Online Executive Function Coaching: A View Behind the Scenes


Every week, we open emails from parents and students who are thrilled with their outcomes from coaching. Last month on our blog, we shared one mom's heartfelt thanks to her SamRaimondi.jpgson's coach, Samantha (Sam) Raimondi. Sam coached Mark (not his actual name) via Skype for a few weeks during his fall semester of his sophomore year in college. By the time Mark began online coaching, he was in deep academic trouble and doubted he could salvage the semester. With Sam's twice weekly Skype coaching sessions and daily check-ins to help keep Mark on track, he quickly learned how to use tools to organize and prioritize his work. Karen, Mark's mom, wrote to us, "Our son regained some equilibrium, hope and confidence in his abilities to get his work done, and has learned the value of using your team of supporters rather than trying to go it alone." Parents often feel helpless to assist their college-aged children when they are hundreds - or thousands of miles away. Thankfully, online coaching can often be a good solution when students need help managing distractions and structuring their time to be productive. 

We thought this would be a great opportunity to interview Sam for a behind the scenes perspective on online Executive Function coaching.

What is your educational and professional background?

SR: I am currently a fifth year School Psychology Ph.D. student at Fordham University in New York. I obtained my MSEd in Therapeutic Interventions in May 2014. In terms of my background, I have spent lots of time working in and out of varying school structures as a school psychology intern. Additionally, I spent some time teaching a Freshman course at Baruch College in NYC. It was really through the teaching experience that I recognized college students can benefit from additional help in organizing, planning, prioritizing, and time management. That's where my interest in Beyond BookSmart came into play. 

What drew you to Executive Function coaching?

SR: What drew me to Executive Function coaching was the idea of helping students to learn the tools needed to succeed in the future. Executive Function coaching goes way past tutoring - it really aims to help students figure out what strategies work for them so that they can grow, learn, and succeed in their own way. As a current Ph.D. student and former college instructor I have first hand experience in understanding how school demands can be overwhelming. So, throughout my coaching, I use these real life experiences to empathize with my students and help provide them with the individual tools they need to succeed; not just because they worked for someone else, but because they need a plan that will work for their specific needs and preferences. 

How did you prepare for your first meeting with Mark, the student described above?

SR: Before our first online academic coaching session, I must admit that I was a little bit nervous! Although I felt prepared through my training to provide great coaching, it's always challenging to start when a student is in the midst of an academic crisis. I prepared for my first meeting with the student by reviewing the documents that stated the concerns that were brought up during his intake. I also spent some time noting his interests and passions. As a result, we had lots to talk about during our first session together. It was great!

Was it difficult to establish rapport with your online student? What did you do to encourage rapport?

SR: Establishing rapport with Mark was rather easy. We had lots in common and bonded really quickly. This made it easier for us to talk about the hard stuff, without him feeling like I was judging or reprimanding him. That's such an important part of coaching effectively; you need to build trust and connection in order to face the challenging task of behavior change. If a student feels like he has to cover up details about his work with a coach for fear of being shamed, it can be tough to gain traction.

What was his mindset when coaching began?

SR: The student's mindset when coaching began was Preparation. He realized that his current strategies were not working and Mark was ready to try something new. He just wasn't sure the best way to start and how to start, and that's where I came in.

What were some tools and strategies that your student found useful?

SR: Some tools and strategies that my student found particularly helpful were planning applications for his smartphonesuch as Any.Doand charts and graphs for organizing college essays.

How did you know when coaching was starting to become beneficial for the student?

SR: I realized that coaching was beginning to make a positive impact for Mark when he mentioned that he finally had gained hope that he would pass his classes for he semester. It felt great to see him transition to a future vision of success instead of failure - and that optimism helped him be more effective, too.

Did the student's mindset change over time? What did he learn that helped him become independent and effective?

SR: While my coaching with Mark was short-term (he was going on a trip for the spring semester), he said he learned a lot through coaching! More specifically, he said he felt better organized and less pressed for time. He really bought-in rapidly to new ways of managing his work commitments, so his mindset quickly transformed from Preparation to Action. When our coaching concluded, I felt that Mark had learned that he was a very capable and competent student and that reaching out for clarification and support sooner rather than later makes a world of difference.

Thanks, Sam. We're looking forward to hearing more about your work from happy parents who email us feedback on their coaching experience.

SR: Thanks so much for interviewing me, Jackie! Looking forward to continuing my coaching at Beyond BookSmart. 

Do you know a student who may benefit from online Executive Function coaching? Click below to find out more.

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Samantha Raimondi, MS Ed, is a coach, school psychology doctoral student, and college instructor with over five years of professional experience working with students ranging from kindergarten to college. She earned her BS in psychology from SUNY Stony Brook. Samantha received her Master of Science in Education in Therapeutic Interventions in May 2014 from Fordham University; this is a field of psychology that focuses on creating interventions based on the individual needs of clients. She demonstrates proficiency in areas such as executive function training, counseling, psychological assessment, behavior intervention, and consultation. Samantha’s coaching specialties include organization, planning, time management, and using creativity to make learning fun. Through her experiences, she believes that all students can find their motivation and determination to succeed in all aspects in life with a bit of creativity and appropriate support.

About the Author

Jackie Stachel

Jackie Stachel is the Director of Communications 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.

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