How I Coach
As an Executive Function Coach, I focus on the systems, habits and mindsets that allow students to accomplish their goals and direct their own learning.
I develop a strong and supportive relationship as the foundation for all of our work together.
Throughout my approach is an appreciation for meeting students where they are and building from a place of competence.
I continually address students’ mindset and motivation because even the best strategies will only be effective if a student is willing to use them.
Virtual Zoom Sessions
I meet with all my students in a virtual Zoom office. Depending on the tech skills of the student, I teach them how to work collaboratively with me. We use Google Docs & Spreadsheets and screen sharing tools to stay active and engaged throughout the session.
Most of the work students need to do is online so it’s easy to share screens and I can see how students navigate online portals and their computer workspace. When students have paper worksheets, notes or assignment guidelines, they simply take a picture of it and send it to me so we are on the same page.
It may seem hard to believe, but I have found virtual sessions to be even more beneficial for students than meeting face-to-face. Virtual coaching helps me to be a more active and effective coach. My role is to support students to use strategies on their own and build their own toolbox. The virtual platform works because I do less for students and they do more for themselves.
It’s also nice for me to see a student’s workspace. The student is actually building their habits in the same place where they are going to need to use them. According to neuroscience, creating this type of cognitive association improves our concentration and motivation.
Beliefs That Guide My Work
At the core of my work is a desire to create meaningful, lasting change in the world through my actions. For me, this starts with cultivating trusting relationships that honour a person’s inherent value, worth and humanity.
As a coach, I meet students where they are and with the underlying belief that students are doing the best they can with the skills they have. Underneath a sometimes tough exterior, students want to learn. If they are not accomplishing what they want to, it’s because they are missing critical strategies, skills and mindsets to make it happen. It is my job as a coach to help them identify what is missing and provide targeted support to bridge the gap.
Learning is the most important goal of coaching. A student’s grades, their successes and failures are all indications of what is working and not working for a student. However, they are not an indication of how smart or capable a student is and it’s important for students to be able to separate themselves from these external markers. The desire and willingness to uncover what they don’t know, persevere and learn strategies is ultimately what sets students up to live their best lives.
I encourage students to ‘work smarter, not harder’, but I also recognize that self-directed learning involves both working hard and smart. I unpack these terms and help students experience for themselves what it means to ‘work smarter’: we need to persevere when we learn, and we can do this in ways that don’t waste our time and that are effective.
Terms like effort and grit are misunderstood and misused. We tell students that if they just ‘keep trying’ they will eventually succeed but effort alone isn’t always the answer. For so many reasons, students may not be able to and should not simply keep trying, work harder or dig deeper. Messages about working hard and digging deep without acknowledging the larger context of pain and suffering for so many people of colour throughout history causes harm. Grit is how many people survive, but it is often only the privileged that experience grit as a tool to thrive. What is useful is to focus on identifying effective strategies, self-monitoring to notice what we are doing and how we are feeling as well as commit to self-care for our brains and bodies.
Learning how to appreciate and get comfortable with feeling frustrated and confused is essential to learning because when we feel these things our brains are rewiring themselves. Rather than seeing mistakes and feelings of frustration and confusion as indicators of stupidity, they are an indication that we are learning and our brains are ‘levelling up’.
Living a fulfilling life that reflects what you want it to be and takes you wherever you want to go is all about learning HOW to learn. I don’t subscribe to any preconceived notions of intelligence that view some students as inherently more capable than others. Maximizing the potential of the brain to learn requires students to engage in an active, ongoing journey that is strengthened by their ability to select and apply strategies effectively. The very act of learning HOW to learn changes your brain and makes you smarter.