5 Lessons I Have Learned as an Academic Coach

Kids are the best; there is just no refuting this fact. Every day, I am reminded of how amazing these young people are when I interact with them at my job, and after each session, I walk away feeling grateful for the opportunity to work with these amazing human beings who, as far as I am concerned, are a rich, untapped resource the adult world has yet to figure out how to embrace. It’s hard to say who learns and grows more from the academic coach sessions my students and I share. Obviously, the students have much to gain from the skills they are taught in conjunction with the coaching it takes to empower them to shape these strategies into personally meaningful instruments they will use to establish and reach their goals. But going into this field, I never imagined how much my clients would teach me.

I love to learn-I am not shy about admitting how much pleasure I took in being a student. To this day, curiosity gets the best of me, frequently stopping to take a deep dive into this topic or that until my curiosity is satiated. So, in working with my students, that academic itch gets scratched. But more importantly, my clients have taught me so much about living:

Stay Energized: to say that some of my students have energy levels that rival the Energizer Bunny is a bit of an understatement. My high school students are frequently athletes and play multiple sports. They also participate in activities that include ski and snow board clubs, community service projects, and musical pursuits of theater, band, and orchestra. My younger students are equally occupied with Scouts, sports, and artistic activities. Needless to say, this demographic is frequently as charged as an atom in a boiling pot of water!

My students are often exhausted, yet, despite their drained batteries, they manage to rally, (mostly) greeting each day with a sense of enthusiasm and purpose. Watching them forge ahead, face their challenges, and put one foot in front of the other, is a source of inspiration, and it speaks volumes about the potential we all have inside, waiting to be met.

Resilience: As many of you know, living in a world in which your constant companion is ADHD is often fraught with challenges. It’s hard to navigate online portals to identify and manage assignments. Playing the inadvertent star of the show in the classroom on account of calling out or disrupting the teacher is a daily source of humiliation. And the onslaught of insults is worse than any punch in the face or slam into a locker. But my clients keep rebounding, trying to make each tomorrow a better day. No one could blame them if they threw in the towel and called it quits. But their resilience and determination to succeed are a source of motivation for me, pushing me to figure out how to crack the right code of success for each of my charges.

Tell It Like It Is: Kids have an uncanny knack for speaking the truth, and I love this quality. My clients and I have had some of the most raw and honest conversations during our time together. I am privy to their fears, the parts of life that bring them stress, and those that fuel them to forge ahead. If a student is going to meet with academic success, he or she must be completely transparent with me. That takes courage and trust, and I appreciate it when they set aside any preconceived notions about what this process will be like, long enough to give it a fair shot. I take this responsibility very seriously, recognizing how vulnerable these students frequently are from the moment they walk in the door. I treasure this partnership and I am so grateful to be a part of their personal journeys.

You do you: One of the many gifts that comes with ADHD is unique perspective. Whether it’s their ability to empathize with others who have been subjected to the cruelties the world can throw at those who are different, or just their incredible gift of looking at the world with their out-of-the-box point of view, the student who has ADHD is an incredible individual. So many of my students are willing to risk rejection, embarrassment, hurt feelings, and humiliation if it means they can be their authentic selves. I am grateful to be included among the people with whom my students are willing to be authentic.

Whatever you do, don’t forget to laugh: Laughter can be the greatest source of hope and healing. Stress is a frequent emotion that accompanies ADHD. Laughter is a natural stress reliever because it triggers the release of endorphins, our “feel good hormones.” Our minds are relieved of anxiety when we laugh, helping us to gain perspective, and thus, the ability to effectively troubleshoot any problematic situation. Interestingly, when students participate in activities that elicit laughter, their brains are better able to learn and retain information. Laughter increases oxygen intake and blood flow to the brain, improving cognitive function. I love laughing with my students; it’s a shared moment of relief from the pressure of our respective days, and it makes our time together so much fun.

I recognize the privilege that comes with my job. It’s so incredible to watch a kid, who starts her relationship with me from a point of struggle and vulnerability, grow and evolve into an independent and successful human being…and I get to accompany them along the way! Here’s the thing: I don’t know who learns more, me or my students. What I do know is that I am grateful to each and every one of my students for the intangible, but very valuable gifts they bring with them every day.