We’ve all heard of swimming coaches and batting coaches… but what exactly is an Academic Coach?
In short, an Academic Coach is a professional educator who focuses on the process of learning and teaches students the executive functioning skills and study skills necessary for success in the classroom.
Executive functioning skills are the skills that everyone uses to organize, access, and act on information. They include impulse control, emotional control, flexible thinking, working memory, self-monitoring, planning and prioritizing, task initiation, and organization.
Students who lack some or all of these skills start to experience some very real frustrations as they stumble along on their educational journeys. Not being able to remember directions, not knowing how to start a writing project, and not finishing work on time can be the catalyst to many meltdowns. Consequently, parents of these students often feel overwhelmed and helpless, as they try to coax their students into becoming more organized, using planners, and preparing for tests.
An Academic Coach helps a student identify goals, define success, and develop strategies to overcome their executive functioning difficulties. The truth is that most students would like to be successful, even if their behavior completely contradicts that idea. The problem is that they simply do not know how to make it happen, very much like a baseball player who would desperately like to hit a home run but who has no idea how to swing a bat. When a student learns how to keep track of his assignments and develops a system to ensure that he turns them in, it is a gratifying feeling of success. When a student learns how to organize her thoughts and effectively write a five-paragraph essay, it is a proud feeling of accomplishment.
The strategies that an Academic Coach focuses on include those needed to organize materials, organize time, and organize information. They teach exactly how to create a workspace, a clean backpack, and a filing system for papers and digital files. They work with the students to estimate and analyze tasks, create daily schedules, and keep calendars. They also implement strategies to take notes, paraphrase, summarize, map ideas, create study guides, prepare for tests, and monitor grades.
Just like the batting coach who teaches swinging technique and stance, the goal of the Academic Coach is to teach skills needed for academic success. And even more exciting is that these are the same skills that students will use to be successful throughout their lives!