“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.
As 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!”