October Obstacles

My Reflections on the Challenges of Ed Therapy and Academic Coaching in October 2023

When October rolls around, many American teenagers are preoccupied with thoughts of tricks and treats. School tends to take a backseat, overshadowed by the excitement of Halloween costumes and the promise of sugary delights. But beneath the festive exterior, lies a tricky month for many students. As the initial enthusiasm of September wanes, the demands of academic life begin to reveal themselves, often leading to a sense of disillusionment.

It’s during this challenging time that understanding and empathy are crucial for guiding disheartened students back onto the path of success. Having worked extensively with students who have seemingly checked out of their academic journey, I’ve come to realize the significance of acknowledging their struggles while encouraging them to reassess their approach to learning.

Addressing the negative self-talk that often plagues students is paramount. This led me to adopt a powerful strategy called M&M’s and Pom-Poms, a technique I learned from the esteemed coach Misha Safran. M&M’s represent the “malicious messages” or self-sabotaging thoughts, while POM-POMs are the “positive opposing messages” or positive reframes. I coach my students to first list out all of their M&M’s, and then for each malicious message students respond with two POM-POMs. Not only does this tactic provide fun imagery, but it also forces students to identify their internal critical voice and rewrite the script. Encouraging students to reframe their negative beliefs takes effort and practice, but the results are truly transformative.

However, beyond mere mindset shifts, it’s imperative to prioritize self-care. Instead of pressuring students to do more, I emphasize the importance of stepping back and assessing the bigger picture. Recognizing signs of burnout and making self-care a priority are crucial life lessons, often overlooked in the race for academic excellence.

In the pursuit of academic success, embracing the concept of incrementality becomes indispensable. I learned about incrementality from Gretchen Wegner, the Anti-Boring Academic Life Coach. Small, consistent steps, even in the face of failure, are the building blocks of eventual triumph. Encouraging students to reflect on the decisions that led them to their current situation can provide invaluable insights into what small steps they need to take to get back on course.

Additionally, fostering a positive relationship with teachers is vital. Viewing educators as allies rather than adversaries can significantly enhance the learning process. By establishing a collaborative approach among students, teachers, academic coaches, and families we can create a supportive network conducive to growth and achievement.

When it comes to study strategies, simple yet effective techniques can make a significant difference. Whether it’s the ‘Above/Below’ method for studying English or History, or creating a graphic organizer to ‘clump n chunk’ Science facts, the key lies in finding personalized approaches that suit the individual’s learning style. I will go into more detail about these study strategies and others in my next blog post.

In my experience, incorporating these approaches in October has often led to remarkable improvements in students’ academic performance. By fostering empathy, promoting self-care, and advocating incremental progress, we can turn October blues into a journey towards a more fulfilling and successful academic experience. So, as we navigate the challenges of this tricky month, let’s remember to prioritize holistic growth and learning. This approach will inevitably set the stage for a more rewarding academic journey ahead.