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It’s Spring Break!

photo credit: http://www.patrick.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/732972/top-3-mac-honor-junior-enlisted-during-picnic/

photo credit: http://www.patrick.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/732972/top-3-mac-honor-junior-enlisted-during-picnic/

There’s no school for a week! The days every student cherishes. You get to sleep in, catch up on your favorite shows, and hang out with your friends. What else can you do with this time? Let’s face it. You can watch so many shows and sleep only so much before boredom sets in and you feel blah. It’s understandable that opportunities to relax and unwind are rare for students, but this time off provides more opportunities than just time to chill. Students can take advantage of free time to work towards their goals. Learn something new like baking something yummy, or practicing a new sport. Do college and career planning. Volunteer with a local organization related to your future career. Participate in a job shadow of someone who works in the career field you aspire to work in. Create a bucket list for summer break. Get your friends involved! Accomplishing these types of things on off days and long breaks requires planning in advance.

Brainstorm some ideas of what to do on your off days and long breaks. Make your own No School Bucket List! Be specific. Do not write college planning or volunteering. Write: research (school name), or volunteer with Humane Society.

What actions do you need to take in advance to be able to accomplish these things? For example, research a recipe to try or type my resume.

Enjoy your spring break. Use your time wisely. 

 

mel professional photo by kateMelanie Black is an Associate Certified Academic Life Coach and mindfulness educator. She is passionate about helping others and learning all she can in the process. With ten years of experience in the field of education, she is determined to help students succeed in school and life. “ One of my goals is to continue to be a humanitarian who helps our local community. I am passionate about my relentless pursuit of knowledge and desire to help others.“

Helping Students Track Their Own Progress

student progress

Why should students monitor their own progress?

Often, teachers know how students are doing overall, but students themselves rarely know. Students who track their grades regularly, not just at midterms and finals, take ownership of their learning, and are more likely to persevere in the face of challenges and take steps to proactively meet their goals. Tracking their progress empowers students to be independent and successful, which will not only benefit them in school but in any future endeavor.

Benefits

When students track their own grades:

  • They take ownership of learning
  • They are intrinsically motivated
  • They perform better on high-stake tests
  • They learn how to track goals

What does it mean for students to track their own progress?

A student has to understand how they learn, and have the ability to articulate, create, or ask for the resources necessary to meet their learning needs. Students with these attributes take responsibility for and ownership of their learning by reflecting on successes and failures, and creating action steps to positively progress forward in reaching their goals.

When students track their progress, it means that they have set a goal and know how to measure where they are in the process of achieving it. Students regularly analyze and update their goals using concrete evidence—which can be anything. Students should reflect often on what is working and what’s not and figure out what they need to do to make progress with their goals.

How can parents help?

Having a simple non-judgmental conversation with your student is helpful. Ask them how satisfied they are with their grades. Ask them what’s working and what’s not. Then, discuss a plan on how to deal with what’s not working. Ask them what kind of help they might need to be successful. Making this a regular conversation is helpful.

CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR OWN DOWNLOADABLE PROGRESS TRACKER!

mel professional photo by kateMelanie Black is an Associate Certified Academic Life Coach and mindfulness educator. She is passionate about helping others and learning all she can in the process. With ten years of experience in the field of education, she is determined to help students succeed in school and life. “ One of my goals is to continue to be a humanitarian who helps our local community. I am passionate about my relentless pursuit of knowledge and desire to help others.“

Using the 5 Dimensions of Learning to Achieve Your Goals

 

photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/83633410@N07/

photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/83633410@N07/

Everyone learns differently. In schools everyone is taught the same way, so most people think that the ways they learned in school are the only ways to learn! Actually, there are many, many different ways a person can learn. For example, some people need to move in order to learn and others need to doodle. When a student is able to understand how they learn best they can be successful in middle school, high school, college, and beyond. At Student Futures I help students analyze the 5 dimensions of learning and how they can use each to achieve their goals. The student completes a small online assessment, which we use to look at how they can use their strengths to their advantage and how they can improve their weaknesses.

5 dimensions of learning

POWER TRAITS

The ways you learn and work best make up your Power Traits for Life! There are 5 Power Traits or dispositions: Performing, Producing, Inventing, Relating/ Inspiring, and Thinking/ Creating. Most people have a Primary and a Secondary Disposition —their two highest scores. However, since everyone is different, the combination of scores is different for everyone. Your power traits can be used to help you: learn, study, memorize, communicate, organize, manage your time, get clearer about your interests, passions, and career possibilities. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to score. There are no scores that are “better” or “worse” than someone else’s scores. Whatever your scores are, they are your scores; they are a picture of you! Knowing your Disposition will help you understand what your overall learning and working strengths are so that you can choose materials and activities that will help you achieve your goals.

MODALITY

Your Modality strengths determine how you best process incoming information whether it be visually, Listening, or hands on. Reading, watching movies, sketching, writing, listening, doing something are examples of how we process information. It is very important to get to know your Modality strengths so you can learn how to use them to your best advantage, you will find that learning new information, memorizing, and even doing assignments will become so much easier. You will learn more, better, and faster, because you will be using materials and techniques that work for you!

ENVIRONMENT

Third dimension is your Environment which is everything that surrounds you and can affect your learning and working time positively or negatively. Some people are more affected by certain aspects of the environment than other people. For example, some people have a really hard time concentrating when it is cold, others have trouble when it is hot, and others are not bothered at all by the temperature. Some people can work in their room on the floor and others feel more comfortable at a desk. Some people like to work with music and some can’t concentrate.

INTERESTS

Your Interests, the fourth dimension of learning, are your greatest motivators! What do you love? You do your best learning when you are interested in and excited about what you are learning. The more you can integrate your interests and passions into your schoolwork, the better you will do!

TALENTS

The last dimension is Your Talents, which are the natural abilities that you were born with. Often, a person’s Talents point to career opportunities. However, you might not be interested in pursuing a Talent as a career. On the other hand, you might have a Talent that you would love to pursue, but people have discouraged you. Whether you are interested in pursuing a Talent or not, you can learn to put it to good use, to make your learning and working easier and more efficient.

Want to take the assessment and learn more about how you learn and can achieve your goals? Send me an email at hello@studentfutures.org

mel professional photo by kateMelanie Black is an Associate Certified Academic Life Coach and mindfulness educator. She is passionate about helping others and learning all she can in the process. With ten years of experience in the field of education, she is determined to help students succeed in school and life. “ One of my goals is to continue to be a humanitarian who helps our local community. I am passionate about my relentless pursuit of knowledge and desire to help others.“

 

 

 

How to Make a Planner Work for You

Do you have a hard time using your planner? Is it too big? Too small? Not enough room to write?

In this video I share my story of how I created a planner that works for me. Every middle and high school, and college student are different and we all have different preferences when it comes to planner yet most planners have the same layout. In this video I give some simple tips for finding and creating a planner that works for you. It’s easy. I promise. Check it out!

 

Don’t have time to check out the video? No worries. Here’s the gist of it.

I have gone through several planners to get to the one I use now, which I am very happy with. First, I purchased a pretty faux leather planner from Office Depot for about $35. It was a beautiful turquoise, which is my favorite color, and had a weekly layout along with a monthly layout. As with a majority of planners the weekly layout was standard small rectangles for each day. One week spanned two pages. It was ok but I couldn’t fit everything I wanted in those rectangular spaces each day.

For Christmas one year my best friend sent me a couple of Moleskine notebooks with a sticky note on the front that read, “Go to bulletjournal.com” This was life changing! If you don’t know about bullet journaling check it out! For about 6 months I experimented with bullet journalling and various planner layouts that I created. Eventually after using the same layout for a few months I grew tired of drawing the my template in my notebook every week.

I decided it was time to create a template on the computer, one I could print out, one I didn’t have to draw each week. I went to YouTube and found a basic video tutorial for Adobe InDesign about how to create a planner page. Once again another life changing moment! So I created my template and printed it. I put into that old pretty turquoise planner binder from Office Depot. Great! So I have my customized template and a pretty cover. All is good, right?

So this binder was too small. Back to InDesign. I made my template bigger, 8.5×11. I bought a 1/2 inch white binder from Office Depot for less than $5 and printed my template. Perfecto! I also created a photo collage, which I printed and inserted on the front cover of my binder. Then, I created a sticker collage of positive messages and inserted that into the back cover. I love my planner!

What I learned about finding and creating suitable planners.

It’s not the cover or binder that you want to base your purchase on. It’s what’s inside the planner that you want to pay attention to. However, you shouldn’t completely ignore the pretty cover. A planner’s appearance should make you want to use it. I added photos and positive messages to mine because when I look at it makes me happy, it makes me want to open it up and write in it. Lastly, creating systems is a process that requires patience and time. Patience is a virtue!

Want to make a planner that works for you? Here’s my advice. 

  1. Take a blank piece of computer paper. Cut it to the size you want your planner to be.
  2. Take a pencil and draw what your ideal planner would look like. If you are talented you could even do it on the computer!
  3. Punch holes and put it into a binder that works for you.
  4. Make it fun. Buy some stickers, print some photos.

**Use it for one month. Then reflect and decide what works and what doesn’t. Edit your template, tweak your planner accordingly.

Does this sound like too much work? There are lots of different planner systems you can experiment with but it may cost you a pretty penny. Here are some that are popular.

HAPPY PLANNING!

mel professional photo by kateMelanie Black is an Associate Certified Academic Life Coach and mindfulness educator. She is passionate about helping others and learning all she can in the process. With ten years of experience in the field of education, she is determined to help students succeed in school and life. “ One of my goals is to continue to be a humanitarian who helps our local community. I am passionate about my relentless pursuit of knowledge and desire to help others.“

How to Talk About College and Careers With Your Teen

The Vermeire's come together for a family dinner, sharing the day's stories from school, work and track practice. Each of the girls have different daily routines dependent on school activities, chores and after school employment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

photo credit:  (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Sometimes parents get the big eye roll when they try to discuss college and careers with their teenagers. Teens get college and career advice all the time. Everyone has an opinion about their aspirations, interests, etc. So how can you have a powerful discussion with your teen about college and careers?

“You should be a …..” 

Ask you teen what career interests they have, but don’t tell them what to be. Even if you notice a talent they have that would make them suitable for a particular path if they have no interest in that area they will not be able to excel in that field. Try suggesting a career rather than telling them what they should do. “Have you thought about …….” “Do you know anything about ……”

You can be whatever you want to be.

While this is a supportive approach it is not the best way to help your teen. This statement gives them no guidance. Ask your teen questions about careers. Talk about choices together.

If it’s hard then don’t do it.

This is not something parents should say to students. We need to encourage our children to take on challenges and persevere. Challenging things make us stronger. We learn from challenging experiences. I know we want our children to take on a career that will not be stressful or cause emotional pain, but at the same time some people see a job as overwhelming and others may see the same job as an opportunity. Don’t discourage your teen. If you think they mention a career that is challenging explore the pros and cons together.

Picture yourself 10 years from now. Where are you? What are you doing? Who is around you?

Do you have a career vision?

What do you want to get really good at doing?

What is your definition of work?

What impact do you want to have on other people’s lives or in the world?

Whom do you admire most? What qualities do you admire in that person. (living or dead)

What is most important to you? What do you value?

What motivates you?

Do you believe that you can love what you do and make money doing it?

The best thing you can do for your teen is listen to them, ask them about their interests, and guide them to making choices best suited for them.

Melanie Black is an Associate Certified Academic Life Coach and mindfulness educator. She is passionate about helping others and learning all she can in the process. With ten years of experience in the field of education, she is determined to help students succeed in school and life. “ One of my goals is to continue to be a humanitarian who helps our local community. I am passionate about my relentless pursuit of knowledge and desire to help others.“

Going to a College Fair

college fair

Attending a National College Fair is a great opportunity for students in grades 8-12 to talk with representatives from a variety of schools. Plus, learn about scholarship information, financial aid and how to complete the FAFSA, tips for athletes, college essay tips, and much more! There are 92 college National College Fairs offered across the United States in 2017 with over 1,800 colleges and universities participating.  Go to www.gotomyncf.com to locate and register for a fair close to you. It’s FREE! Yippee!

TIPS FOR SUCCESS

  • Remain open minded: Some students have their sights fixed on a particular school. The college fair is a unique opportunity to discover schools you may not have considered.
  • Bring a shopping bag: Vendors are going to hand you a ton of stuff. Have a bag with you so you don’t have to carry stuff around in your hands. When you go home and have more time you can lay everything out and sort through it all.
  • Pen and small pad of paper in case you need to take notes. Using the Evernote app on your phone is also a good option.
  • Do make a plan beforehand. There will be a ton of colleges and universities at the college fair. Take the time to plan which schools are a priority for you to visit.
  • Decide what you will wear to the fair. There is no need to get all dressed up but you want to leave a good impression so dress appropriately.
  • If you have a resume listing your achievements, GPA, test scores, activities you are involved in it is good to bring copies with you to hand out to representatives.
  • Talk to everyone! Don’t just add your name and email to a list. Introduce yourself to the representatives.
  • Write out specific questions you have for schools and take notes as you go. *(PLEASE! Think about the messages your questions give the admissions rep.) Ex. I heard your school is a party school. vs. What is the graduation rate at your school? Click HERE for 30 Questions to Ask at an Education Fair.
  • Follow up! Ask for contact information from the people you speak to or ask if they have a business card. Ex. “It was so nice to meet you and hear about [name of school]. Thank you for taking the time. I’m hoping to visit your campus sometime in the future. May I have your business card? I’d love to keep in touch.” After the fair email them thanking them for their time and express why you have an interest in that particular school and that you can’t wait to visit.

COLLEGE FAIR TIPS

MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR VISIT TO A NATIONAL COLLEGE FAIR

 

Melanie Black is an Associate Certified Academic Life Coach and mindfulness educator. She is passionate about helping others and learning all she can in the process. With ten years of experience in the field of education, she is determined to help students succeed in school and life. “ One of my goals is to continue to be a humanitarian who helps our local community. I am passionate about my relentless pursuit of knowledge and desire to help others.“

Finals: Defeating Test Anxiety

photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/anniferrr/

photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/anniferrr/

Test Anxiety: Don’t Panic!

Sometimes no matter how hard you’ve worked to prepare for a test, anxiety can prevent you from performing to your full potential. Students get test anxiety for reasons such as fear of failure, lack of preparation, and poor test history. It can affect them physically, emotionally, and cognitively. Thus, affecting their results on the exam and their overall grade in a course.

I have had test anxiety ever since I was in elementary school. It only got worse when I was in college and university. The minute I received the test I felt my heart pound harder and harder. My face felt hot and my body became extremely tense. Timed tests only made the situation more stressful.

There are several ways to deal with test anxiety. Don’t suffer! Here are some strategies to help students overcome all the stress that comes with taking tests, especially timed tests.

 

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/

MOVE
Move around while studying. Stretch. Take Breaks. Walk around with your study sheets and flash cards and read them aloud.
MINDFULNESS
Breathe! “If you’re feeling nervous when you sit down to take the test, take three slow, steady breaths. Remind yourself that you’ve been getting ready for these tests all year long.” – Ted Dorsey
My favorite free mindfulness apps are MindShift and Breathe
FIDGET
Focus with fidget toys. Fat Brain Toys has the ultimate selection of fidget toys, which are searchable by age. Also, use small things such as a bracelet or necklace.
SLEEP
Get plenty of sleep. Don’t study while tired. If you are tired then stop. You will not retain anything if you are exhausted.
EAT
Always eat breakfast! During a test maintain your focus with a peppermint candy, gum, or a piece of chocolate.
PLAN AHEAD
Create a study plan two weeks in advance with a study schedule and specific strategies that will help you retain what you need to know.
MUSIC
Create a study playlist. Pick your power song and listen to it before the test for motivation.
TIME MANAGEMENT
Don’t panic when students start handing in their papers. There’s no reward for finishing first. If there’s answer you don’t know skip it and come back to it later.

 

 

Melanie Black of Student Futures is a trained academic life coach for students and teens. She has a passion to help students succeed. Academic coaching helps develop life skills for students as well as gives them academic strategies, which help to decrease anxiety and stress in students. Contact Melanie Black today for a free consultation at Melanie@studentfutures.org or (904) 487-8269.

Final Exam Preparation Tips for Students

 

cat finalsStart preparing now!

Finals are a time when you get to show off. Whether it’s an exam or presentation this is your chance to display how far you’ve come in a particular subject, how much you’ve learned.  Show your teachers and professors how awesome you are. What do you want to do with what you’ve learned this year or semester? What will your reward be after final exams are completed? How will you celebrate? The reward is super important to have in mind while studying and completing final exams.

 

 

 Students:

Create a study schedule at least 2 weeks or more in advance for finals. Your plan should state what subjects you are studying when and for how long, as well as noting specific study strategies you will use. Just saying you will study or review a chapter is not specific enough. The best way to retain info is to actively study the information, not just read over it. For help read my post on studying and the brain.

When you are making your plan  think about how much time you want to put aside each night for studying? For example, if it is 2 hours then, you need to decide what you want to study in those two hours each night. It could be 1 hour of math and then 1 hour of English.  Depending on how many subjects you have to study for the next night you may spend your two hours studying science and history. The first week you will probably study each subject more than once for about an hour at a time. At the beginning of the second week those hour-long segments should be shortened to 30-45 minutes. Towards the end of the second week the 30-45 min. should be shortened again. When you are a couple of days away from finals there should be NO CRAMMING because you have utilized what’s called the “Curve of Forgetting,” where you study a little bit at a time on a consistent basis. This is the BEST STUDY METHOD!  Write out your plan and post it where you can see it everyday. You might even want to utilize your smart phone to set reminders. Also, see my post about Test Taking: Tips, Strategies, & How to Reduce Anxiety. Lots of helpful stuff!

Parents:

Here’s how you can help your student with the stresses and anxiety brought about by final exams. Be positive and a good listener. Sometimes students don’t need you to tell them what to do. They just need someone to listen and empathize. Purchase one of our Finals Survival Kits or put together your own. They will be so grateful to you for caring.

Photo Credit: https://vulcanvillage.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/final-exams-yes1.png

Melanie Black of Student Futures is a certified academic life coach for students and teens. She has a passion to help students succeed. Academic coaching helps develop life skills for students as well as gives them academic strategies, which help to decrease anxiety and stress in students. Contact Melanie Black today for a free consultation at Melanie@studentfutures.org or (904) 487-8269.

 

Photo Credit: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/e6/75/69/e675697a7d99100ee7f1e7c6e2b6551b.jpg

Photo Credit: https://vulcanvillage.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/final-exams-yes1.png

 

2016 Summer Opportunities for Teens

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pustovit/

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pustovit/

 

Start thinking about your summer plans now. Various places in Jacksonville and surrounding areas are taking applications and they usually have to be submitted soon. There are lots of opportunities out there for teens to gain valuable experiences depending on their interests. If you don’t see something that interests you but know of an organization you would like to get involved in just call them up and ask if they have any opportunities available. Using your time wisely over the summer can greatly benefit students when applying to colleges and universities. Admissions are looking for individuals who have been active in their community.


Benefits of Community Service for Teens

Develop a sense of social responsibility

Exposure to diversity and multiculturalism.

Builds relationships and network with peers, adults, and others.

Improves communication and critical thinking skills.

Stand out among other applicants at a college or university

Discover passions and interests that lead to a career choice


Use the links below to discover local opportunities for teens 

Medical Field (volunteer)

UF Health
Nemours
Baptist Health
American Red Cross

Animals (volunteer)

Jacksonville Zoo
Jacksonville Humane Society

The Arts (camp/ course)

Florida Film Academy at Flagler College
UNF Summer Music Camp for Middle and High School Students

STEM (camp/ course/ internship)

UNF Summer Tech Camps for Kids and Teens
(MOSH) Museum of Science and History Teen Internship Program

Jobs

Summer Jobs for Teens

 Melanie Black of Student Futures is a certified academic life coach for students and teens. She has a passion to help students succeed. Academic coaching helps develop life skills for students as well as gives them academic strategies, which help to decrease anxiety and stress in students. Contact Melanie Black today for a free consultation at Melanie@studentfutures.org or (904) 487-8269.

Brain Food to Help Students Study

FullSizeRender (10)

I am currently working on another big project for Student Futures. For lunch I decided I needed some brain food to help me stay focused. I had a craving for nut butter and strawberries so I made myself a delicious sandwich with whole grain bread, freshly sliced strawberries, almond butter, and honey. I should add that this sandwich is just as yummy if you switch the berries for apple slices. Of course there was dessert! I had a piece of Dove almond dark chocolate. Choosing the right foods for your meals and snacks is super important when studying and working.

 

 

IMG_4045

You are what you eat. What you eat affects how you think and feel.

University of Rochester Department of Chemistry researcher Joshua Geiger says that fruit provides the best energy for evening study periods between 7:45 and 9:45 p.m. However, while your brain requires glucose to function, sugary foods, processed carbohydrates and soft drinks can lead to blood sugar spikes followed by drops that can cause fatigue and food cravings and leave you unable to focus. In particular, avoid eating sweets and sugary foods at night, or when you haven’t eaten regularly, because these foods are digested more rapidly on an empty stomach.

 

Top Brain Foods to Help Students StudyIMG_4046

Whole Grains: Eating whole grain foods can enhance memory function and enable you to get better grades. Give yourself an energy boost while studying by chowing down on whole grain breads, crackers, and pasta.

Dark Chocolate: According to WebMD “Dark chocolate has powerful antioxidant properties, contains several natural stimulants, including caffeine, which enhance focus and concentration, and stimulates the production of endorphins, which helps improve mood.” However, this is one brain food where less is better for you. A small piece of dark chocolate is all you need.

Berries: Next time you are studying for a test or exam eat a handful of berries. The have significant health effects directly related to brain function. Not only do these colorful and flavorful snacks act as antioxidants, but they also reduce levels of toxins in your bloodstream, improving blood flow to the brain, and enhancing brain activity.

IMG_4049Nuts: Go nuts! Nuts like walnuts, almonds, and pistachios contain vitamin E and fatty acids that help your brain perform at its best. Nuts are also a good source of iron which provides oxygen to the brain, increasing making you more mentally alert and able to retain information. They make for a great energy boost when needed too.

 

 

Fish: Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for brain development. The fatty acids in fish help us focus more and study better.

Apples: The peel of the apple is made up of an antioxidant called quercetin that heightens memory function, which makes an apple a great study snack.

Beans: The brain needs glucose for to keep going. Beans stabilize blood sugar levels. Beans give you the energy you need to keep going while studying for those final exams. Personally, I love carrots and hummus. Hummus is made of garbanzo beans. Beans also contain folic acid which helps with retention.

BON APPETIT! 

IMG_4054IMG_4055

 Melanie Black of Student Futures is a certified academic life coach for students and teens. She has a passion to help students succeed. Academic coaching helps develop life skills for students as well as gives them academic strategies, which help to decrease anxiety and stress in students. Contact Melanie Black today for a free consultation at Melanie@studentfutures.org or (904) 487-8269.