Newsletter Library

Alexandra in Tutorland: On preparing sudents

We spent the summer, as usual, shoring up curriculum, expanding our Resource Library, and making new materials. Our goal wasn’t simply to create worksheets. Instead, we wanted to continue developing our library of methods that help students become independent learners. In the process of this work, we engaged in many spirited discussions about what it means to be prepared – prepared for the next year, the next grade, college, and, ultimately, self-sufficient learning and working. We knew that we needed to ground our approaches in hands-on, applicable methodology and training: how to write a solid five paragraph essay or how to solve an equation. But we also wanted to design activities that would lead to creative and inquisitive minds. Our goal was to think about the specifics while also considering the broader lesson of learning. That way, a middle schooler could succeed in tomorrow’s math class and think creatively about how to apply his knowledge in the future. We knew that finding the right mixture is the key to helping students be prepared. After a productive summer, we’re excited about the duality of our program – one that combines hands-on programs such as math foundations and specific standardized test prep along with skills-based programs like Connect the DOTS that empowers a student's learning. As we head into the new year, we look forward to working with our returning students and new families. Happy back-to-school, everyone!

The (academic) Odyssey

Lauren Muriello, MA LPC
Licensed Psychotherapist and Founder of Well Being Therapy Center, specializing in Teens, Teen Groups and Families

A picture of Lauren Muriello

More homework, more commitments, more pressure, more stress. Does your household get more and more stressed out as the school year progresses? (Is your head nodding in agreement?) And would you like this to change? I'm quite certain your answer is also, "Yes."  The first step in making change to the emotional tone in your home is to recognize that we actually do have the ability to control our emotions. Most people find themselves being dragged along for an exhausting ride by their emotions. But what if you started seeing your brain as your tool to use? That's right, you can learn to control your brain and the emotional reaction you have to the world around you. This is one of the most important steps to your (and your children's) success in life.

One of my favorite skills to teach my clients (teens and adults) is: Deep Controlled Breathing. It seems so simple. Take a deep breath. And yet, it is one of the most powerful ways to control your emotions. Just three deep breaths, and your heart rate slows down, your brain waves shift, and your emotional brain begins to quiet down so your more logical brain can gain control again.

Try it now:

  1. Sit with your feet on the ground, or lie down.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Inhale through your nose to a count of 4.
  4. Exhale SLOWLY as if you were blowing through a straw, to a count of 8.
  5. Repeat as many times as you like, as often as you like.

How do you feel? Notice what is different. Have your thoughts slowed down? Do you feel more relaxed? In this calmer state of mind, the emotional center of your brain turns off, while your more logical brain begins to take control again. This is the part of your brain that has better judgment, makes smarter decisions, and can think ahead. I encourage you to teach this deep breathing technique to your children, especially your teenagers. Of course, they may roll their eyes and call you weird, but then they'll secretly try it without telling you next time they're anxious about a test.

Here are some of my favorite times to do deep breathing:

Here's to your Well Being!

Sense and Sensibility

A drawing of books and school accessories.

A student asks: I am a strong math and science student, but can't seem to figure out the formula for being a good writer. What can I do to improve my writing skills?

Answer: Before you label yourself as a "left-brained" thinker, let's get rid of that idea. Thanks to the work of Roger W. Sperry, we were stuck believing people prefer one way of thinking over the other. For example, a person who is a "left brained" thinker is often said to be more logical, analytical, and objective, while a person who is "right brained" is said to be more intuitive, thoughtful, and subjective. Just a popular myth folks! Believe it or not, continued research on how the brain works has shown that abilities in all subjects are actually strongest when both halves of the brain work together!

So now that we are aware of the outdated theory, let's make sure that all parts of our brains works as a team! In order to improve your writing, you really need to practice more or less every day. Write what you did today, or your opinion of something. You also need to keep reading and studying vocabulary to gradually make your language more sophisticated. When given a writing assignment you should annotate. Students who annotate their text read to understand meaning rather than read just to complete the assignment. Writing notes while reading will improve your writing tremendously.

Here are a couple ways to annotate:

With daily reading and writing practice, you’ll bolster your writing skills. Most important, don’t get stuck in the mindset that you’re not a good writer. Start practicing and keep one great writer’s words in mind:

"If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that" – Stephen King.

Much Ado About Learning: Get ready for back-to-school!

"A positive outlook really goes a long way! It's important to remember that half the battle - the transition back to school, that is - is mental. Therefore, it is a good idea to take some time to reflect on your last school year and start in September with the mindset that you are more than prepared to make this year even better." -- Zoe M, New York

"Establishing daily routines at home at the start of the school year (or even before) can help you adjust getting back to school. Doing this directly benefits your work in the classroom, where your day is full of routines. Create a checklist or flowchart to help children get organized and stay on schedule." -- Haley C, Austin

"Get to sleep earlier in the days before school starts so you can prepare yourself for the daily early wake-ups of the school time cycle." -- Tobias S, New York

"Keep in mind that each new school year is an adjustment in some way. You will have to get to know the expectations of new teachers, classrooms, and new types of schoolwork. As a result, it's important to read and listen to teacher feedback and pay close attention to what your assignments are asking of you. Once you have a sense of these expectations, you'll be well equipped to work closely with your tutor or teacher to set effective work routines and realistic goals for the year ahead. And have fun--it's an exciting time!" -- Christina V, New York

"Organize early and often! Keeping up to date on upcoming events in a planner can minimize last minute stress and anxiety." -- Claire S, Austin

"Keep your assignments organized by color coding them in your planner and crossing them out when you've completed them. " -- Lauren H, Austin

"A good planner is always a great investment to help you stay well-organized. As soon as classes start, (or maybe even earlier), use a planner to help you keep track of short- and long-term assignments as well as other projects or events. This will help you stay organized during the school year and really improve your time-management skills!" -- Daria V, New Jersey

"Sleep is just as important as studying and extra-curricular activities so remember to set aside at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night. The right amount of rest will allow you to concentrate in classes and keep up with the rigor of the course load!" -- Haseeb A, Austin

"Going back to school is like jumping into an ice bath. It can be a cold unexpected shock. In order to warm up to the idea of school again, think about it as an opportunity to start anew and leave new impressions on your teachers. Reflect on what did not work or was difficult for you last year and have the courage and motivation to conquer these obstacles this year. Prepare in advance and the ice bath won't be so shocking!" -- Tom C, New York