Executive Function Strategies Blog

6 Steps to Successful Goal Setting for Students (and Adults!)

Did you ever notice that September, the beginning of the school year for most students, shares something in common with January, the beginning of the calendar year? Both present a great opportunity to start anew, wipe the slate clean, and make positive changes. For some of us, these starting points might inspire setting goals for fitness, knowledge, or skills we’d like to acquire. For students, the new school year offers opportunities to reflect and to set their own goals for how they’ll improve their approach to schoolwork. And like many of us, those goals we set often start off strong - but without a real plan for how to attain them they sink to the bottom of our priorities and rise again the next year as the very same goal. How can parents - as well as students - start off strong and persist in seeing our goals through? 



Why Our Words Matter to Struggling Students

When I was little, I can remember being told the old adage, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” While I understand that it was meant to encourage me and to make me feel better when someone had said mean words to me, as an adult and as an educator, I now find that phrase a little dishonest. Words have meaning and they can - and do -hurt. But words can also encourage and support, and so I advocate being mindful of the kind of language that we use around our students.



Did You Ask the Teacher? Supporting Students When They Won't Seek Help

Opportunities for learning are everywhere — both inside and outside of the classroom. As parents, coaches, and teachers, we want our students to be able to take advantage of these opportunities. Part of that objective is to support them to be effective advocates for their own learning. My three-year old son is pretty good at this. If he needs help, he will take my hand and lead me somewhere (to the cookie jar), ask for “assistance” (yes, he really uses this word, especially when trying to jump out of his car seat to the ground), or sometimes say, “Momma do it!” (turn on the television). Whatever his method, I understand that he wants help with something.

Interestingly, the easy clarity of asking for help becomes muddy as little ones grow up and enter structured school settings. This is especially true for those I see who struggle with Executive Function skills. Children, teens, and college students who are introverted or have difficulty organizing, planning, and using self-advocacy skills often have so much to gain from 1:1 time with instructors but could benefit from a little exploration of the why and how behind it all. 



Talking to Teachers: Building Self-Advocacy in College Students

Visiting a professor during office hours in college can be a daunting task, especially for freshmen. Students wonder if they should just stop by to introduce themselves or if they must prepare specific questions. Anxiety might take over, with students fearing they won’t sound smart enough or seem like “college material.” Students often think: “What if I make things worse by meeting with my professor?” and “What if I totally blank out and embarrass myself?” All of these concerns are valid, but avoidance tends just to perpetuate the vicious cycle of fear, and students lose the valuable opportunity of one-on-one time with their professors.