Archives

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.“

Making the Right Decisions for Your Education

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

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

This is the time of year when everyone is trying to make so many decisions about their education. It’s incredibly overwhelming for students and parents.

Where should I go for high school?

What program is right for me?

Should I apply for AP classes, the AICE program, or the Early College Program?

The deadline is coming and I don’t know what to choose!

What is the best choice for my future?

What do colleges and universities want to see?

What do you do to ensure that the best decision is made and you don’t lose your mind?

Personally, I am a huge fan of using Excel for these types of things. You can also get a blank piece of paper and pencil and start writing. Either way the point is to get your thoughts and options out of your head and onto a visual platform where you can see everything as a whole. This makes it easier to analyze everything. Click HERE for a free helpful spreadsheet to make your decisions. If you are trying to make decisions for college click HERE for a helpful worksheet.

List the schools and programs that interest you. If possible schedule tours of schools so you can see for yourself  where you want to go. When I was younger my dad would tell me to list the pros and cons related to a decision. I am not going to lie. When I was a teenager this sounded tedious, but it is great advice! I highly recommend doing it. What are the pros and cons of taking AP classes versus the Early College program? When you are listing pros and cons take into consideration your mental well being. There is a stress epidemic amongst teenagers. There is so much pressure to succeed. Don’t take on more than you can handle. Consider everything you want to do while going to school. What extracurricular activities do you want to do? Do you want to work or have an internship? Be realistic when analyzing your options and making decisions. Finally, write down any questions you have and take them to your guidance counselor for review. 

Slow Down!

While I know these decisions are overwhelming they are not something to take lightly. I understand your best friend may be going to one school, but that may not be the best suited place for you. It sounds annoying to have to make a list, visit schools, etc., but it’s WORTH IT! These decisions affect a huge part of your life so it’s important to analyze all your options carefully. Be mindful of deadlines and if you have major questions make an appointment with your guidance counselor. Please take the time to do what’s right for you.

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.“

The Ultimate Test Prep Guide – Ace Any Exam

This workbook is the best guide to meeting your academic goals for tests, midterm exams, and final exams. Many students have found success with using these strategies! This book contains information that will help you before and during your exams. You will learn how to prepare for any test in a way that suits you as well as combat test anxiety. You will succeed! You can do it!

test prep guide title page

Today’s educational system is becoming increasingly competitive for students, as educational institutions are being required to increase their standards. This is causing a stress epidemic amongst students. They must learn as much as they can, and learn it effectively. As someone who works closely with teens I see this the intense pressure students are under. Unfortunately, in school there is no stress management class and students are forced to “deal” with these overwhelming feelings of anxiety.

I created this book so students can achieve the grades they want on major tests with less stress and more success; thus helping them reach their academic goals. With this book I hope you are able to learn how to manage the stress that comes with exams and effectively study in a way that suits your learning style.

test prep guide table contents

Want this workbook so you can get the grade you want? Contact me at (904) 487-8269 or email me at hello@studentfutures.org for more information. Workbooks are just $15. Need some help preparing for exams? I can walk you through every step of the way. We can set up a session and make a plan for you to achieve your goals.

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.“

 

What is your ideal future?

teen thinking

Imagine yourself ten years from now. You have accomplished everything you set out to and your dreams have come true. You are happy and successful. Think about how you did it all and how proud you are of your achievements. When you imagine your future self think about:

  • Your fashion
  • Your location what kind of place you are living in
  • What you are doing for a living
  • What a typical day looks like
  • Your favorite things to do
  • Who your friends are
  • Where is your family
  • What you value

What nickname would you give to your future self?

Answering these questions and thinking about your future self will help you realize how unique your personal aspirations are. You may also realize that your ideal future self is within your reach. Is there any action steps you are taking want to start taking to ensure your future is how you pictured? What is one goal you can set to make sure you are working towards the future you imagined?

What message does your future self have for you? 

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.“

If You Were the Bravest Version of You

brave

If you were the bravest version of yourself today, what would you be doing?

Being brave means accomplishing your goals and following your dreams even though there is a part of you that is scared out of your mind. There are things that hold us back from reaching our goals. One of those can be fear. Students in middle school, high school, and college, experience fear on a regular basis.

Students’ Top Fears

  • Fear of failure
  • Fear they won’t be liked
  • Fear they will get in trouble
  • Fear of bullies
  • Fear of talking to parents
  • Fear of the future and life after graduation
  • Fear of bad grades
  • Fear of talking to teachers
  • Fear of not being good enough
  • Fear of not having enough money

Benefits of Fear

Fear is an emotion and emotions, whether negative or positive, remind us that we are human. Most fears are not real, but made-up.  They are usually not true threats to your life and success. Being mindful of our fears and recognizing where they come from can help us work through challenges. Analyze why the fear is taunting you before it worsens. Facing our fears helps develop confidence. Confidence derives from achieving what we never thought possible. Listen to your fears and show it who’s boss!

How to be the bravest version of yourself.

Maybe it’s just by showing up to class on time, sitting down and doing the work, and sticking with it even when it feels scary and tough.

Maybe it’s by saying no to the things that will distract you from achieving your dreams and reaching your goals.

Maybe it’s by finally getting started on something new  like a project or something new that you have been wanting to learn or improve upon.

Maybe it’s by reaching out to a friend, coach, or mentor, asking them for help, and giving yourself permission to not have to do this journey on your own anymore. 

Your fears are not going to just vanish. It is human nature to experience fear. It will always be a part of your life. The biggest challenge is to be fearless. It’s to follow our dreams and continue to work towards our goals despite any fear we might have. Be brave.

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.“

 

Words of Wisdom: Walt Disney

Disney words of wisdom

Disney words of wisdom

Worry means to feel or experience concern or anxiety. Students tend to worry a lot about their grades, appearance, and much more. Parents worry about their children, job, finances, and other things. Too much worry, anxiety, or stress can affect the way you feel and live your life. Have you ever been so worried about how you will do on an exam that you can’t remember all that you have studied and end up not getting the grade you wanted? Don’t worry. Be happy!

Keep things in perspective.

Most things we worry about already happened or are temporary. Most things are solvable. Ask yourself, “How can I solve this problem?” “What can I do about this?” 

Focus on the positive.

Ask yourself: “What did I learn from this?” 

What if?

 Suppose, just for a moment, you live in a world where fear and anxiety do not exist. What could you do now?

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.“

Mindfulness Intro For Students

Mindfulness has been scientifically proven to help middle and high school students as well as college students conquer stress and anxiety, and reach their academic and future goals. In this introductory video learn the benefits of mindfulness for students and participate in a short exercise that can be used in the future. I will tell you my two favorite FREE mindfulness apps too!

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

Mindfulness involves using all your senses, thoughts, bodily sensations, and emotions to be present in the moment. With mindfulness we have the opportunity to learn how to respond to our emotions rather than react. Mindfulness has proven to have many benefits, especially, for students. Using mindfulness can help you meet your academic and future goals. While some students are making excellent grades, they may be experiencing a lot of stress with trying to keep up with the workload or staying organized. Mindfulness can help them manage their emotional well being, thus also positively affecting their physical health. Students who have practiced mindfulness have experienced better self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

For mindfulness to work, we have to really try it. And in the beginning, it might seem weird or pointless. But, keep in mind that this is new and different and with practice this will be beneficial to you. If we don’t try it, we can’t determine if it is useful for ourselves or not. So, let’s list some ways that you might find mindfulness to be useful and relevant in your own life.

Raise your hand if you have ever:

  • said something you wish you could take back?
  • done something that you later regretted?
  • felt angry and out of control?
  • felt nervous or anxious about an exam or performance?
  • been in a bad mood but not sure why?
  • been in a bad mood but not even sure what emotion it is?
  • felt like you need a break and want everyone to just leave you alone?
  • had trouble falling asleep because your mind won’t be quiet or your body feels restless?
  • been accidentally spacing out in class when the teacher calls on you?
  • noticed that you do much better at sports or music when you are really focused?

Our emotions are continually changing. Difficult emotions like anger, fear, worry, and stress actually release chemicals in our brain that prevent us from learning, and can make us react and say and do things we didn’t want to. Mindfulness stops these chemicals.

So how can you incorporate mindfulness into your schoolwork? Ready to give it a try?

There are some things to know before we start. So, in practice there is a leap from the big picture we just discussed to very simple techniques. We will be mindful of sound, breath, movement, thoughts, emotions, and other things. We will be paying attention on purpose for a short period of time.

Every time we practice mindfulness, we start by getting in a mindful posture. A mindful posture has five guidelines:

  1. Facing forward
  2. Back is upright
  3. Put your hands on your lap or beside you.
  4. Be still
  5. Be Quiet
  6. Mind and body are relaxed yet alert
  7. Letting your eyes close

Ok. Now that you are in a comfortable seated position let’s begin.

  • Start by taking one breath in through the nose and out through the mouth.
  • Now, close your eyes and take one deep breath.
  • Now take three breaths, but just normal breaths, don’t deliberately change it.
  • Now, take three breaths, this time noticing what you are feeling, hearing, touching, tasting, seeing (in your mind).
  • If you feel any kind of stress take a deep breath.
  • Picture this in your mind:

You are getting ready to take a test and feel relaxed because you are well prepared and know the material. You pick up your pencil and with a positive attitude you write your name at the top of the paper. You read and understand the directions. You work through the test easily completing each question. You answer the last question and have enough time to check your answers. You hand in your test and are confident that you will get the grade you want. Imagine rewarding yourself for your hard work and feeling satisfied with your success.

The goal with this exercise is for you to feel confident and relaxed to start studying or take a test. It is an easy and great exercise to do before a test or beginning a study session. If at any time you lose focus during this exercise just take a deep breath and re-focus.

I hope you continue to try mindfulness and that you find it helps you. My favorite FREE apps are Insight Timer and Breathe. Breathe is a great introduction to mindfulness and Insight Timer is a great app for finding guided meditations. You can search by topic and/ or length. Namaste.

mel professional photo by kateMelanie Black is an Associate Certified Academic Life Coach and mindfulness educator who trained with Mindful Schools. 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.“

Helping a Shy Teen Come Out of Their Shell

Photo credit: https://cdn.pixabay.com/photo/2015/09/26/15/46/young-959231_960_720.jpg

Photo credit: https://cdn.pixabay.com/photo/2015/09/26/15/46/young-959231_960_720.jpg

What does it mean to be shy? Psychology today defines shyness as “the awkwardness or apprehension some people feel when approaching or being approached by other people. Unlike introverts, who feel energized by time alone, shy people often desperately want to connect with others, but don’t know how or can’t tolerate the anxiety that comes with human interaction.”

It’s important to understand the difference between shy and introverted. A common misconception is that all introverts are shy. This is not the case. Both introverts and extroverts can be shy. Shyness is the result of anxiety. It’s ok if your teen is quiet and there is no need to try to make them “liven up.” However, if their shyness hinders their communication with others, or limits them from doing things they want to do, then they might need some help in gaining some self-confidence so that they can come out of their shell.

Tips for helping teens rise above their shyness with confidence.

  • Help your teen pick a hobby or talent that they can master.
  • Give teens specific praise (a.k.a labeled praise) when they do well. Ex. You did a great job putting together that project board. OR Thank you for folding your laundry when asked.
  • Encourage them to learn from their mistakes rather than focusing on the outcome.
  • Be a positive role model for your teen. Model confidence.
  • Encourage your teen to get involved in the community like volunteering at a local organization or getting a part time job. Click HERE to read about local opportunities for teens.
  • Have a powerful discussion with your teen about something they are proud of, something they accomplished and how they did it.
  • Seek out a good role model for your teen. Click HERE for a list of mentoring programs and services in Jacksonville, FL.

 

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.