Executive Function Strategies Blog

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.

Self Advocacy: Why Your Child Won’t Seek the Teacher’s Help

It’s often hard for parents to trust that their children will learn from their mistakes, especially when they adamantly refuse to see their teachers for help. Parents also tend to react skeptically when their children agree but then “forget” to go to a planned meeting. Now that final exams, papers, and projects are piling up for students (along with all the questions and roadblocks that travel with the end of year workload) parents can feel like a scratched CD with their refrain “Go meet with your teacher!”

Self-Advocacy: When NOT to Advocate for Your Child

I’d like to begin this post by being very clear: I am not a parent.  Therefore, I cannot fully imagine what it might feel like to know your child is struggling with something -- with something you can resolve -- but resisting the impulse to come to the rescue.  I am, however, an Executive Function coach and classroom instructor who has seen countless students struggle with a reading or writing assignment, meaning I know what it feels like to hold my tongue when all I want to do is explain what a quote means or give them an idea to write about.  Despite how difficult that can sometimes be, I also know there are enormous benefits to holding back.  While there are critical moments when parents need to step in to advocate for their child, oftentimes the question we need to consider is this: When should I NOT advocate for my child?  The following story about one of the college students I coach might help us begin to answer that: