Academic coaching vibes

While I was out of town for a few weeks, my teen life coach clients went back to school and started kicking ass. All of them. Every one.

I wish you could be a fly on the wall for these sessions, to hear their descriptions of the ass-kicking.

There’s the listing of each class, followed by the kid’s current grade: “ELA, A+. Spanish, A. Phys Ed, A. Math, which can drown in a thousand toilets, A-.”

There’s the hair-splitting analysis of the percentage of work not completed: “I’ve turned in all of my assignments but .01 of a percent, and those are the ones that are worth .001 percent of my final grade.”

There’s the rare, quick admission of pride: from the 7th grader, wrapped in a squeal, “I feel great!” to the college kid, hedging his bets, “It’s good, as long as I can keep it going.”

“You can, kid,” I told him. “Here’s how: keep doing, for yourself, what I’ve done in our academic coaching sessions.”

What did I do? I listened to them, instead of telling them to listen to me. Boiled down, that’s what a well-trained teen life coach does.

Time for a short psychology lesson. The developing adolescent brain has a primary drive: seek autonomy. Teens are transitioning from the dependent role of a child to the independent one of an adult. Their brain is desperately seeking opportunities to do things for themself. It’s practice for their future, when they will make their own decisions, cook their own meals, pay their own bills.

But most teens experience the opposite. They’re surrounded by well-meaning adults in the form of parents, teachers, bosses, athletic coaches, who tell, suggest, and enforce. “Do your homework. Make your bed. Run five laps. Work on your college applications.” When a teen pushes back against all of this guidance, it’s not because they’re disrespectful. It’s because they’re a teen, with a teen brain, demanding that they get practice making their own decisions.

That’s why kids fall in love with academic coaching. It’s 100% driven by them. By focusing on each kid’s own point of view, I usher my teen life coach clients into this sudden academic ass-kicking. In the simplest of terms, here’s how I did it.

  1. I asked them what they wanted this school year to look like, to get clear on what the target was for our academic coaching.
  2. I asked them why they wanted to achieve that goal — not why their mom, their dad, their teachers, or their college wants it, but why they want it — to unlock intrinsic motivation.
  3. I asked if they’d ever made positive shifts before, in academics or any other area, to create awareness of their own capabilities.
  4. I asked how they’d gone about achieving those accomplishments, to build a road map for thought and behavior change that works for them, personally.
  5. I asked if there were ways they could use those proven skills, plus others we brainstormed as possibilities, to reach the goal they cited in step one.
  6. I asked what teeny, tiny, doable thing they could do this week, to flex one or two of those skills.

Now, you: go back and reread the first two words in each of those steps. What do you see? I asked. I didn’t tell, I asked.

That’s the magic, when it comes to academic coaching; to all the work of a teen life coach. You draw out what they think, want, and see themselves as capable of. When you do that, you’re giving the adolescent brain exactly what it needs, and rarely gets: autonomy. From there, you can step back and watch the ass-kicking begin.

My final question to each of my teen coaching kids this week, after hearing how great they’re suddenly doing in school, was this: “Why are you here? You don’t need me anymore!”

So yeah. Got a teen who’s struggling in school, who could use some academic coaching? Hit me up. I’ve got openings on my calendar…and I’ve got exactly the questions they need.