GRETCHEN WEGNER is an academic life coach for students and creator of the Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying. As an academic coach she helps students hone the learning process and investigates what is causing any learning interruption. She then teaches new skills and helps the student integrate both the new habits and the ability to problem solve independently. Gretchen and I also wrote a book together – remotely – for a mutual client.
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- There are two kinds of students who really benefit from coaching: those who have trouble motivating themselves, and the overachievers who do way too much.
- Being coached remotely is more convenient than in-person.
- With virtual sessions, the student is responsible and more independent about the coaching relationship.
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On 15 October, 2013, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gretchen Wegner and Wyatt Nevins. Gretchen is a superstar academic life coach and Wyatt is one of her clients.They started working together at the end of Wyatt’s 7th grade year when his grades weren’t where he wanted them to be. They’ve now been working together for over three years, sometimes in person, but mostly remotely.
Here are the highlights:
- There are two kinds of students who really benefit from coaching: one are the students who have trouble motivating themselves and the other are the overachievers who do way too much.
- Being coached remotely is more convenient.
- With virtual sessions, the student is responsible and more independent about the coaching relationship.
What is academic life coaching?
Gretchen: Academic life coaching is a way of supporting students with time management skills, organization, study skills and advocacy. It differs from tutoring. Whereas tutors help teach a particular subject, I help students figure out why they’re having trouble with a particular subject and what systems they need to put in place to be self sufficient learners.
How does an academic life coach help?
Wyatt: It’s nice to come to someone who’s not breathing down your neck about your grades. Gretchen is very understanding and gives me methods that improve my grades. She’s consistent and she’s always got something new to try.
One of my favorite techniques was the “calm down pillow fights” that we used to have when we met in person. But something really useful was her telling me to just take notes all the time, even if it’s not something that seems noteworthy at the time.
What is the difference between being coached remotely versus in person?
Wyatt: Being coached remotely is more convenient. Gretchen can still give the same help and support as she did in person, I just can’t hit her with a pillow. 🙂 During our in person sessions, I would be kind of lethargic after a long school day and having to drive somewhere to be coached. It’s more relaxing to be at home.
I also like the fact that when the session is over, it’s over. And I can shut down my computer and continue with whatever I was doing before.
The downsides can be the technical challenges we run into: the webcam isn’t working or the internet is down. Also, sometimes I just forget that I have a session and that wouldn’t have happened if I had to drive to meet Gretchen.
Gretchen: There are different gifts to both methods. Clearly there is something valuable about being physically present together and being able to interact. It’s also helpful to actually be able to see the backpack and to see what’s in it, and see what the work is.
With in person sessions, it’s the parents who are generally responsible for getting the student to the session. Whereas with virtual sessions, the student is responsible and more independent about the coaching relationship. In order for remote coaching to be successful the student has to be bought into the process. When this happens, it’s also more pleasurable for me because it’s more of a collaboration.
One of the disadvantage to remote coaching is not being able to see how kids are organizing themselves. And I only get to see the work that students choose to show me. Also, on Skype, my students are all the same size. So when I see them in person after a long time, it’s a surprise to see how much they’ve grown!
What does a remote coaching session look like?
Wyatt: We start the call by talking about what’s going on in our lives and then we dive into work. We have a couple of things we always do: we have a grade graph where we keep up with test scores and current grades. And then we have a habits graph where I reflect on the past week and decide what score I get in each category on the habits graph. After we’re done with that we move onto what’s going on in the upcoming week, like if there are any tests to prepare for. It’s not a rigid process. We try to keep it fluid so we can roll with the punches.
Before the school year started, Gretchen and I worked out an action plan where we outlined what the best study methods were for me and we figured out where my weaknesses were. It wasn’t easy trying to determine where my strengths and weaknesses were, but it definitely helps to look at how I need to study and what work I need to prioritize.
Gretchen: Before school was in session, we outlined some personal goals and some school related goals, and typed it all up on a sheet of paper. We did all of that during the summer before school was in session so we didn’t constantly have to react to the schoolwork. We did part of this in person and part of it remote.
A few things that Wyatt and I track are the number of zeros that are recorded in his school’s online grading system, how well he’s getting work in on time, how well he’s focusing in his classes, and how well is he following through on commitments made to me. We assign numbers to each of these things, turn it into a line graph, and then we can see whether the numbers are going up or down.
For most students, the habits graph will reveal some sort of problem area and we will spend some time developing a new system for that area.
What are some of the tools you use for remote coaching?
Wyatt: At my school, we use School Loop, which is like an online progress report that teachers update. Occasionally, I will work with another student over Skype.
Gretchen: Virtually we work with a Google Doc in between us. And there’s something about the Google Doc that can keep us focused and on task. Wyatt is busier typing more during the virtual sessions than the in-person sessions. The nice thing about a Google Doc is that we can simply open a new tab when we need to dive deeper into something like creating a study plan for a test or if I’m going to give a mini lecture where I want the client to take notes.
I will sometimes ask Wyatt to send pictures of his work. With other clients of mine, we look at online text books.
Do you have advice for others wanting remote coaching?
Wyatt: Remote coaching is a great resource if you’re having trouble getting motivated or if your grades aren’t where you want them to be. For anything you have to do that isn’t limited to one subject, coaches like Gretchen are very useful. And online coaching is a more efficient and easy alternative to driving out somewhere.
Gretchen: The biggest difference between using an in person coach versus a remote coach is how much pain you are experiencing as a student. For example, when I first started coaching Wyatt, his parents were concerned and his grades weren’t looking that good, but he himself was not experiencing a great deal of pain. So in that situation, an in person coach is a great choice because there is a lot of relationship building that is needed.
For remote coaching, it’s necessary for the student to be tuned-in to their pain point and feel like they just can’t do it alone anymore and they want help. So when a student is feeling disorganized and not being able to keep up with the mountains of school work, and just not knowing how to study, and they’ve recognized that this is a problem, then remote coaching is an ideal option for them.
Wyatt: It’s helpful to have someone check-in on your school work that isn’t yelling at you about your grades and it’s nice to have someone who cares about what’s going on in your life. Anyone would benefit from remote coaching, but especially students who are having a hard time with school.
Gretchen: I think that for a student, just knowing that there is someone to check in with every week that is not a parent, makes a big difference in terms of follow-through. There are two kinds of students who really benefit from coaching: one are the students who have trouble motivating themselves and the other are the overachievers who do way too much.
Lisette: Welcome to this Hangout On Air. My name is Lisette Sutherland and I interview people and companies who work remotely. And today, I’m going to be interviewing Gretchen Wegner and Wyatt Nevins about academic life coaching when done remotely. So welcome. And if anybody has any questions during this hangout, I would like them to go ahead and send a tweet to #remoteinterview and it doesn’t even need to be during this interview. If you have questions in the future, we can always address them at another time. So welcome, Gretchen and Wyatt. I’m really excited that you’re here to join me with this.
Gretchen: Thanks, Lisette.
Wyatt: Thanks a lot.
Lisette: Let’s start with a round of introductions, actually. So Wyatt, why don’t you go ahead and tell us—of course, I just said your name—but you can say your name, where you’re from and what grade you’re in.
Wyatt: My name’s Wyatt Nevins. I go to Acalanes Highschool which is located in Lafayette, California as you can see below me. I’m a sophomore at the school and Gretchen helps me out with schooling.
Lisette: Alright. And Gretchen, your name and where you’re located and I’d like to know what academic coaching is, maybe a little bit about that as well.
Gretchen: Sure. So Gretchen Wegner, I live in Oakland, California, and I’ve been an academic life coach now for about 5 years. And so the short version of what academic coaching is is it’s a way of supporting students with time management, organizations, study skills, and self-advocacy. So a lot of people ask me “Is it like tutoring?” Well it’s not exactly tutoring because tutors help teach math or teach science, and I’m actually interested in helping kids figure out for themselves why they’re having trouble with their math class or their science class and what systems they need in place to be self-sufficient learners.
Lisette: Great. Wyatt, how long have you and Gretchen been working together?
Wyatt: I think we’re on our 3 years, we’re on our 3rd year.
Gretchen: Yeah, I guess so. Maybe even like 3 and a little bit because I think I started seeing you at the end of your 7th grade year maybe.
Wyatt: Yeah, I think so too.
Lisette: And why did you start working together?
Wyatt: Well, in middle school, it’s actually at the end of 7th grade, my grades were not where I would have wanted them. And it wasn’t one subject that could be fixed with a single tutor in that subject. It was overall organization. It was failure to do work. It just wasn’t a situation that could be solved by a normal tutor. And so we went to find someone and we found Gretchen and Gretchen helped me get my act together. In 8th grade, I did marginally better than I did in 7th grade and I again did marginally better. And this year so far is looking better than any year before.
Lisette: So when you say that she helps you, can you tell me a little bit more about what she does. How does she help you?
Wyatt: Well, it’s very nice to come to someone who’s not breathing down your neck about your grades and is very understanding and able to give you methods to help improve your grades. She’s very consistent. She’s always there and she’s always got something new to try that I haven’t before and if something didn’t work.
Lisette: Can you think of a favorite technique that you’ve used or a technique that stands out for you maybe that you would never have done without Gretchen?
Wyatt: Well, there are calm down pillow fights that we used to have.
Gretchen: Did we?
Wyatt: Yeah, we did. When we would meet like in person but I think study-wise, something that I found really useful is her telling me just to take notes all the time even if it’s like not something that seems noteworthy at the time or if the teacher doesn’t tell you to take notes, just to take notes, and we’ve expanded on that so that my note-taking repertoire has grown even further.
Lisette: Wow! Very interesting. So you said you used to have the calm down pillow fights in person but I’m curious then so you’ve worked together both in person and remotely. And what is the difference between being coached in person versus remotely for you?
Wyatt: Very little other than that coaching digitally is more convenient, I find, it was nice to see Gretchen in person. I still do that from time to time now but seeing her on the screen isn’t much different. She can still give me the same help and support as she could in person. I just can’t hit her with a pillow.
Gretchen: Or vice versa because my guess is I don’t remember the pillow fights but my guess is that when Wyatt might have said something to me in the effect of “Oh, I didn’t write that down because my teacher didn’t tell me to” so I might have thrown a pillow at him for saying that.
Lisette: And Gretchen, what is the difference for you between coaching in person versus remotely?
Gretchen: Yeah, you know, I find there are different gives to both methods. I mean clearly, there’s something really valuable for in-person coaching around just having your bodies present together and being able to interact with each other in that way and then actually being able to see the backpack, see what’s in it, see what the work is but virtually, we work with a Google doc in between us. So we’re both looking at each other the way we are right now on the web cams but we got this Google doc that it’s almost like the screen that we look through and we’re both typing on it. And I don’t know why if you would agree about this but my sense for myself is that there’s something about the Google doc that can really keep us focused on our task because I think you actually are busier typing in that sort of thing during our virtual sessions than you were during our in-person sessions. Does that ring true to you?
Wyatt: Yeah, definitely. I was kind of lethargic during our in-person sessions after a long school day and having to drive over and physically do things, it’s nice being able to do things on a keyboard. It’s more efficient, I think.
Gretchen: Do you feel like it keeps you more on task?
Wyatt: Definitely. I’m sure you’ve taken note of you asking me to get something and me being like, “Urgh, Gretchen, that’s 5 feet away in my room.”
Gretchen: That’s when I want to throw something at you again. Just do it!
Wyatt: Yeah. It’s another bonus. You can’t hit me with pillows anymore.
Lisette: I can imagine also being in your own home would be very relaxing and calming as well as you’re saying going over to your coach after a long day of school is really tiring just in and of itself and maybe being in your home can be a benefit in that sense were you’re just in your own environment.
Wyatt: Yeah, it’s really nice just having like a nice hour to get quiet. I don’t know about other people that Gretchen coaches but my house is kind of chaotic. Everyone’s always doing something so it’s nice to be able to tell everyone to be quiet for an hour and get like a nice hour of Gretchen time where I can just work on my schoolwork with her.
Lisette: So then your sessions are one hour long, is that?
Wyatt: More or less. Sometimes, they’re a little shorter, sometimes, a little longer. It depends on what we’re doing at the time.
Gretchen: Most of the time there, I try to keep us to 50 minutes though.
Lisette: And is there a particular reason for 50 minutes? Is that an attention span or is it just..?
Gretchen: It’s just that’s kind of how long the hour is and if I’m good at keeping it to 50 minutes, then I have 10 minutes to take notes before my next client so it’s all just kind of practical that way. But also though, as Wyatt said, I tend to go long so sometimes I don’t get that 10 minutes for notes because it’s like, “Oh, we can do 10 more minutes of practicing for our test” or something like that.
Lisette: Right. When you’re in flow, you’re in flow.
Lisette: So we’ve talked about some of the benefits of the remote coaching but I’m curious if there are any disadvantages that you see that you run into?
Wyatt: I find it’s mostly either like a technical issue like “Oh no, my web cam’s not working or my internet is down” or just me forgetting because when you’re super busy and you’re doing schoolwork, it just might totally blow your mind that you have a session and Gretchen’s very good at texting you being, “Hey, we have a session.” But it is kind of annoying when you miss those couple of minutes when you could have been working which wouldn’t have happened if I had to drive to Gretchen’s because I have to get there.
Gretchen: When would you say Wyatt, that when you were driving, your parents were more responsible for making sure that you got there and now when it’s virtual sessions, you’re more responsible and independent about our relationship?
Wyatt: Yeah, definitely, yeah, that’s exactly it I guess.
Gretchen: So the times that you don’t make it on time, it’s your fault, not your parents; whereas vice versa when we were meeting in person was often your parents’ fault.
Lisette: Oh, interesting, very interesting. And Gretchen, what about for you? What are some of the disadvantages that you see?
Gretchen: You know the first thing that came to me when you asked the question is that I haven’t seen Wyatt in person for a year and a half until this summer and he walked into my office and he’d grown like a foot and a half. I don’t know how much he’d grown but I was like, “Woah!” So that’s a disadvantage just in that. I mean it’s not a huge one but it was amazing to see how much I was missing out because he’s always the same size on Skype.
Gretchen: And I’m always the same size on Skype, not that I change. So the other disadvantage, I mean it actually really is a disadvantage around not being able to see how kids are organizing like being able to see what’s in a backpack so I kind of have to take Wyatt on his word. I mean he sometimes will take me on a tour if I feel like he really needs to. And actually, organization is something that you’re not really focusing on that because like you kind of have your organization systems down.
Wyatt: Yeah, it’s just mostly saying I’m on top of the work pile.
Gretchen: Right, right. The work pile meaning so you want to say what you mean by that?
Wyatt: I have the tendency to put things off. And in my classes this year, I can do that and it’s fine like a lot of my classes this year are a clump of homework turned into at once which is kind of a blessing and kind of a damnation just because I’ll put off work until the last possible second and have like 6 hours of homework in a night which in previous years would have really, really harmed me but because of Gretchen, she’s helped me stay on top of my work and keep it all on check.
Gretchen: Yeah, so a disadvantage then is I don’t actually get to see the work now or I only get to see the work that Wyatt chooses to show me up on the web cam or by taking a picture with his iPhone or something like that. And before when we were in person, I could flip through the notebook and see where I could be like “Oh, what’s this? This has a zero on it. This has a low grade on it. What’s going on with this?” But what I love about the fact that he has to be more responsible now is it means that he has to really want coaching whereas before he didn’t have to want it. He just kind of got it. And so in order for remote coaching to be successful, the student has to be really, really bought into the process in a way that is pleasurable for me because it means then that we’re really wanting to work together and more of a collaboration together.
Wyatt: Which definitely isn’t easy. I did not enjoy the sessions at first. I love Gretchen but I did not see how it would be useful to me. And I had the typical teenager attitude of “Oh, I’m fine. I could do it if I wanted to. I just don’t want to.”
Wyatt: After a couple of sessions, I saw that it wasn’t a lack of wanting to, it was a lack of knowing how.
Gretchen: Right, right. But even then in the early days, once you got that it was the lack of knowing how, you still really didn’t want to do it like it was still work to follow through on some of it I think.
Wyatt: It was work that I realized had to be done.
Lisette: So I’m curious about the actual sessions in general. How do they start or do you have a specific format that you use? Can you tell me a little bit about what they look like? What does a coaching session look like?
Wyatt: For me, I get on my computer like 10 minutes before the session starts, make sure everything will work so that I’m not late and then Gretchen will message me on Skype, make sure I’m ready. I’ll say yeah and we’ll start the call. We’ll talk for like 5 to 8 minutes about what’s going on in our lives and then we’ll just dive into our work and we have a couple different things we do. We have a grade graph to keep up on like test scores and current grades and then we have a habits graph. The habits graph are like habits that we decided by Gretchen and I with a scoring system and I look back on the past week and reflect and decide what score I get on each category in the habits graph. And that’s usually very harrowing process, I think the self-reflect on the past week. And then after that, as long as there’s no glaring abnormality, we move on to what’s going on in the week, if there’s any test I need to prepare for. It’s very kind of fluid system. The only real thing is we keep rigid like rigidly in check or the habits graph, the grades graph, and talking for a couple of minutes. Everything else, we kind of roll with the punches.
Gretchen: If I thought about it, I would have figured out how to do it like the screenshot of the habits graph to show you guys. So I don’t quite know how to do that but I just wanted to say a couple of things that Wyatt and I track are the number of zeros that are recorded online in his school’s online grading system. How well is he getting work in on time, how well is he focusing in his classes, how well is he following through on commitments made to me, and we assign numbers to each of them, and then we can see whether we turn it into a line graph and can see whether the lines are going up or down. Well actually, you say it, Wyatt. How does it help to see the graph?
Wyatt: Oh, it definitely helps to see what I’m doing better like seeing those slow inching up on either habits or grades. And then it’s also kind of galvanizing to see if there’s a sudden like drop really, “Oh, I messed up there. I need to figure out how and why I can fix it.”
Lisette: Wow, very interesting. Of course, I really love the whole idea of quantifying and tracking habits and so this is very interesting information. Are there any other tools that you use besides Google docs when you’re working together remotely?
Wyatt: Yeah, we’re both usually signed into School Loop. And I’m not sure if everybody’s watching this now but it’s basically like an online progress report that teachers update. Some teachers update it more frequently than others so it’s not always very precise but it’s still useful for us to gauge where I am.
Lisette: School Loop.
Gretchen: Yeah. There are lots of different, every school has their different system. Acalanes [inaudible 16:52] to have School Loop. Actually this wasn’t with Wyatt but with some other clients of mine, we look at their online textbooks. Wyatt does really have a problem with reading and taking notes from it’s textbooks but with students, I’ll be looking at their textbooks so I can see what they’re seeing. I’m really grateful for textbook companies providing that. And then I don’t know why we haven’t used, have we sent photos, have I asked you to take pictures or scan things to send them to me occasionally?
Wyatt: Sometimes if there’s like a piece of work or project that you want to see other than that, we normally just exchange pictures about random stuff.
Gretchen: Wyatt used to, I don’t know if he’s keeping up on Reddit these days, but Wyatt always has something new to share with me if something’s crazy that’s going on on the internet.
Wyatt: Or passenger [inaudible 17:51].
Gretchen: Yes. Private joke.
Lisette: I was afraid to ask. So Wyatt then, it sounds like you’re a fan of Reddit. And are there any other resources on the internet that you’re a fan of like Reddit or places that you go regularly?
Wyatt: [Inaudible 18:17] I wouldn’t really call it a resource. It’s kind of a [inaudible 18:20] of scum and villainy. I go on Youtube a lot. I don’t really use the internet that much like I don’t use any one spot on the internet other than Google to help me. Google’s like the end all. It’s pretty much the best thing ever invented. I mean that’s pretty much it. I spend a lot of time on the internet but I don’t really deviate from those couple of sites.
Lisette: And do you work remotely with anybody else? Do you do this with your fellow students?
Wyatt: Yeah, occasionally, I’ll work with someone over Skype but that’s usually more for socializing. It’ll be like “Oh, let’s get this like 5 minutes of work done together so that we can then talk.”
Lisette: Okay. So when you’re studying with people that you’re actually studying with them in person?
Wyatt: Yeah because otherwise, there are too many distractions online.
Gretchen: And what about other tutors? Do you see your other tutors in person, right?
Wyatt: I only have one other tutor. She’s a tutor in Spanish which is the subject I struggle the most in. I just go over and see her once a week.
Lisette: Okay. And what are the main differences then that you have somebody you see in person once a week and we’ve touched a lot of this already but then seeing Gretchen online, do you notice any difference for you between the two styles?
Wyatt: Well my other tutor is right there so she can look at my work and it’s like Gretchen said, kind of more like close experience just because we’re right there. And in addition, the tutor’s the mom of one of my close friends so there’s this kind of weird like “Come on.” She’s more harsh with me than she would be with other students I think but I overall would say that I like my sessions with Gretchen more because I can turn on my computer and meet with Gretchen. And then as soon as I’m done, I’m done and I can get back to whatever I was doing like it’s schoolwork or just relaxing in my house because I don’t have to spend half an hour driving home and getting back into whatever I was doing, plus Gretchen’s is more fun.
Gretchen: You know I have a question. Oops, sorry. Plus Gretchen’s what?
Wyatt: More fun.
Gretchen: Oh, I see. I wanted to hear that word. But Wyatt, do you think it makes much of a difference that you and I met in person first like if there are families watching this who like they’re across the country so we’re never going to meet them in person, do you think that would make a difference in terms of building a connection online?
Wyatt: I definitely think it helped especially considering I was kind of jaded when we first started working together but I think particularly with you, that wouldn’t really be a trouble ongoing as long as the person really wanted the coaching and wanted the help because you are very bubbly friendly person. Where I don’t know if that’s true with other coaches and I really do think you need to want to do what you’re going to do because like Gretchen said, it’s all up to you to turn on the computer and be on time. It would be much easier just to say, “Oh, sorry, my computer’s dead. I can’t do it. I’m sorry, my internet’s dead. I can’t do it” and just skip the session as opposed like if your parents have to drive you out, you have to drive out there.
Gretchen: Right. And another question that comes up for me and I can like hold up my ears if you don’t want me to hear the truth but I’m curious like how much browsing you’re doing on the internet on other sites that aren’t related to our work during our sessions and please feel free to tell the truth if you are.
Wyatt: Honestly, it’s like probably like 2 to 3 minutes. It’s only really like a twitch habit when like if you’re typing something, I’ll just alt-tab something and click a site and it’d be like “Wait no, I’m supposed to be doing something else.”
Gretchen: Right, right.
Wyatt: A twitch reaction.
Gretchen: Yeah, I understand that phrase. I love that phrase actually: twitch reaction. So those are my questions, Lisette.
Lisette: Alright. Well Gretchen, I’m curious from your end, what your remote coaching sessions look like in general. I know it must be different based on whatever student that you’re working with but maybe you could tell a little bit about what your coaching sessions look like.
Gretchen: I think actually Wyatt gave a really great description and that it would look that way for most students I work with that the first few minutes are sort of just checking in, “How are you? How was your week?” and then we look at the grades online and then we compare the grades to how they were last week, and then we talk through the habits and check in about the habits. And for most students, this hasn’t been the case for Wyatt this year but for most students, checking in on the habits graph reveals some problem areas and so then we need to spend some time doing the brainstorming about, “Okay, so you’re still getting zeros or you still haven’t turned in your work on time,” where is that falling apart and how can we develop some new habit and systems for building that, and then putting those new systems in place. We’ll then spend the rest of the session problem solving that. There are times too and actually we didn’t mention where the nice thing about the Google spreadsheet which is actually what we’re working in is we can open a new tab so if there’s something we’re studying like a plan for the next test, I can say, “Hey, Wyatt, open a new tab. Let’s write your study plan down here” or “Hey, I’m going to give a little mini lecture for about the study senses or about like all my Christmas tree metaphor for reading textbooks, or whatever.” And so they’ll open a new tab and then I’ll kind of lecture and they’ll take notes in those tabs. So I think that’s the only addition but we are pretty busy for that 50 minutes.
Lisette: And Wyatt, if there’s other students that would want to do this or people that you know, what advice would you give them?
Wyatt: Just if you’re in need of help, this is a great resource to use particularly if you’re having trouble getting motivated and your grade is just dropping down, down, down, and if you’re having issues just doing the work or turning it in or if you’re having a hard time with tests. Really anything have to do that isn’t limited to one subject, coaches like Gretchen are very, very useful tool to help you increase your grades. And I think online coaching is a much easier more efficient alternative to driving out somewhere.
Gretchen: It also occurs to me like we haven’t talked at all about the action plan that you and I took some time to actually create a much more focused set of goals and a plan related to that. And could you say a little bit about how I mean it’s only been a month and a half since we’ve been working with that plan but how has that been for you?
Wyatt: It was very interesting. I haven’t done something like that before. Basically, before the school year started, I went over to meet Gretchen in person a few times and we worked out what like the best study method for me would be and like where my weaknesses lie. And it wasn’t the easiest thing trying to like honestly determine where my strengths and weaknesses are but it definitely helps looking at how I need to study and what work I need to prioritize.
Gretchen: And then we also made a plan where he sets some goals that were personal goals and some school related goals and typed it all up on a sheet of paper too. And we did all of that during the summer when school wasn’t in session so we didn’t have to constantly react to the schoolwork. That’s one of the things for the school year is you’re constantly reacting to whatever tests are coming up now so it was a great thing for us to do during the summer time. And we were able to do part of it in person and part of it remote so it really crossed over nicely between in person and faraway.
Lisette: So I’m curious, Wyatt, what your fellow students, people you go to school with, do you tell them about your remote coaching sessions? What do they think?
Wyatt: It’s not like when I see them I’m like “Oh, I have this amazing remote coaching sessions.” No, they’re aware like they’ll be over and I’m like “Okay, you need to be out of my house at this time because I have a tutoring session” and they’ll be like “Oh, where do you have to go for that?” I’m like “Nowhere. It’s just at home.” And they’re kind of shocked about that because I don’t think it’s not really widespread thing yet but I definitely believe it should be and it will be.
Lisette: Are most people curious about, are they looking into that themselves? What’s the reaction?
Wyatt: Yeah, a lot of my friends are as academically inept as I am so they don’t really need tutors but they’re like “Oh, that’s cool. Like how long have you been doing that for?” and they’re curious for a couple minutes and then they move on which I think is amazing considering how short spanned most people I know’s attention spans are including mine. I’m not exempt from that.
Gretchen: Aha! There’s the father.
Lisette: So Gretchen, what about advice from you for people who are looking into remote coaching or students that are looking into this? What advice would you have or who would benefit from remote coaching?
Gretchen: Yeah, I think the biggest difference between finding an in-person coach and a remote coach is how much pain are you experiencing as a student. And so in Wyatt’s situation, when I first saw him when he was in middle school, his parents were concerned and his grades were not looking good but he himself wasn’t experiencing a great deal of pain about the situation yet. And so an in-person coach for someone like that is a really great alternative because there was a lot of relationship building and cajoling and I had to make it fun, and I had to really work at keeping Wyatt in a relationship with me so that I could help him. So the remote coaching, it really, really is necessary for the student to be fully tuned into his or her pain first and be like “Oh, this sucks and I just can’t do it alone anymore and I really need help and I want help.” And if they’re at that place around like feeling just disheveled and totally disorganized, or just not knowing how to keep up with mountains of schoolwork or just not knowing how to study, and they recognize that that’s a problem, then remote coaching is an ideal option for them.
Lisette: Okay, and Wyatt, anything else? I know we’re nearing the end of the time here. Is there anything else that you want to add or questions that you might have or something that I didn’t cover that you want to make sure gets covered?
Wyatt: I just think it’s very helpful having someone to check in your schoolwork that isn’t like I said before yelling at you about your grades. It’s very helpful to have someone who cares about your grades and more than like what’s going on in your life. And I think that really anyone would benefit from coaching like this but especially students like me who are having a very hard time with school.
Gretchen: And Wyatt, did you have a diagnosed learning disability?
Wyatt: No. I was just lazy.
Gretchen: There are students especially students who are struggling with some specific kinds of learning challenges, attention deficit, dyslexia, those sorts of things, can also really benefit. And I don’t necessarily agree that you are lazy but anyway…
Lisette: I think that many people struggle with their productivity all the way through life and that learning these techniques is probably extremely useful not just for now but forever I assume.
Gretchen: You know, there were several times actually including the end of last school year where I thought “Gosh, Wyatt, has learned everything there is to learn from me I think like does he really need to see me anymore?” and I was really surprised last year at the end of the school year when you were like “Yeah, totally want to see you.” And he said, and you can corroborate this right now, but just knowing there is someone to check in with every week who’s not his parents makes a really big difference in terms of his follow through. That’s what you told me then. Is that still the case now?
Wyatt: It’s nice having someone that’s there that will be on your case if you have really bad grades but will be understanding about it and actually knows how to help you with it.
Gretchen: You know my skeptical look when you say something and I’m like “What?”
Gretchen: You know that’s my version of parents nagging.
Lisette: Well I can imagine it’s different to have somebody from outside to talk to you rather than just your parents who are coming from a particular point of view and who are maybe not as objective and I can imagine that’s just nice to have somebody like Gretchen to talk to and to check in every week. I can see how that would be productive in and of itself.
Lisette: And Gretchen, is there anything that I haven’t covered that you’d like to mention before we end this call?
Gretchen: No. I mean I guess the only additional thing would be that there are some different structures Wyatt and I have been talking about weekly coaching and he sees me weekly throughout the entire school year and that as we have said, a little bit during the summer as well to do some advance planning. But there are other structures including every other week or including monthly coaching that are sometimes really supportive for students. And also there are two types of students who really benefit: one is the type who I guess Wyatt is calling himself “lazy” but the type who has trouble motivating themselves in the first place, and then there’s the other type who are total overachievers who do way too much and they have lots of sports they have to juggle and they have lots of AP classes they have to juggle, and there are not enough hours a day. And so seeing someone can be super useful for them to help sort of parcel their time and figure out how they can take good care of themselves and get done what needs to get done.
Lisette: I feel like I need to hire you, Gretchen.
Wyatt: It definitely wouldn’t hurt.
Gretchen: You know I’ve had a lot of adults saying “Oh” and actually asking, “Could I work with you?” and actually, my answer is that really, my specialty is about how to do all of this around the context of school so I’m not so great at helping adults with organizing their own life. I have enough trouble with myself sometimes organizing my life. But because I’m a teacher and I have my masters in education and I’m just absolutely a brain nerd, I really specialize in helping kids understand what’s going on inside this noggin here and then how to translate that to class specific situations. So sorry, Lisette, you can just be my friend.
Lisette: I’ll take it.
Gretchen: Okay, good.
Lisette: Well thanks to both of you. I really appreciate and enjoyed the conversation today. I really learned a lot in fact. And I just want to put this up again for anybody that has questions in the future. Oops, sorry I have to do this in a weird way. So send any questions to #remoteinterview and we can get those answered even in the future. So thanks both of you.
Gretchen: Yeah, thank you. This was fun.
Lisette: I appreciate it.
Gretchen: And thanks, Wyatt, for taking time out of your homework time to talk to us.
Wyatt: It’s no problem. I wasn’t doing anything.
Gretchen: Don’t say that.