Newsletter Library

Alexandra in Tutorland

A calendar on a cork board

With summer winding down and the school year upon us, we are welcoming the change in seasons with good news and lots of energy. We are excited to begin the new year with a passionate and dedicated faculty. Our staff has grown tremendously, with TC veterans moving into new roles and new faces joining our team. Emilie Haft, educator and long-time Thinking Caps tutor, joins us as academing director in New York. Cera Jarrard is serving as our Dallas director and will be using her fantastic skills to continue growing our Dallas office. Sabrina Anderson, educator-extraordinaire, returns as the director of TC Austin. We are thrilled to welcome Victoria Graham, passionate teacher and native Houstonite, to Thinking Caps in the role of Houston director. Elizabeth Sztyk, the glue who holds us together, will continue to ensure that operations are running smoothly, in addition to heading our faculty experience initiative. This exceptional leadership team is joined by our outstanding teachers to form our family of educators. Please don’t hesitate to stay in touch to learn more about what we’ve been up to and keep us updated. We look forward to another year of backpacks, pencils, and success!

A Tale of One Tutor

Mary Shorey,
New York

A photo of Mary Shorey

Woody Allen is often quoted as saying “90% of life is showing up,” which I find very true. 90% of the time, I am just showing up to my various obligations in varying states of enthusiasm and hungriness, trying to keep a busy schedule on track. During my senior spring of college, I began auditioning for professional dance opportunities. I would drag myself out of bed at 7 am, make myself look presentable, show up to the audition, sometimes wait around for hours without even being seen, get rejected, then commute back to school, work, or rehearsal in order to show up on time. Show up, show up, show up. I was doing everything right, I thought, and getting nowhere. Tired, overworked, and frustrated at my lack of success, I was tempted not to show up. I started skipping a few here and there to seemingly no consequence.... I probably wouldn’t have gotten them, right? Until, a close friend of mine attended an audition I had decided to sleep through, and got it. Frustrated, I thought about how much more suited I was for that part than her, how easily I could have gotten that role instead, but I didn’t show up. I couldn’t possibly get jobs for which I don’t audition. I recommitted to showing up, editing my strategy towards the auditions that would be most suited for me, and eventually, I found success as well. I would offer Isabel Allende’s edit to Woody Allen’s statement: “Show up, Show up, Show up, and after a while, the muse shows up too.” Showing up to no results may become frustrating, like unsuccessfully attempting a math problem several times or putting effort into a class only to end up with an 89, but at no time is anything accomplished by giving up. Change your strategy, change your attitude, change your wardrobe, but keep showing up, mentally and physically. And eventually, the muse will show up too.

The (academic) Odyssey

Michelle Canarick, Ph.D
Licensed clinical psychologist with a focus on serving NYC mothers and adolescents.

A picture of Dr. Michelle Canarick

As the lazy days of summer wind down, children of all ages trade in their swim caps for their thinking caps. The start of the school year is a great time for students and families to set expectations for a successful academic journey. Unfortunately, keeping the momentum going through the winter isn’t always easy. Here are ways families can work together to avoid a winter let-down:

What you can do to help yourself:

  1. Aim for less conflict: Write a list of your academic non-negotiables; ie: homework before internet, homework is done in a calm environment, etc. Have your partner do the same. Compare notes. From there, create one unified list of 3-5 rules and share it with your child. These are the things you will fight about. Let everything else go. In addition to making your house feel less like a war-zone, it helps your child identify priorities. Best part, you feel less like a nag!
  2. Ask yourself, "What can I tolerate?": Just like when your child was a baby and you decided if you were the type of parent who could stand to hear him cry in the night or if you were the type to jump in and soothe him back to sleep, ask yourself now, if you can stand to watch your child flounder, and if so, how much. That is to say, decide consciously how involved you want to be in his school work. Set limits for yourself about when you jump in and when you stay out. This will help your child see you as a more neutral party.
  3. Be someone your child can talk to: Minus the conflict but plus the neutrality, you become a person your child can go to when she has a problem. If she’s feeling she hasn’t lived up to her goals, she can turn to you, and you can offer both an empathic ear and suggestions for how to be more successful.

What you can do to help your child:

  1. Help your child set realistic goals: Together, map out 2-3 goals for the first month, not for the whole year. Starting small will allow room for error. If your son wants to hand in all homework assignments, but misses one, you still have time to discuss ways to avoid this problem in the next month. Also, going month-by-month helps him to avoid a hole he can’t easily get out of.
  2. Help create organizational systems: Many kids falter because they don’t know how to organize their work, not because they don’t know how to do their work. Resist the urge to organize for her. Instead, teach her the skills. Be sure to empathize rather than criticize.
  3. Ask him what he sees as his pitfalls and ask how you can help: It’s much easier to accept help if it’s the help you believe you need, rather than the help someone else believes you need. If he doesn’t know right away, tell him you will be there when he does. This will keep the lines of communication open.

Once there is less tension and more talking, it is less likely you and your child will fall into the same patterns. If you do find yourself repeating old mistakes, take a step back and have empathy for both yourself and your child. It helps to remember that children want to be successful in the same ways that parents want them to be. You can also remind your child that the same is true for parents!

Sense and Sensibility

A drawing of a student listening to music

A student asks: I’m taking the ISEE in December. I know that I have the whole fall to prep, but I’m feeling really nervous. I’m not a good standardized test taker. I’m scared for the test...

Answer: Wow, what a great question! Taking tests can often make for a lot of unwanted anxiety. But there are ways to quell that anxiety. In order to be at your best, try the following: 1) don’t study too much the night before because this can actually cause more stress; 2) do something that makes you happy the evening before a test such as treating yourself to an ice cream cone or your favorite movie; 3 ) look at your best classroom exam of the year to remind yourself that you get it and you can master anything; 4) listen to calming music such as Mozart or Beethoven as this type of music helps to calm your thoughts; 5) go to sleep early and wake up early; 6) eat a healthy breakfast; and 7) shake it out because no matter what you know you tried your best! Most important, remember that if you’re spending the fall preparing for the test, you will be ready. Good luck!

Much Ado About Learning

"Learn from past mistakes. At the start of the year, reflect on your academic performance during the previous school year and identify things that didn't go well. Were there homework assignments that you neglected? Were there papers that you struggled with? Were there exams that you did poorly on? Evaluate the errors and use these as learning opportunities for the new year." -- Kevin Xu, New York

"Bring a spiral or a sheet of paper with you to your first day of classes. Most teachers will let you know what you need for the class. It's important to write down not only the physical supplies you need, but also any study strategies that the teacher may recommend for the course!" -- Andrew Gulde, Austin

"Stay on top of work from day 1. It is so easy to fall behind and the more you fall behind, the less likely and willing you will be to catch up. Start the school year strong and do as much as you can to see the year through." -- Tiffany Trinh, Houston

"Use summer reading as a launchpad for school-year success. Most students have some form of summer reading. Use the reading to learn. While reading these books (or any book for school for that that matter) keep this idea in mind: annotate, annotate, annotate. Annotations are key to critically reading/thinking, writing summaries of the book, and preparing for lengthy, complicated readings in the future." -- Ryne Bazan, Austin

"Get schedules in order before work ramps up. Even though there may not be a lot of work in the beginning of the year, start the year off with good habits and routines to prepare for more difficult and hectic schedules as the year progresses." -- Alexa Nicols, New York

"Look at key topics that you may have struggled with in the last year. Mastering a content area takes a lot of practice, and past difficulties are bound to come up again in the new school year. Reviewing challenging concepts can act as both a refresher and a brain exercise. Get out of the summer funk by doing a "hard stuff" preview. " -- Victoria Tu, New York

"Pick out one specific area or skill (not necessarily a subject) you need to work on improving and make that the goal. For example, I have always had trouble keeping my things organized, so I'm going to try to do a better job of that this semester by sorting out all my papers and materials at the end of each week. Once you have identified your trouble area, work toward improving it in the new year." -- Alec Puente, Austin

"A great way to start the school year off right is to use a highlighter or colored pens to keep track of your homework and other activities in your planner. I like to write my classes in one color and write my assignments in another and highlight them once they have been completed. It is a fun way to keep up with your work and will help you get into a routine that will allow you to start strong and stay ahead all year long." -- Kelli Gavin, Dallas