How to Start a New School Year with a Fresh Approach
What I learned from my students - Episode 016
When parents look at low grades at the end of a quarter, it can send them into panic mode. My requests for meetings sky rocket because parents receive a bad report card. However, despite the success rate of my work with students, I am not a miracle worker (though if I was I would totally be like Billy Crystal in The Princess Bride). We don’t jump in and start fixing. We start by looking backwards at everything in the past and my students decide want they want to work on.
However, the new quarter or new semester is one of the best times for students to start of with new school strategies and habits. If you were struggling last year, this is a new beginning for your school experience.
So many of my students had celebrations this year. They accomplished their goals, they pushed through the difficult situations and the holiday break was a time to sigh with relief and say “I did it!”
Now, we’re faced with 2019. Stop and strut the new year like you’re wearing a neon green leisure suit. That’s right. You’re wearing a new year. Turn it. Turn it. Yeah! Pose for the camera.
It is a fresh start. It is a new year. Let’s throw that last year in the garbage if it was not the best you at school.
Parents: Guess what? If your kiddo is trying to turn over a new leaf at school, you need to forget everything that happened last year too! The more you hold on to the mistakes of the past, the less you are able to celebrate the small steps your kiddos are making toward becoming new and improved! Or maybe they are just tapping into that awesomeness that they already have that might have been buried under a few layers of ick.
Not every day going forward is going to be perfect – the last time I checked, there’s nobody out there who is perfect. There are only those people out there who think they’re perfect, but you know what those people are? They’re not nice people, and we don’t want to be like them, right?
Go forward and create a new better half of the school year.
How to Change the School Habits that Drag you Down
That’s really up to you, students. It’s not up to your parents. It’s not up to your teachers. It’s not up to your awesome academic coach. No. It’s really up to you: how you want to change in this next year, especially if you struggled in the previous year. There are a few things you can do to get started in figuring that out.
Step 1 - Ask yourself the Hard Questions
Quietly assess yourself. Answer this question: If I looked back on the last quarter, the previous semester, the last 10 years of school – how much effort did I put in to get the grades I have now?
Parents: I don’t need you in the snarky peanut gallery going ‘Oh, you only put in two percent.” Zip it.
Kiddo: What would you give yourself? My follow up question is this: How horrible, how stressed would your life be if you kicked it up by five percent? What about by 10 percent?
A lot of the time, students say they’re giving 70 percent effort. Okay. Well, what would happen if you gave it a 75 percent effort? Would your life be earth-shatteringly different?
Usually, the answer is “No, my life would not be much more stressful if I were to kick it up a hair of a notch.”
Ask yourself what you would need to do to kick it up that notch? What would you need to do to be putting forth 79 percent effort? Would it be adding 10 minutes to study time? Would it be turning in half of your assignments instead of turning in none of your assignments? What would that improvement be?
I know that you’re thinking about it, but when you’re at home around your computer, I would like you to look at your grade book. I know it can be scary. You don’t have to do it with your parents or anyone around. Just look at your grade book and see the areas that were weighing you down. Was it test scores? Was it half-done work? Was it late work? What was holding you back the most, and in what classes? What could you do to make a 5 percent improvement that wouldn’t cause you a lot of stress?
I’m just curious because if we want to make a change – if we want to make a shift in our lives, we don’t want to go from Fs to As (I mean, yeah, that would be awesome, but that’s kind of a stretch.) There’s a lot that would probably have to change for you to jump from Fs to As. So, what would it take to go from an F to a D? Just take one step.
Then, what I want you to do after looking through your grades from the last quarter or the previous semester is this: Pick one thing to improve upon.
You don’t have to make a big announcement to your family. You don’t have to go to the school news channel. Just keep it for yourself.
What’s something you want to improve upon? And, let’s focus on that ONE thing. Don’t worry if your grades are currently all Fs, and what the end of the year grade will be, because that involves math. I’ve tried to do calculations with numbers and averages, and oh my goodness – it does not work.
Step 2 - Pick One Habit to Change
We’re just going to focus on the one thing you can do today. And then tomorrow, we’ll focus on the one thing you can do tomorrow and so on.
Anything positive that happens because of that one thing is fantastic- like gravy on top of your biscuits- but that’s not what we’re going to focus on.
To have a new start to your school experience, just pick one thing and every day, when you get home, and you’ve done your daily routine, and you’ve done your homework and you crawl into your bed with your cute little footie pajamas, ask yourself: “Did I do everything I needed to do to accomplish that one thing?”
If the answer is yes, you can get out of bed and go get yourself a cookie.
If the answer is no, the next thought is “Okay. I didn’t do everything I could do to get it done today. What does that mean I have to do tomorrow?”
Do not berate yourself. No putting yourself down. Don’t waste your time and energy on that negative stuff. Just ask: “What am I going to do tomorrow?”
And when you wake up in the morning, ask yourself “What is the one thing I’m supposed to do today to get that goal accomplished?”
Block out all the noise about how you’ve done things in the past. The things you haven’t done, the test you’ve failed. Give yourself snaps and props for the things you’re starting to accomplish now.
Step 3 - Celebrate the Small Stuff
If you want to be really proud of yourself this year and you want to strut yourself in that leisure suit and do the spin and the turn and sashay, sashay – whatever RuPaul says, you have to start small.
Everyone starts the New Year saying they want to lose 30 pounds. No one loses that 30 pounds – they probably end up gaining 50 because they’re focused on the end goal. They’re not celebrating the fact that they set foot in the gym.
Every day, if their only goal is to step into that gym and walk inside, they’re going to see progress. If they didn’t make it to the gym and they say – not “Oh, my god. You are such a horrible person” but “What am I going to do differently tomorrow?” I bet that they will start to make the corrections and do the things to accomplish that one little goal.
So, you’re here baby. It’s a new year. It’s a fresh start, and now you’ve got to ask questions. Ask yourself how much effort you put into the past on a scale of 0-100 percent, and how much more energy you’re willing to try that’s not going to totally cramp your lifestyle, and what is the one thing you’re going to start working on?
An awesome tool that my academic coaching students have used is the Test Prep Roadmap. Stop studying overwhelm in 3 simple steps! You can grab your copy here!
I am pleased to say that ALL of my students have decided to join me again to rock out the next semester. I do have space for a limited number of new students. If you feel that academic coaching might be the right fit for your child, please fill out the contact form and we can schedule your parent consult.
All the best,
Building better study habits
How to treat yourself with kindness when mistakes happen
How to gain clarity when starting a new habit
Marni Pasch| Host of School Counselor Gone Rogue| Academic Coach | Team Pasch Academic Coaching
I work with students in grades 6th and higher, who struggle with academic confidence and motivation. I help them survive school with less stress by helping them create concrete goals, tackle procrastination and learn creative study techniques. I empower students to take charge of their education and reach their goals. I do this through individual or group coaching so students achieve success in life, school, career readiness and their social endeavors.