Educational Coaching Is Not a Quick Fix“Jake’s backpack is a mess. It’s basically an academic black hole – a place where homework goes to die. I’m not even kidding, the child will spend hours completing his homework, then I look at his blackboard account and he has zeros for over half of it. I tell him, ‘Look buddy, you’re not in elementary school anymore. You need to get your act together.’ He nods and says he understands, but I know he doesn’t. I’m seriously at my wits end.” I was speaking with Bill, a dad from Vienna, Virginia, for about five minutes when he finally dove into his son’s bad habits, not sparing the nitty-gritty details. He told me about how Jake had gone from being a decent student in elementary school to a C/D student in middle school. Bill was a laid back dad, who was quick with a funny punch line. But in between the funny anecdotes, I could sense his level of frustration.

Jake’s academic problems were escalating and they were starting to cause friction within the family. Bill sighed heavily and said, “My wife and I just don’t know what to do anymore. We want what’s best for him, but we don’t know how to give it to him. As a parent, there’s nothing more challenging than that.” Bill was not alone in his feelings. In fact, every day our staff speaks with parents who feel like they are at the end of their rope.

I spoke to Bill about our Educational Coaching program. I told him how the tutor would work with Jake on these things called executive functioning skills. They would perform tasks such as binder checks, and help Jake prioritize his daily and long-term assignments. You could hear the optimism in Bill’s voice as he said, “Yes! That is exactly what Jake needs!”

How long will my student need to work with an Educational Coach?

Then Bill asked the question that every Educational Coaching parent asks: “So how many sessions will my student need?” It’s a fair question, but it is one with a very complicated answer. In reality, it’s difficult for any of our staff members to say on the phone, “Sasha will need 10 sessions until she is completely independent and ready to succeed.” This is because we haven’t met Sasha, we haven’t seen how she learns or seen how quickly she can pick up new strategies and mend bad habits. Every student is different and thus every student will need an Educational Coach for a different amount of time.

While we can’t give you an exact number of sessions that your student will require, we can tell you this: educational coaching is not a quick fix. Our trained Educational Coaches work with students on executive functioning skills which are just that: skills. To develop them fully, required practice, maintenance, and coaching are required. Think of it this way, you wouldn’t sign your child up for four ballet practices and expect her to be performing in the New York Academy of Ballet nor would you send her to four soccer practices and expect David Beckham level skills. The same is true with Educational Coaching. You can’t expect your students to master executive functioning skills after four sessions with a tutor.

Laying the foundation for academic success

During the first few sessions, our tutors will work with students to lay a foundation necessary to foster academic success. For example, Kim, the tutor working with Jake, helped him clean out his backpack, organize his binders, and archive old papers so he could study from them later. She also helped him prioritize assignments for the week, so that way Jake knew exactly how to get everything he needed to get done completed. Bill and his wife, Carol, spoke with Kim after Jake’s fourth session to discuss if they should continue sessions or not. Bill and Carol were pleased with how far Jake had come. For the last month, his book bag had been organized, he was turning in assignments on time, and his grades were up to all Bs.

Kim discussed her future plans for Jake and explained that she and Jake had laid a foundation, but for Jake to be successful she would need to be continuously meeting with him working to fine tune these skills. Bill and Carol thought it over, and pumped the breaks on sessions for a moment. They were really pleased with Kim’s work, but they wanted to see if Jake could do it on his own.

For the first week, things went okay. Jake only missed two assignments, one in history and another in algebra. But then things went back to how they had been before Kim was working with Jake. His backpack morphed back into a sinkhole for homework and Jake’s grades backslid into Cs and Ds. Bill and Carol began to panic. They called our office immediately and asked for Kim back. Kim moved around her schedule and head over to the family’s home that night. She spent two hours with Jake, getting him back on track. She set up a schedule with Carol and Bill to come twice a week for three months, and then reassess. of today, Jake has been working with Kim for over a year. They meet every Monday and then he goes to soccer practice. Rather than Cs and Ds, Jake now has all As and two Bs. But even better than his grades, teachers have told Bill and Carol that Jake is, “like a brand new student,” and that he “takes initiative and pride in his work now.” When I spoke to Bill the other day he told me that he and Carol “couldn’t be happier.” Jake is starting school at a large high school next year and Bill says, “We’re all nervous. Jake knows it’s going to get much harder and he wants to do his best. Carol and I just want him to continue to be successful and happy. One thing is for sure, we are going to Kim around for the long-run!”

Four Tips for Parents to Help Their Educational Coaching Students

“I just don’t know what to do. He’s a bright boy, but he is failing because he can’t remember to turn in his assignment.” This is a story I’ve heard time and time again. On a daily basis, I talk to parents who are in complete turmoil over what to do with their child. The child in question has the potential to be a great student; however, poor executive functioning skills limit him or her from reaching academic success.

Organizational Coaching in Northern Virginia, Maryland, and Washington DC

To help parents across the DC Metro area solve this problem, Ann Dolin created Educational Coaching, a tutoring program that targets students’ executive functioning and organizational skills. These are the skills that aren’t typically taught in a classroom environment but that are essential for students to have in order to succeed (time management, study skills, planning ahead, breaking down large assignments, turning things in on time, etc.).

In the past 15 years, Educational Connections has had thousands of students work with our trained Educational Coaches. These coaches help students strengthen their executive functioning skills by teaching them to implement strategies and techniques that work for them individually. Students typically meet with their coach for an hour each week; however, some meet more frequently depending on the individual student’s needs.

But meeting with an Educational Coach on a regular basis is really the first step to perfecting these skills. There are 168 hours in a week and an Educational Coach is typically working with a student for one to two of them. This means that there are a lot of things that parents can be doing at home in between sessions to help their students become the best students they can be.

Understand What Works for You May Not Work for Your Student

One of the biggest mistakes parents frequently make is comparing their child to themselves. When your child’s organizational system consists of shoving everything in the bottom of his backpack and hoping for the best, it is easy to view your method as the superior option. However, it is essential that parents understand that their children are very different people than they are and that what works for them now or when they were in school may not be the ideal system for their child.

For example, I was talking to a mom from Fairfax a few weeks ago named Jenny. Jenny was complaining because her son, Ben, wouldn’t write any of his assignments down. As I spoke to Jenny, she consistently paused to take notes and I realized that Jenny is a person who works best from writing everything down. She told me how she had bought Ben agenda after agenda and would ground him if he didn’t use it. But regardless of the punishment, Ben was resistant and the agenda just wasn’t working. When our Educational Coach, Lindsay, began working with Ben, she realized that Ben isn’t a student who responds well to writing everything down; however, he was almost always on his phone. As a result, Lindsay recommended that Ben use the iPhone App “MyHomework” to type in his homework assignments regularly. Ben responded well to the idea. He was frequently on his phone already so it was easy for him to just type it in.

When I followed up with Jenny after the first few sessions, she discussed this system with me. She explained that it would never work for her (she said she lost every email in her inbox). But that Ben was really responding to this system. Since he had begun using MyHomework the number of assignments he missed or forgot to turn in had dropped dramatically.

Hold Your Student Accountable

Originally, Jenny was punishing Ben for not doing things her way, grounding him if he did not write things in his assignment notebook. On the flip side was Roxanne, a mom in McLean, whose ninth grade daughter Amelia was still doing poorly in school despite working with an Educational Coach, Julie, for three weeks. Roxanne couldn’t figure out why this was the case. She loved Julie and she could tell that the strategies that she was teaching Amelia were really useful. She began to panic thinking that Amelia would never become an organized student or succeed academically. To Julie, however, the problem was apparent. Amelia was not using the strategies and things discussed during the session throughout the week. It was as though Julie was teaching Amelia to play piano but she would never sit down to play except at lessons.

In the first three weeks of sessions, Julie kept finding Amelia’s backpack a mess; assignments not turned in on blackboard, no notes in an assignment book, and her life in general in chaos. Both Julie and Roxanne knew this wasn’t going to work unless things changed. As a group, Roxanne, Julie, and Amelia sat down to go over expectations. Once they came up with a plan, Roxanne was able to create a rewards and consequences system for Amelia. If she cleaned out her backpack on Sundays as she was supposed to do, she would get an extra 30 minutes of video game time the next day. If she wrote in her agenda daily, she could stay up 15 minutes later. If she failed to do these things, there would be consequences such as no video games for the day, or having to do extra chores.

The rewards and consequence program worked for Amelia. However, be aware that using rewards often does not work for students, especially if the reward or consequence is not in immediate response to their action or behavior. (For more on this topic, see Nick’s post on Student Motivation: Why Carrots and Sticks Won’t Cut It.) Once Amelia was held responsible, she began to practice the skills that Julie was teaching her during their session. Immediately, her grades began to rise and her teachers began to notice the difference. Amelia quickly earned a place on the honor roll and with the help of Julie, found a system that worked for her.

Understand That Practice Makes Perfect

One of the most detrimental things a parent can do in an Educational Coaching program is ending sessions prematurely when they don’t see immediate results. It’d be like deciding to end guitar lessons after two meetings when your student can’t play like Jimi Hendrix. Just like learning a new language, a sport, or a musical instrument, learning to organize oneself is a skill that takes time and practice to perfect.

Even as adults, none of us are completely organized all the time. I consider myself a highly organized person: my DVDs and books are in alphabetical order, my closet and calendar is color coded, and so on, but last week I forgot my wallet at home. The reality is that this is still going to happen time from time with your student (maybe not with their wallet, but with their homework or agenda). What is important is that the student is able to learn from mistakes and tweak his or her system to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Organize as a Family

People are almost always products of their environment. This means that if a student is in a completely hectic and unorganized home, it is likely that that chaos will interfere with the student’s academics. If you are having your student work with an Educational Coach to improve his or her organizational skills, it’s essential that you lead by example. Try having a family calendar either on the fridge with a white board or electronic (try using a shared calendar in Google). That way everyone’s information is in one place.

Ultimately, all of our Educational Coaches are professionals who come to us with a wealth of knowledge and then receive additional training to work with students on these executive functioning skills. They are able to work with students to find strategies that will work for them and allow for academic success in the present and future. However, to yield the greatest results, the student needs an entire support team including their parents and family, the coach, and the teachers. By implementing these four tips, you can help your child reach his or her ultimate potential.

Studying with ExamTime

Study skills can be one of the hardest things for students to learn as they come through school. If a student doesn’t have someone working with them on improving study habits (teacher, tutor, parent, etc.), then they are likely to struggle from an early age. It is difficult for a 7th grader to know what to do with a binder full of notes if they are given no direction. Even if they are given direction, it can still be difficult for many students to visualize the big picture of what they need to know. If your student has a hard time studying, whether it’s because they are unorganized, unmotivated, or simply overwhelmed, then you should consider trying ExamTime.

ExamTime is a study-aid website designed to allow students to put all their thoughts, notes, and deadlines into one online database that is interactive, helpful, and fun. Here is an overview of the website’s features:

Mind Map
Mind map is a very interesting feature that allows students to create a visually appealing “map” of different topics covered in class. If a student is covering the Industrial Revolution in history, they can map out a timeline or general overview with different text bubbles surrounding different issues during that time. This feature is great for visual learners that struggle to see the big picture and need something a little more interesting than graphite on a piece of paper.
Flash cards

Virtually everyone I knew during my time as a student found flashcards very useful. However, very few people actually used them. Many students find it to be too big of a time investment to have to write everything down on flashcards, either because they are too lazy or they put off studying until it is too late. Being able to type flashcards is a huge advantage because it can significantly cut down the time it takes to make flash cards. This feature also allows you to add images in case you want to add a picture of a math formula or diagram.

Customized Quizzes

Since you can share everything you do on ExamTime with your friends, this feature is great for study groups. Assign each member of the group to create a quiz on a certain topic for the rest of the group so everyone can practice on a quiz that they themselves did not create. Additionally, you can add explanations to the answers which helps when trying to understand why an answer is correct. This feature is also great if you have a class with a comprehensive exam: add questions with explanations to the quiz throughout the year/semester so that before the exam everything is already put together.

Note Taking

ExamTime has a note-taking feature similar to other note-taking programs (OneNote, etc), but it requires the internet to use. This feature is ideal for an online course or simply transcribing written notes if you prefer to see them on a screen or want to share them with friends. One unique aspect of this feature, though, is the ability to add images, videos, or links to websites directly into the page. This can be very useful if your student enjoys looking up how to work problems online.

Tracking Assignments

By adding “goals” on the website, you can put all your projects, due dates, exam dates, and assignments in one location that is accessible from anywhere you have internet access. Again, this is a great option for students who love using the computer or struggle with written planners. Additionally, there is a built-in timeline on the site that keeps track of when you added content and allows you to sort by type of content.

This tool can be a fantastic study aid for students who struggle to stay organized and study throughout a long school year. It offers a digital format to organize assignments and class work. Additionally, users have the option to share everything they add with friends which can be great if a friend misses class or struggles with note-taking. This could be particularly useful for college students who have access to the website during class. Oh, and did I mention it is free?

My Smart Student Isn’t Trying

Remember when your son first started school? He was thrilled about his new class, his teacher, his school supplies, even the idea of assignments. It made him feel grown up and like his older brother. He was so eager to learn! Fast forward a few years; how did this precocious child become so lethargic about school? A gifted child with natural intelligence, fully capable of taking honors classes- and doing well in them –is now struggling to maintain a C average.

If this sounds like your student, you are not alone. I speak with parents everyday who are in similar situations. They have bright students with the ability to do well, but the child lacks motivation towards academics and it is reflected in the grades. These parents have tried everything from rewards and consequences, to meeting with teachers, to therapy and counseling. Perhaps mom or dad has devoted hours upon hours to helping with projects and study guides, which only leads to tension, frustration, and meltdowns. These parents are at their wits’ end and just want to help their kids.

Motivation towards school (or the apparent lack thereof) is often a complex issue. Perhaps it stems from such an immense sense of feeling overwhelmed and underprepared that is it easier to just all together give up. Many students are embarrassed to ask the teacher for extra help or, more often than not, they don’t even know what to even ask for. They understand the material being presented in class and are frustrated to receive poor grades on tests and quizzes time and again. These kids are in need of organized and structured support to help them develop a plan of attack for academics. They need help setting up organizational systems and finding the right calendar device. An academic coach can provide this support and help the student reach their full potential.

The Cost of Educational Coaching

I was speaking on the phone with a parent from McLean, Virginia a couple weeks ago about her son. Mom called me in a panic because her 9th grader was looking to finish out his freshman year with two D’s in core subjects. A bright student, who’d pulled a solid A/B average in years past with minimal effort, struggled through much of his 9th grade year and the fourth quarter was proving to be no different. Worried about less than stellar grades reflected on the college transcript, mom was sure her son had blown his shot at college. How could such a smart boy who understands the material so well be finishing his first year of high school with a paltry GPA?

Who Needs an Educational Coach?

As we continued to delve into her son’s academic history, it became clear that this student was struggling with the logistics and the transition to high school, rather than the content of his challenging course load. He fully grasped the material presented in his geometry course and (with a lot of prompting) could write an excellent essay for honors English. But like so many students, he did not know how to study, lacked innate organization skills, and struggled to manage his time and break down complex assignments into manageable chunks.

Mom let out a sigh of relief as I assured her that her son was like many students we work with across the Washington, D.C. metro area and we could help him finish his freshman year on a positive note. This boy needed a plan of attack; he needed a coach to help him organize, break down, and plan for end of the year assignments and missing work. He needed to learn how to study and how to take an active part in test preparation and make the most of use of his time in the fourth quarter. We discussed scheduling and teaching styles and I was confident we could select a terrific coach to help.

How Much Does an Educational Coach Cost?

As I reviewed our billing procedures and cost for Educational Coaching, mom bristled at the $80 hourly rate. She was hesitant at first questioning if her son would really benefit from working with a coach. As I explained my role to hand select a perfect coach match to come right to the home, and reviewed with her the qualifications of coaches, her mind was put at ease.

About Educational Coaching

Our Educational Coaches are professional educators bringing extensive classroom and one on one experience to your child. Our Educational Coaches complete our in house training on how to best work with students on organization, time management, and study skills. Created by Ann Dolin, President of Educational Connections, our Educational Coaching program was developed with Ann’s twenty plus years of experience in the field of education. This mom was eager to get started and was excited to learn that I would be back in touch with her in just a few days with information on a coach match for her son.

Fast forward a couple weeks and it was time to check in with mom post first session. I emailed her to make sure her son and his coach were off to a great start. Mom called me raving! The first session could not have gone better – in her words: a “game changer”. The family plans to continue working with their coach this summer and looks forward to a successful sophomore year in the fall.

How Using Cornell Notes Can Increase Grades

I have always been a note-taker. I make notes and lists for everything, from my to-do list to my weekly and yearly goals. Notes and lists help keep me organized and help keep me sane. I keep a notebook by my nightstand, in my purse, and pretty much with me at all time in case I need to jot something down. I remember everything by writing it down.

Despite my natural inclination towards notes, my notes have not always been extremely helpful, especially in school. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always taken notes in class. Ever since I can remember, I would take pages upon pages of notes. But the problem was that there was no rhyme or reason to the notes. They were just a mixed jumble of words with no flow or organization what-so-ever.  My notes would make no sense to anyone who wasn’t me at that very moment. So, what would happen is that even though I learn best by writing things down, I would go back to review my notes and they’d look Greek to me. I’d then spend the 24 hours before any major test with my nose crammed in my textbook attempting to absorb months’ worth of information, writing nothing down. As you can guess, the technique was less than spectacular and my grades suffered.

Luckily for me, this horrendous study habit ended when I learned about Cornell Notes and I was forced into using them.

Trying a New Way to Take Notes

I still remember when my 10th grade social studies teacher, Mrs. Bork, got in front of the class on the first day of school and informed us that we would be required to use Cornell Notes in her classroom. There was a unanimous groan amongst the students, myself included. Not only were we going to be required to use these notes, we were going to have note checks that accounted for 25% of our grades. It sounded awful.

But we all became a little more open to it when she told us that, “in the first two years of college I never even opened a text book, because my notes were that good and useful that I could just study from them. I was on Dean’s List the whole time.” It seemed a little too good to be true. I had been taking notes for forever, and yet I still resorted to cramming my brain full of information at the last second before any major quiz or test.

I decided I would give it a try.

The Academic Impact of Cornell Notes

The impact was almost immediate. Though I began only using Cornell Notes in my social studies class, soon enough I started using the technique in every other class from Algebra II to English. When I went to open my notes to study before a test, I was no longer met with the ramblings of a possible sociopath. Rather, my notes were clear, organized, and super useful to study from. I used the textbook as a study guide rather than the sole resource for studying. Sure enough, my grades leaped. I went from having a 3.4 my freshman year of high school to a 3.9 my sophomore year.

I continued to use Cornell Notes my junior and senior year as I took number of AP classes. I went from decent grades to graduating with honors. The nights before my AP Exams I didn’t try to shove information from the textbook into my head; rather I reviewed my notes and went into the exams feeling confident and ready.

How to Use Cornell Notes

cornell notesMy junior year of high school, I began working as a tutor with the AVID program for students who had the potential for academic success, but lacked the organizational skills necessary. The first lesson was always Cornell Notes.

Like me, many students approach the idea of revamping their note-taking style with several groans. However, those who begin to use Cornell Notes statistically see a jump in their grades.  A study by Wichita State University in 2008 showed that when students switched to using Cornell Notes, on average their scores increased by 17% and these same students had a significantly easier time answering critical thinking questions.

So how do we use Cornell notes? The first step is to take a piece of paper and fold it lengthwise at about the 1/3 mark. This column is going to be for your headings or major ideas and is known as the Cue Column. The other column will be for your notes. At the bottom you have a Summary Section.

One of the biggest mistakes students make when using Cornell notes is that they think that they are stuck to this structure. When in reality, the best way to use Cornell notes is by diversifying the method to meet your needs. So, for example, in math I may work a problem in the Cue Column, and write the steps I was taking in the note taking area. I wouldn’t always use the summary section if it wasn’t applicable. However, for Spanish I may use the Cue Column for vocabulary words and the note taking area for their definitions. I may use the summary section for any key facts that I was asked to memorize for the test.

To study, students can bend their paper in half to reveal either only the notes side or the Cue Column. This creates instant cue cards – easy to study and easy to follow.

When to Use Cornell Notes

Many students argue that Cornell Notes aren’t applicable for every subject. However, I disagree. Throughout my high school career, undergraduate degree, or graduate classes, I have not found a time when I could not use Cornell Notes. I have found that using Cornell Notes when reading a textbook greatly increases my understanding of the material. I have also found using Cornell Notes to create step by step directions in labs or math classes to be extremely beneficial.

As I mentioned earlier, many students come to the table with negative feelings towards Cornell notes, so there are a few things that parents and educators can do to help encourage students to use this technique. The first is to lead by example. Try making your grocery list or to do list in the Cornell style. Put the recipe in the cue column and the ingredients in the notes section or put a larger item in the cue column with the steps necessary in the notes section. When students are exposed to Cornell notes, they’ll often be more receptive towards it. Another thing to do is to have weekly note checks. Do this on Sunday night, which is a good day to get caught up.

If your student is still struggling with Cornell notes, try having a professional talk to them. Sometimes working with an organizational tutor or a school counselor can help students embrace a new studying technique.


Is It Important to Set Academic Goals for Kids?

Does your child get easily frustrated by new or challenging material in school?  Have you noticed a decrease in your son or daughter’s motivation towards school?  All too often kids feel overwhelmed by global expectations and large, general goals.  And when miracles don’t happen overnight, confidence and motivation take a nosedive.  This can be particularly true for children with perfectionist tendencies.  These kids want to ensure everything is just right before moving on.  Setting clear expectations and specific goals along the way will allow kids to understand the steps they need to take and what is needed to successfully reach a larger goal.

Set Clear Expectations with Kids to Set Them up for Success

Let your child know what is expected up front.  Make it clear and break it down into small chunks.  Praise proper completion of each step along the way.  Sounds simple, right?  Well, for those of us with strong executive function skills it is, but for our kids, it’s often easier said than done.  If your child understands what is expected of them and what is needed to meet a goal, they are much more likely to be able to reach said goal.  We often assume kids understand what is expected or necessary but in reality, it may feel very fuzzy and unclear to them.  When setting expectations or outlining steps for achieving a goal, confirm that your child fully comprehends the steps and expectations.

After all, how can your child succeed if he or she does not know what is expected?

Make Sure to Tie Praise and Effort Together, Not Praise and Grades

What did your child do right today?  While it may be in our nature to point out the wrongs and the negatives, it’s more important to praise the positives.  Be sure to point out the good and praise effort, especially on a hard day.  Praising effort equates rewards with hard work, rather than grades.  This is important for instilling resiliency in kids.  This positive encouragement will help keep your child on track for achieving goals, rather than leaving them feeling defeated after a rough day.  Work to make specific goals attainable; this way you can praise your child for accomplishing steps along the way to reaching the bigger goal.

Providing Consistent Feedback is Key to Keep Students on Track

Praise the positive and reprimand the negative.  But remember, especially when reprimanding, be consistent and specific.  Consistency helps reinforce clear expectations and allows your child to understand what is expected to achieve a goal.

Bottom line, work with your child to break down large and seemingly overwhelming tasks into smaller, specific goals, which are attainable.  Praise your child along the way for accomplishing smaller tasks.  Your student will feel motivated and achieve those milestones, which once felt overwhelming, in no time! If, however, you find that the parent-child relationship is hindering your child’s academic progress as it often does, I encourage you to learn about Educational Coaching – goal and action oriented tutoring.

What is an Educational Coach?

Does your son fully grasp the material he is learning in the classroom but struggle to complete assignments on time? Maybe he does his assignments but cannot find his completed work on the due date? Does your daughter spend hours “studying” for her tests – reading her text book and notes over and over again- only to go in on test day and completely blank on the material? Are ADHD and/or poor executive functioning skills inhibiting your student from reaching her potential? If you can relate to any of the above, working with an Educational Coach may be just what your child needs!

The Value of an Educational Coach

I often hear from parents that their son or daughter is opposed to working with a tutor. Many kids adamantly state they can manage their school work on their own; this is especially true for those who can grasp the content of their courses, but rather are tripped up by the logistics of holding it all together. It is these logistics that an Educational Coach helps with. From helping students to set up organizational systems that work, to teaching time management and how to break down big assignments, to learning those invaluable study skills to become an active learner, an Educational Coach may be the ticket to academic success. Rather than providing content support like a traditional tutor, an Educational Coach works with a student to teach those invaluable executive functioning skills that are crucial to success both in and out of the classroom.

If your son or daughter plays sports, they are used to working with a coach. In fact, they expect to work with a coach in order to improve their skills. From Little League to the Pros, athletes work with coaches on a regular basis in order to perform to the best of their abilities on the field. Think of Educational Coaching in the same way – a coach to help your child perform to the best of his ability in the classroom. Educational Coaches work with students on executive functioning skills, helping them with organization, time management, and study skills. Is your son or daughter into technology? Perhaps he or she would be more open to using an electronic calendaring system or app on the Smartphone. Times are changing and there is no ‘right’ way to organize and plan.

Here are a few things an Educational Coach could help your student with:

• Set up an organized binder system for managing the paper flow to educational coachingand from school
• Explore calendar options (including technology!)
• Teach the skills for knowing how to break down big projects and tasks into manageable chunks
• Teach active reading strategies and note taking skills
• Develop study skills

So if you’ve got a child who has ADHD or who grasps the content but is struggling with holding it all together (and poor grades or lack of motivation are on the rise), consider working with and Educational Coach. Knowing what to do and how to approach it is the first step!

When Homework and Perfectionism Collide

Does your child erase and redo homework over and over again until it’s just right?  Is anything less than 100% not good enough?  Welcome to the world of perfectionism, where unrealistic expectations are daily and unrelenting.  Perfectionists engage in frequent hypercritical self-talk, bringing themselves down and creating a whole lot of stress within the family.  With these children, the goal is to change their mindset.  Begin by using the following techniques:


Reward efficiency, not grades

Studies show that the majority of perfectionist children have parents that are demanding and overly critical.  Although this certainly isn’t the case with every child, it’s important for parents to pay attention to how they act and react when it comes to grades.  Let’s say your daughter brings home a 90% on a writing project.”  Instead of saying, “This is good, but you could have had a 100% if you had a stronger thesis statement.” Consider “Way to go!  You worked hard on this project, but didn’t spend too much time revising it.  It turned out just fine!”  Instead, praise your child’s efficiency when she gets her work done in a timely manner without redoing it multiple times.


Help to make a homework plan

When it comes to homework, perfectionists sometimes procrastinate because they fear the work they will produce won’t be good enough.  Having a homework plan helps them to feel in control and more confident.  Encourage her to start with an easy task followed by a hard one, and to repeat this sequence (easy, hard, easy, hard). In essence, she’s easing herself into homework by starting with something she likes.  Later, she’s rewarding herself after a tough assignment with an easy one.


Switch gears

If you see that your child is spending an inordinate amount of time on one homework assignment, switch gears.  At this point there are three choices.  The first is that she can either quickly finish it up with the mindset that it just has to be good enough.  The second is that she can take a much-needed break away from all homework, and the third is to switch subjects and go back to that assignment later with a fresh frame of mind.


Stick with a schedule

Starting homework at the same general time each day helps to reduce procrastination.  It’s perfectly fine to help your child get started if needed.  Take a few minutes to discuss the assignment and watch your child begin before you leave the room.  More important than a start time is an ending time for schoolwork.  Many students will correct and revise their work well into the evening.  Have a family policy such as, “All homework must be completed by 9pm.”  Remind your child that the final product just has to be “good enough.”


Empathize, do not criticize

Try to steer clear of comments like, “Stop worrying about that,” or “You don’t always have to be perfect.” Instead, empathize with her insecurities.  “I can understand why you’re worried about reciting your poem.  All of the children will be in front of the class, too.  You’ll be part of a group,” or “I realize that you want to correct your paper, but at this point, your essay has all the qualities the teacher expects according to the directions.”


Quell test-taking anxiety

For many, perfectionist characteristics spill over to preparing for exams and test-taking.  Studies show it helps when students write down their worst fears right before the test. Students who do this perform just as well as their non-anxious peers.  But students who do not take the time to jot down their anxieties perform poorly compared to the other two groups.  Taking time to release worries can make a big difference when it comes to test-day performance.


Know when you need outside help

For some children, perfectionism is just the tip of the iceberg.  If your child’s symptoms are interfering with homework completion on a regular basis, consider seeking therapy.  A good therapist can tackle the “all-or-nothing” and “worst case scenario” thinking that hampers your child.  Better yet, she will give you the strategies to make sure these perfectionist qualities don’t spiral downward.  Perfectionism can be embedded in anxiety.  It’s important that it is treated so that it does not result in depression or other mental health disorders.


Ann K. Dolin, M.Ed., is the founder and president of Educational Connections Tutoring and Test Prep in Fairfax, VA and Bethesda, MD. In her award-winning book, Homework Made Simple: Tips, Tools and Solutions for Stress-Free Homework, Dolin offers proven solutions to help the six key types of students who struggle with homework. Numerous examples and easy-to-implement, fun tips will help make learning less of a chore for the whole family. Learn more at or

“Tech Breaks” Can Help Students to Focus on Homework and Finish Faster!

I’ve always been interested in research-based ways to help students complete their homework more efficiently.  As parents, it’s our natural instinct to say things like “Turn that off!”, “Stop texting”, or “Facebook can wait.  Do you have to check your account while doing homework?”.  But in reality, our kids may “need” their technology and perhaps rewarding themselves in a disciplined way may just help them to focus a little bit more.

Author and psychologist Larry Rosen suggests some counter-intuitive solutions for students who are being distracted and overwhelmed by numerous tech gadgets and applications. Among them: a “tech break,” in which students are allowed to spend 15 minutes or so focusing only on technology — checking social-media sites, texting or watching videos on YouTube. Rosen suggests this disciplined approach allows students 15 minutes of tech time for each 30 minutes of focused study.

Here’s a great article on the topic from Hechinger Ed.  Read on!

Psychologist Larry Rosen laments the fact that technology is driving us all to distraction. This past weekend, he spoke at a Hechinger Institute seminar for education reporters, which focused on how digital media are transforming teaching and learning in U.S. schools.

In a forthcoming book, iDisorder, Rosen argues that all our tech gadgets and applications are turning us into basket-cases suffering from versions of obsessive-compulsive disorder and attention-deficit syndrome.

“Kids are thinking all the time, ‘Oh my god, who texted me? What’s on Facebook?’” says Rosen, a professor at California State University-Dominguez Hills. He says the average computer programmer or medical student can only stay focused on a task in front of him- or herself for three minutes.

Rosen has suggestions for fighting back, and some of them are counterintuitive. Instead of resisting the urge to text, check Facebook or watch a YouTube video, Rosen says just do it. That’s right: Cure the tech disorder with a dose of more technology!

Rosen calls it a tech break. But rather than taking a break from technology, you give yourself permission to embrace technology for a particular amount of time, be it one minute or 15. “It works amazingly,” he says.

Here’s why: If your brain keeps thinking about a text message you need to return, it’s better to send that text to get the nagging impulse out of your head. Once you stop thinking about sending that text, then you’ve literally freed up space in your brain to focus on more important things, like solving the global energy crisis or creating world peace. Or, just getting that research paper done.

The trick is to be disciplined and only take tech breaks at predefined intervals. One example would be to work hard for 10 minutes, and then allow yourself one minute to check email. For a child doing homework, Rosen suggests rewarding the child with 15 minutes of tech time for each half-hour of focused study. Rosen advises giving the child an option of spending the 15 minutes immediately or accumulating it for later use. After all, you need more than 15 minutes to get into a good video game.

Rosen’s theory has interesting implications for schools. Would kids be more focused and productive if teachers told students to take their cell phones out of their lockers and check their texts in the middle of every class?

Fortunately, there are other effective ways to reset the brain. Rosen lists a bunch: listening to beautiful music, looking at art and practicing yoga. Or going outside for a hike.