Tag Archives: student success

Getting Gritty: can academic “grit” be taught or is it a personality type like John Wayne?

Do we all have an inner John Wayne, or is grit unique to the gritty few?

Is grit a product of circumstance that reveals it or do we need to bring grit to the scene? I’m thinking it’s a little of both, but it’s certain that some of us are “grittier” than others, and each of us in different ways.

Academics are newly concerned with “grit,” or “resilience,” as long term success requires the ability to get past challenges and set backs.  In fact, students who overcome failure and keep steady towards a long term goal are understood to be better prepared for higher level academics and life in general than students who never faced failure at all. Continue reading

Mentoring students is an all-time thing: mentoring is not just an occasional conversation with a guidance counselor or mentor

Student MentoringAt the A+ Club, we make strong claims for the power of mentoring. We believe that consistent, positive feedback from caring, experienced, and non-judgmental educators empowers students by building lifetime skills and habits of reflection, goal setting, and general self-betterment.

A Gallup-Purdue study of the impact of mentoring on college students in post-graduate job success and all-round well-being already proves our theory (see Mentoring Students for a Lifetime of Success). What the Gallup-Purdue study doesn’t say but is implicit to the results is that mentoring is neither casual nor predetermined.

Note that the study did not point to “advisors” or “guidance counselors” for impact on students. In fact, the absence of those terms in the study is significant. Mentoring relationships are not appointed, they are not pre-selected or administered from above. They develop organically through sharing, trust, care, expertise, authenticity, and constancy.

Mentoring is…

  • Sharing: effective mentoring is empathetic.

  • Trust: mentoring without trust is just more random advice.

  • Care: the effective mentor is selfless, non-judgmental, patient, and caring.

  • Expert: the effective mentor delivers something of value.

  • Authentic: effective mentors don’t condescend or merely guide from above; their mentoring comes from the heart.

  • Constant: effective mentoring is regular, not occasional or random.

Why Guidance Counselors Aren’t Mentors

Imagine that a high level executive at a major company mentors up-and-coming professionals. Imagine that some of these protégés ultimately report to that executive, if not directly, then through other chains of command. If so, there is with great difficulty any mentoring, as it’s just another power-relationship, however well-intentioned.

Now, imagine that a high school student receives mentoring from an educator at the school. We call those “Guidance Counselors,” and they have no less administrative weight than does our executive. They are both firmly a part of an institutional power structure and are therefore inherently judgmental and authoritative.

This doesn’t mean an executive or a guidance counselor can ‘t be an effective mentor — it does mean that each has the burden of authority to overcome in order to deliver mentoring that is authentic and trustworthy.

So, yes, we can imagine that executives or guidance counselors can make effective mentors. Absolutely. But it is harder to imagine that they can be effective mentors to more than a few protégés or students with whom they can create authentic relationships.

They not only have to overcome the burden of authority (which severely challenges authenticity), they have to overcome the burden of a strained caseload. Thus the largest reason that guidance counselors don’t make good mentors is that, according to Time,

A public school counselor in the U.S. now has an average caseload of 471 students….

(from The High School Guidance Counselor Shortage,

Try being caring, empathic, authentic — and constant — with 471 students! Not possible. A guidance counselor can mentor some of the students some of the time but none or a very few of them all of the time.

A+ Club Student Mentoring

Our view is that effective mentoring starts with the student, not the mentor.

When we take on a student, it is by student choice. We cannot mentor a student who is not interested in self-improvement, and we don’t. We don’t get past a first conversation with such a student (and I’ve only run into 2 or 3 over my three years in this business).

The only way we can start with a student is if that student sincerely wants academic improvement. And we never define it for our students: it’s up to them what that means. Once we have established goals, then we can work on deliberate, realistic steps towards them with confidence, trust, and care.

Our authenticity comes of the concern we show and the expertise we bring. Our teachers — whom we call “Student Supporters” — are experienced, active educators, and they only do this work because they care, because they enjoy establishing a relationship with a student whom they do not grade, whom they do not judge. Freed authority, they are free to care without judgment.

Once our teachers have established that trust, once they have established their care and expertise, then they have an authentic relationship. Then the only missing ingredient for effective, powerful mentoring is constancy, which they bring through scheduled, weekly or more reflection, goal setting and problem-solving conversations .

Our teachers love this work. And they also know how emotionally taxing it is, for they care so much for each child. They only take on a few, some choosing to work with only one student, and the rest taking on no more than a few to work with, guide, counsel, and help along towards a brighter future  each and every week.

We know it works, and not just because our kids do better in school. We know it works because our students are ready and eager to take that mentoring call every week.

– Michael

What do grades measure, anyway? How to make sense of grades and student learning

Student-Performance_Process-flow-chart_noheaderParents! If schools were meant for learning, why do we have grades?

In other words, if learning were the goal, wouldn’t every student have to get an A+ before moving on to the next level?

If, when a student gets a D, and it indicates the student met 64% of expectations, is there learning going on at that school? Wouldn’t a 100% grade represent true learning?

As long as there are grades less than an A, the point of schools, then, is not learning.

Worse, not all grades are equal. Does an A in PE represent learning as much as an A in math? They both count the same towards your GPA and both are required. Clearly, learning is not the only thing being measured here. Continue reading

Mentoring students for a lifetime of success

Puck & Stella slideshowTurns out that a friend really can help.

An important study was released by Gallup:

When it comes to being engaged at work and experiencing high well-being after graduation, a new Gallup-Purdue University study of college graduates shows that the type of institution they attended matters less than what they experienced there. Yet, just 3% of all the graduates studied had the types of experiences in college that Gallup finds strongly relate to great jobs and great lives afterward

Continue reading

Are you obstacle-minded or a problem solver? Goal setting & fixing mistakes

When we say, “Oh, well,” to a failure, we are more likely to repeat the mistake. Instead, correct forward rather than excusing backwards. Quite literally, this is “problem solving.”

There will always be obstacles and difficulties. Success doesn’t happen by itself. It’s all about learning from problems instead of resigning to them — or worse, using them as an excuse to give up on our goals. Continue reading

Encouragement from Mischa Beckett: empowering yourself & your college experience

Encouragement from Mischa Beckett: empowering yourself & your college experience

Student Success Podcast No. 19, Apr. 17, 2014

Today’s Guest: Mischa Beckett, Ph.D. Political Science and college lecturer.

In this interview, Mischa discusses her work with high school students in the A+ Club program. Mischa brings the view of a college teacher to the high school experience and discusses how all students of all levels and struggles can use encouragement and help in raising their self-awareness. Continue reading

Procrastination destroys

Help us fight this disease.

Procrastination destroys grades, it destroys relationships, it destroys futures.

It may not seem like such a big deal. Just make another promise to yourself to get better grades next time, study more, and move on. Besides, cramming it in and busting it out at the last minute always works for me!

Here to learn more:   Procrastination Specialists


As procrastination expert, Dr. Timothy Pychyl says,

If you work best under pressure, you only work under pressure.

Continue reading

3rd Quarter blues: beware procrastination payback time

Third quarter is break-down time

It just is. Lost in the middle of a long year, things get tough.  You just got through midterms and the end of the 2nd quarter, you had a nice winter break, then, bam! School is back, and hard.

In Q3 teachers are off their game, too. They’re either panicked for having gotten off track from their pacing and lesson plans, overwhelmed from grading and making new plans, or distressed that students aren’t where they should be. Worse, administrators are having their own panic and are throwing meetings and putting  more demands on teachers, worsening the load for everyone. Continue reading

Real solutions for procrastination from Dr. Timothy A. Pychyl, part 1

ProcrastinationPuzzle_3Real solutions for Procrastination from Dr. Timothy A. Pychyl, part 1

Student Success Podcast No. 13, Jan. 15, 2014

Today’s Guest: Timothy A. Pychyl, Ph.D.

Dr. Pychyl shares his incredible knowledge, experience, research, and insight into the nature of procrastination and how to overcome it. Dedicated to bettering people’s lives, he uniquely applies academic concepts in a way we can all understand and appreciate.

This is part 1 of 2 segments we are publishing on the Student Success Podcast. Tim has also published his own version of the interview on his “iProcrastinate” podcast. Continue reading

Feeling like it: how to get your homework done even when you don’t feel like it

late-and-overwhelmed__msclipartSo if you don’t feel like it now, when will you?

Here’s the problem: your mood won’t match your work, and the less work you do, the less your mood will guide you towards doing your work. The only way you’ll get to it now is through Procrastinator’s Panic, which isn’t the best thing.

Research proves that last minute work is less effective, less thorough, and more stressful than work completed on time and with consistent effort. It comes down to control: if you rely on the “cram” or the last-minute surge, you’re letting the work control you, not the other way around. Continue reading