, and it just cracked me up. My client’s teacher had emailed me that he was like a zombie in class, he just didn’t seem to be paying attention. So when we had our weekly coaching session, I talked to him about it, and he did realize that he was just super tired by the second period. During the first period he felt fine, but by the second he had low energy. My first thought was, well what is he having for breakfast. As is pretty common, he was eating cereal, and I went, “AHA!”

Cereal, whether sugary or not, often leads to sugar crashes, so I told him he needed to get some healthy snacks. This led to a discussion on grocery shopping, as he said his parents weren’t buying him any. As I told him, he’s 17 years old, he can go grocery shopping, he doesn’t need to be relying on his parents for his groceries!

Gretchen Wegner | Breakfast | Paying Attention | Low Energy | The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | snacks | Student

I realized that there are 4 key things students, especially high-schoolers, need to be aware of. They need to pay attention and be aware of when and why their energy is low. It’s often because of what they are eating, and usually not because the teacher is just too boring. With that in mind, they need to be keeping track of their nutrition, which means going grocery shopping for themselves when they need certain things!

I love working with my clients, there’s always something interesting I can help them with. If you are interested in academic coaching or want some awesome Anti-Boring tips and tricks for school, check out my course!

Can “Truth or Dare” Really Be a Study Technique?!

Did you ever play Truth or Dare when you were younger? Perhaps you play it now?

Recently a client of mine gleefully reported a fun study game that she and her study buddy made up while they were doing homework the other night. It wasn’t quite Truth or Dare (it was actually pretty G-rated), but it was super creative. Not only did she have a lot of fun studying her Spanish vocabulary, but she learned a lot too!

Tune into the video to hear me describe my client’s version of Truth or Dare for studying… and let me know if you try it, too!

Hey, don’t have time for the full video? I’ve got your covered, here’s a quick summary.

I’m always intrigued by the many wonderful ways my clients can surprise me with new and exciting ways to study. I have one client who was telling me last week about how she and her study buddy came up with a little game. She didn’t refer to it as such, but it was reminiscent of Truth or Dare.

Gretchen Wegner | The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | Study | "Truth or Dare" |

As I said, my client has a study buddy, and so they were both studying for their Spanish class, which they are in together, and they decided to have a sort of race. They agreed that whoever could learn the flash cards the fastest, and do the best on their mock exam, could ask the other to “do” something – thus the truth or dare aspect. In this case, my client won and got to read one of her study buddies poems, which she didn’t usually get to read.

This is an amazing example of making studying Anti-Boring. I can’t promise to make school fun, but I can certainly make it anti-boring. So if you want to find out about more awesome tips and tricks check out the Anti-Boring to Powerful Studying.

College Prep Podcast #141: 5 Fears Students Have That Need to Be Acknowledged

Gretchen Wegner | Megan Dorsey | The College Prep Podcast | Fears | Students | Student | Success | Acknowledged | Homework | Tests | Teachers | Teacher |

Sometimes adults forget that being a student is an emotionally taxing job, that students have fears, and that students often need reassurance!

On today’s New Year’s episode we discuss the five ways that feelings get in the way of student success if they’re not acknowledged.

Each of today’s tips is inspired by a video from Gretchen’s YouTube channel. Tune in to get the low-down on each of these tips, or go directly to the videos that inspired them in the first place:

Click here to head over to the College Prep Podcast to listen to this episode.

Are Your Homework Plans Realistic?

Do you should on yourself when making plans?

During most of my coaching sessions with teens, we spend at least some of our time making plans for the next week. We break big projects down into smaller parts; we decide what study tasks will be done on which days before the test.

However, invariably my clients will make plans that they can’t keep! They tell me what they think they SHOULD say, rather than what they can realistically accomplish.

Here’s one way I handle that during our sessions:

Hey, don’t have time for the full video? I’ve got your back, here is a quick summary:

As you can imagine I do a LOT of planning with teenagers. Close to, if not more, than half of my sessions are planning out the next week or month based on what homework they’ve been assigned. Typically we look at what assignments they have upcoming and then planning backward to figure out what they should be doing each day/week/month as necessary.

During these planning sessions, quite often we’ll make a plan and my clients will say, “Sure I’ll do that”, or my personal favorite, “Sure I’ll do that Friday afternoon.” The vast majority of my clients and students I know, don’t want to do ANYTHING after school on Friday, even as a teacher I don’t. They are saying what they think they “should” say, instead of being realistic and making a plan they will actually follow through on.

Gretchen Wegner | The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | Homework | Plans | Planning | Clients | Assignments |

The way I handle this is by asking them, usually a few times, “Are you “shoulding” on yourself? Are these plans actually realistic?” I try to make sure they understand they don’t have to “should” on themselves. It won’t benefit them to make a plan they know they won’t follow through on, or that they will just end up procrastinating for later. So we revise the plan using my triangle, “tools, team, and routine”, to make a more realistic homework plan.

If you want to know more about the triangle, “tools, team, and routine”, you can find it in the “Overcome Procrastination” section of the Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying.

College Prep Podcast #138: Safe, Fun & Life Changing Adventure Travel Trips for Teens

Gretchen Wegner | Megan | Claire Perrone | Adventure Travel | Teen | Teens | Moondance Adventures | students |

This week on the College Prep Podcast with Gretchen Wegner and her co-host Megan Dorsey:

Ever considered adventure travel as an interesting summer option for your teen?

There are many companies that take teens on cool trips around the world and build their life and leadership skills, to boot.

On today’s podcast, we interview an expert in the field of adventure travel. Claire Perrone, of Moondance Adventures, started off as a 12-year-old on her first Moondance adventure. Since then, she has transitioned from the role of student to a leader to Community Service Director; so she can speak about adventure travel for teens from a few different perspectives. Specifically, she, Megan and Gretchen discuss:

  • What is adventure travel?
  • What are the benefits to students of participating in these types of trips?
  • How can you tell if your child is ready for this type of experience?
  • What should parents look for when finding the right trip for their child?
  • How is a Moondance trip different from the hundreds of other travel opportunities?
  • What is the affordability of adventure travel trips?

Moondance is a teen adventure travel company based in Nashville, TN. They offer 25 awe-inspiring summer programs for high school aged students, domestically and abroad. Check them out on their website or their popular Instagram feed.

Click here to tune into the podcast and learn more about adventure travel.

Inspire Struggling Learners to Study Harder, Learn More & Raise Grades

“I’m lazy,” teens often tell me when I meet them for the first time. Parents often confirm this. And so do teachers, when I email them to get more info about how a client is doing in their class.

I know students often feel lazy. And they certainly seem lazy to parents, who watch their teens get sucked into the vortex of their phones.

But what if students are not lazy at all. What if — God forbid — it’s the adults around them who are helping to create the conditions for this apparent “laziness”?

Let me explain:

As an academic life coach with a glimpse into hundreds of classrooms throughout my career, I’ve noticed two different tendencies amongst the students who seek me out:

  1. Some students try really hard. They stress themselves out keeping up with their school work. Despite their best efforts, these kiddos still perform poorly on tests. Argh! Why?!
  1. Other students seem apathetic, perhaps even lazy. They can’t motivate themselves to learn, despite teachers’ best intentions to make curriculum interesting and their parents’ best efforts to keep them on track.

I’m guessing that YOU are the kind of educator who has also noticed this trend… and is doing what you can to reverse it. 

You are sincere, creative and a hard worker. You’ve done your darndest to design a curriculum that will be motivating and effective for students.

So why are students STILL struggling so much?!

What are we missing as educators that hold them back?

As an academic coach I’ve spent thousands of hours talking to stressed out and/or unmotivated students, and one pattern has emerged from these conversations that are striking —

Students don’t know how to study. Everyone TELLS them to study, schools and parents EXPECT them to study, but no one has actually taught them how.

“But that’s not true!” you might be thinking. “I tell my students exactly how to study for my tests. I give them study guides, quizlet sets and teach fun mnemonics! Why isn’t that enough?!”

I don’t doubt this is true. Many educators ARE giving students a zillion resources to help them study. However, this is what I’ve learned in my hours coaching teenagers from around the country:

The way adults talk to students about their own learning may be backfiring!

That was true for me, at least, for the years that I was a classroom teacher. Once I became an academic life coach, I discovered that I needed to unlearn a number of bad habits about how to talk to students about learning and studying.

Although my actions were intended to help students become more engaged, proactive learners — instead they created the opposite effect.

Students became passive learners, dependent on their teacher’s creativity and curriculum development expertise to guide their learning. They didn’t know how to teach themselves. 

Now that I am an academic life coach, I’ve been unlearning these bad habits. I’m watching my student clients transform their learning, lower their stress level and raise their grades in unprecedented numbers. I’m also watching the teens who seemed lazy perk up and start taking action.

If I can do this as a coach, you can do this too — as the incredible teachers, counselors, tutors, and coaches that YOU are.

So, what are these bad teaching habits to which well-meaning educators fall prey?

Here are the top four bad habits that I discovered in myself and have observed in other educators:

  1. We overuse the word “study,” assuming it communicates something of value to our students.
  2. We teach specific strategies (like flashcards) that worked for us when we were students.
  3. We focus on “learning styles” as the way to discover how to study effectively.
  4. We break learning down for students into bite-size, motivating chunks and provide clear instructions for students.

Well hold up, you might be thinking! Aren’t these the tenets of good, progressive education? How can they possibly be bad teaching and tutoring habits?

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I feel your pain. I was surprised, too, to discover that certain “facts” of good teaching in which I’d been trained sometimes do more harm than good. Why might that be?

Let’s take a closer look at each of these bad habits that are plaguing well-meaning teachers, tutors, and academic coaches:

Bad Habit #1 – Educators overuse the word “study.”

Imagine the following scene:

It’s Wednesday, 4th-period chemistry. The teacher writes on the board, “Study for test on Friday.” Students make a mental note, “Ok, I better study for that test”; some even write “study” into their planners. Parents, coaches and tutors see the word “study” in the planner and follow up by asking, “Have you studied for the test yet?” The student responds somewhat impatiently, responds, “Yes! Yes! I’m studying.”

Think about it: How many times was the word “study” used? Was anything of value about the learning process communicated in these brief interactions?

I’d argue NO! This entire conversation about studying is largely meaningless. How do students decide what they need to DO to study?! How will they know when they’ve been successful studying, and are ready to take the test?

Because students aren’t actually taught the theory behind effective study and the strategies associated with that theory, they often go home and do one of two things:

  1. They try to “study” the best way they know how, often by rereading the textbook and reviewing and highlighting notes. Some make flashcards, though this technique is often a time-waster too (more on that later). Or…
  2. They simply don’t study, either because the actions I’ve described above are unmotivating and uninspiring or because they don’t believe they need to study.

When test grades are published, student’s spirits are dashed. “But I studied!” they say. “How come I got such a bad grade?” The answer is — because they studied in ways that felt effective but are are not actually effective.

As an academic life coach, I am on a mission to banish the words “study” and “review” from the English language. Ok. I know. That’s pretty impossible. But what if educators, parents, and students used it a lot less? How would you talk about test preparation with students if you weren’t allowed to use either the word “study” or the word “review”?!  Too often the use of these words allow us to live under the illusion that we are communicating something of value about the learning process, when truthfully we are not.

What should teachers, tutors, and academic coaches do instead? 

  • Quick Tip: Start noticing when you use the word “study” and what you are actually trying to communicate. Play around with banishing the word “study” from your vocabulary for a day or two. What might you say instead?   You might even include your students in this game! See how this experiment forces you to talk about learning in new ways. 
  • Advanced Tip: Want to know the 3 words that I use with my clients instead of the word “study”? Watch the FREE demonstration video that’s embedded here. You might even print out the graphic of the 3-step Study Cycle that I provide in my e-book, post it somewhere visible, and practice using those words with your students instead.

So, what’s the next blind spot I’ve noticed in educators (and of which I was also guilty)?

Bad Habit #2 – Educators teach specific strategies (like flashcards) that worked for us when we were students.

I’m guessing you are one of the many thoughtful teachers, coaches, and tutors who DO teach specific strategies for studying. Perhaps you suggest flashcards or provide mnemonics to help students memorize complex information. Maybe you hand out a study guide with suggestions for how to use it. Some teachers (I was one of these!) even build studying for a test into the curriculum, guiding students through the steps they need to prepare.

Yes! This is all good pedagogy!

Here’s the problem:

First, usually, we pick the strategies that worked well for us when we were students. But not all learners are going to rock the information just because they’re studying it in a way that worked for you.

Also, well-meaning educators often suggest strategies without explaining WHY these strategies tend to work. We assume that the strategy in and of itself is what will help the student study. But even the BEST strategies can fail if implemented in ways that ignore how the brain is built to learn. I know so many students who are bored to death by flashcards, but who use them anyway because they’ve been taught it is a successful learning strategy.

Many educators themselves don’t truly understand how learning happens in the brain. I sure didn’t, before I became an academic life coach. In our teacher education programs, we are taught strategies for engaging students, but we aren’t taught how this fits into a brain-based model for how learning happens.

When we teach strategies without teaching the underlying theory about why that strategy might work, we are creating kids’ dependence on the specific strategies. We are teaching them that the way to study is to throw a random strategy at the problem and hope you learn the information.

What should teachers, tutors, and academic coaches do instead? 

  • Quick Tip: When you hand students a new assignment, ask students to look it over and reflect: “What is the purpose of this activity? What am I supposed to learn?” and then “How does the design of this lesson help me learn this objective?”  The goal here is to help them start to distinguish between learning objectives and the strategies used to achieve that objective. 
  • Advanced Tip: Teach students the 3-Step Study Cycle. Once they understand each of the three steps, have them reflect about which step of the cycle they are in for each kind of assignment you offer. This tip might not make much sense now, but it will make more sense after you read the description of the 3-Step Study Cycle and watch the demo that I provide, both of which are available here for free.

Bad Habit #3 – We focus on “learning styles” as the way to discover how to study and learn effectively.

Many educators — myself included! — have espoused learning styles as an important factor in increasing student motivation and performance.

When I was a classroom teacher, I had students take learning inventories, and then I would use the results of this inventory to help individualize student learning. For example, I’d have students who tested as “visual learners” do history projects that were primarily visual; students who tested as “logical” thinkers could write an essay or create a chart filled with information.

When I was trained as an academic coach, I was taught to use these same inventories with my clients, and then apply the results to help the students maximize their learning.

In the last few years, however, I’ve stopped giving these inventories. I DO still believe that every person learns differently and that it is important for students to understand — and advocate for! — learning methods that reveal their strengths.

However, I’ve noticed that too much of an emphasis on learning styles makes students less inclined to learn in ways that are *not* their learning preferences. In recent years, brain science has backed up my observations, stating that the most effective learning strategies use all parts of the brain, regardless of whether the students has a specific preference for that strategy.

What should we teach instead?   

  • Quick Tip: Teach students that the brain needs to learn information in a multitude of different ways. If one method doesn’t seem to be helping them learn, then students should be flexible enough to choose a different learning strategy, even if it’s NOT their preference or dominant learning style. 
  • Advanced Tip: So that students understand the brain-based reasons why variety is important in learning, teach them the 3 Step Study Cycle (it only takes 5-minutes to teach, as you’ll see in this demo). Then brainstorm with them multiple strategies for studying the same content when they are on their own, using the Study Cycle as a guide.

Bad Habit #4 – We break learning down for students into bite-size chunks.

When I did my teacher training, I learned of the importance of breaking tasks down for students to help them be successful. I mastered the art of creating engaging, complex curricula for students, as well as how to break it into discrete, doable parts with clear instructions so that students wouldn’t get lost in all the details.
This is an important teaching skill! I don’t knock it, and I hope you continue to do it!

However, a side effect of this kind of teacher-intensive curricula is that it can accidentally foster dependence rather than independence in students.

Students depend on the instructions. They wait to be told what to do, for the adults to initiate action.
I can’t tell you how many of my clients have answered my question, “Why didn’t you take notes in class today?” with the, “My teacher didn’t tell me to.” Argh! I stifle my frustration at this answer with, “Your teacher shouldn’t have to tell you to take notes!! You should know what’s good for your own learning, and be able to take initiative on your own!”

The side effect of our willingness as educators to break learning into digestible parts is that the teens themselves don’t have to learn to do this for themselves. They’re off the hook and don’t need to understand how successful learning happens for them. Instead, they mindlessly follow (or resist) the teacher’s instructions, a habit that is not conducive to lifelong learning.

Even tutors foster passivity and dependence in students. I’ve had several students who’ve told me, “Oh, I don’t need to study for the Spanish test by myself; I’ll just do it with my tutor.”

When students rely on their tutors and teachers to guide their study process, they are abdicating responsibility for their own learning. So what should teachers and tutors do instead?

Here’s a quick tip you can apply immediately:

  • Quick Tip: After you teach a lesson, ask students to reflect on what they just learned and how they learned it. Ask them to notice the ultimate learning objective, and how you structured the learning to help them get there. Invite them to remember that when they are studying at home, they are in charge of designing their own learning process.*
  • Truly Highly Advanced Tip: Check out my list of 7 types of struggling students, including each student’s “study blind spot” and “study solution.” This will help you hone how you work with specific types of students to help them study more strategically, including which step of the Study Cycle each kind of student needs more practice with.

*You may notice that this tip is very similar to the one I made for Bad Habit #2. This is purposeful! It is helpful to ask students to seek out the learning objectives both (1) before they complete a worksheet or assignment and (2) after they have engaged in a learning activity. The more often you have them reflect about what kinds of learning strategies help them achieve what kinds of learning, the more self-sufficient they will become at being able to structure their own learning when they are at home studying.

Is It Really This Simple to Help Students Break Through Passivity and Become Strategic Learners?

Yes! In my experience, most students are eager to learn how to become more effective learners. However, adults make it seem so complex! When they are introduced to a simple, easy-to-understand model for how to learn strategically, they rise to the occasion.

That’s why I’m such a fan of the 3-Step Study Cycle. I teach it to all my clients now, and I’m watching them become creative, engaged, skillful learners as a result. In fact, just a week ago a college freshman who’d been getting C’s and D’s on most of his tests this semester, came to his session with his eyes beaming. Here’s a summary of our conversation:

Student: Guess what?! I got an A on the test!!!!!!!

Me: OMG! Seriously?! Wow!!! How’d you manage that?!

Student: I followed the study cycle. And I worked really hard to hone my notes*.  In the past, I could usually narrow the multiple choice answers down to two that seemed similar, but I never knew what the right answer was. This time I totally knew! It was clear to me because I’d taken the time to encode the stuff I didn’t know in new ways*.

I’m so proud of this young man for working so hard to understand how to study strategically and raise his grades. He clearly worked hard! In that respect, it’s not simple to become a strategic learner; it involves hard work!

However, it is simple to teach students how to study strategically. And in my experience, it all starts with a 5-minute conversation that I fondly call the 3-Step Study Cycle. I’m such a believer in this process I’ve discovered that I wrote up an instruction manual for how to teach it to students, and I’m giving it away for FREE:

Click here to download your FREE copy of The Art of Inspiring Students: How to “Trick” Struggling Learners Into Studying Harder, Learning More, and Raising Grades.

In this short instruction manual, you’ll receive:

  • suggestions for how to talk to students about the difference between homework and studying
  • an overview of the 3-Step Study Cycle, a brain-based model for effective and efficient learning
  • a video demonstration of how I teach the Study Cycle to students
  • 5 different sets of learning tools that help students apply The Study Cycle more effectively
  • the 7 types of struggling learners, and which study tools work best for which learners

Phew! That was a lot to take in! If you have questions or observations for me about any of these bad habits, please feel free to post below. I look forward to engaging with you.

Free ebook: The Art of Inspiring Students

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How To "Trick" Struggling Learners into Studying Harder, Learning More, and Raising Grades
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College Prep Podcast #135: How to Help Teens Who Struggle with Anxiety

Gretchen Wegner | Megan | Yshai Boussi | Family | Therapy | Therapist | Anxiety | Teens | Stress | Students

This week on the College Prep Podcast with Gretchen Wegner and her co-host Megan Dorsey:

Anxiety in teens is on the rise! At least, this is Megan and Gretchen’s experience working with students all over the country.

Guest expert Yshai Boussi, a family therapist, helps us understand more about this phenomenon.

In this super insightful discussion, they discuss:

  • The difference between anxiety and stress
  • Why anxiety can sometimes be helpful
  • What causes anxiety in teens
  • How parents can help students with their anxiety
  • How to be involved in your student’s life without micromanaging and accommodating for their anxiety

The free resource that Yshai recommends for teens is Reach Out, a website chock full of useful advice for teens about how to get through the hard times.

 Yshai Boussi is a therapist in private practice specializing in adolescence and family therapy. Yshai has been working with adolescents for 20 years. Over the last 15 years, Yshai has sat with and helped hundreds of anxious and overwhelmed teens and parents as a family therapist. Find out more at www.portlandfamilycounseling.com.

Click here to listen to this insightful podcast episode.

8 Tips for When to DIY vs. Hire an Academic Professional

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Should you hire a tutor, coach or consultant? Or should you DIY for just a little longer?

During this episode, Gretchen and Megan help you decipher when it makes sense to spend the big bucks and get professional help…and when you don’t need to!

Specifically, they discuss the following 5 types of academic experts that families often like to hire, who work outside the school systems:

  • Tutors
  • Standardized test prep professionals
  • College application consultants
  • Academic life coaches
  • Mental health professionals

In considering when it makes sense to hire out, and when it makes sense to DIY a little longer, Megan and Gretchen discussed these 8 questions families should ask themselves to decide:

  1. How important (e.g. life or death!) is the situation?
  2. What resources does the school already provide, and is it enough?
  3. Is this a topic for which there is limited time and chances in order to succeed?
  4. Are your home relationships deteriorating because you’ve been doing it yourself for too long?
  5. Will it be more convenient to work with this other person, and are you willing to pay for convenience?
  6. How motivated is the student who will be receiving the support?
  7. What are your family’s finances?
  8. Would you save more in the long run if you had a professional help you get started?

Got any questions or concerns on this topic, or any other? Want them addressed on our podcast (free coaching! yes!)? Please email us at collegepreppodcast.com and tell us all about it.

“This podcast was originally on www.collegepreppodcast.com

How to Read a 400 Page Book in Two Hours, Part 2/4

Reading is hard for students!!

Especially reading books that you don’t necessarily choose for yourself…and at an assigned pace that isn’t natural for you. So it’s important to have some tricks up your sleeve for how to read large quantities, ESPECIALLY if you are a college or grad student.

This week I discuss creating a roadmap for finding important information and main ideas in books. Once you understand the structure of how an Author writes, it is easier to dive in and start reading efficiently.

Watch to find out how!

Just to recap so far:

Tip 1. Pay attention to the table of contents
Tip 2. Pay attention to “where” the Author puts their main ideas.

Stay tuned for Part 3 in this four-part series next week.

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