Many parents ask us what’s typical adolescent behavior when it comes to how students manage their academic demands. After all, we know that their frontal lobes, the part of the brain that houses executive functions and helps us set and achieve goals, are still a work in progress until at least their mid-twenties or so. We’d expect some rough patches here and there as they learn to manage their time, track assignments, and prepare for tests. That’s normal. But sometimes, we see an ongoing pattern of ineffective work habits that prevent bright kids from achieving their goals. And they don’t seem to learn from their missteps and recalibrate as needed.
So, how do you know when your child needs an academic coach? I’ll paint the picture of a scenario that’s familiar to our coaches, and may be familiar to you, or someone you know.
Your child walks in the door on a school day, plops down the backpack with a definitive thud, disengages himself from jacket and sneakers, grunts a monosyllable in response to your query about his day at school, and proceeds to immerse himself in Super Smash Bros. until dinnertime. With a great deal of prompting (OK, with outright threats), he sits down at 7:30 to tackle homework, although he says he “has nothing due tomorrow”.
At 9:40pm, he rushes up to you, sheepishly admitting that he “totally forgot about that science project on the digestive system due tomorrow, and do we have a tri-fold foam core poster board anywhere and who took the Sharpies that were in the kitchen drawer and how do you spell esophagus?”
Ugh. Pass the Maalox.
Didn’t this last-minute panic happen just 10 days ago with an English essay on Lord of the Flies? And the month before, on a history research project for women in the American Revolution? And after each of those late-night rescue missions, didn’t he promise “not to get into a pickle like that again, like, ever”?
If the answer is yes to all of the above, then a pattern has been established across academic subjects of poor time management and poor planning. Moreover, it sounds like he has an intention to change his behavior, but most likely has no idea how to go about it. And so the cycle continues. Here’s where academic coaching can be a good fit. A student who continues to make the same errors and who appears not to learn from them is rarely lazy or unmotivated, though it can seem that way. Rather, that student may not have the insight necessary to devise systems to fix his problem.
That’s where academic coaching comes in.
With a student like this, we’d look at his current systems for tracking long and short term assignments and work with him to determine what method will work best to answer the question ”What do I need to do today, in order to be prepared for tomorrow and the week ahead?” We’d also help him understand his work habits and what helps him get started or what bogs him down for hours. Then we'd help him make a very specific plan. Finally, we'd reflect on how that plan worked, or what to change about the plan for next time. Along with this process comes a growing self-knowledge about work and study habits, and a growing ability to self-manage effectively. The last-minute panic scenarios dwindle as a result. And over time, your child has amassed a personal toolkit of strategies to handle his workload independently.
And, just maybe, you’ll need less Maalox.
Want to find out if your child could benefit from academic coaching? Click below for a free consultation.
Jackie Stachel is the Public Relations Director for Beyond BookSmart. She joined the company in 2010 and is based in our Boston branch. Jackie leads Executive Function presentations for parent groups throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Additionally, Jackie manages our You Tube channel as well as our company blog content through editing submissions, writing articles, and collaborating with professionals from outside Beyond BookSmart to create useful, informative content. Finally, Jackie coaches students supporting them in learning and developing Executive Functioning strategies.