Newsletter Library

Alexandra in Tutorland

Cartoon drawing of a female face

As we started the new calendar year, everyone around me was making resolutions. The holiday season gave people time to reflect and many were ready to start anew. January brought a clean slate, a new year, a place to start fresh. But for me, January didn’t feel like a starting place. Instead, it was a moment for me to take a step back and appraise my big picture, my achievement thus far, and think about changes I wanted to make in the second half of the year. As important as it is to set goals, it is also important to perform an audit to review the goals, progress, and make necessary adjustments. As we head into the second half of the year, follow these steps for your own Winter Audit:

  1. Review: Whether it was using your planner on a daily basis, implementing a new organizational system, or eliminating distractors from your work time, take some time to revisit the goals you set for yourself at the start of the year. Check in on the big goals, review your action plan for working toward the goals, and evaluate how successful you have been in following the plan.

  2. Commit: Pat yourself on the back for your achievements. If you weren’t able to reach all of your goals or didn’t stick to your original plans, don’t beat yourself up. Review your accomplishments and commit to returning to your plan. If tasks weren’t completed because they were too daunting, make sure to break up the goals further into smaller, achievable actions.

  3. Recruit: Remember that there are people to help you along your path to success. If you’re having a hard time reaching your goals alone, use your resources. Pair up with a friend to hold each other accountable, meet with a teacher for review, or work with a mentor when you’re feeling stuck. By working with others, you’ll be on your way to reaching your goals.

A Tale of One Tutor

Katie Fulmer
Academic Director, Houston

A picture of Kaite Fulmer

I will be perfectly honest with all of you: Working as an Academic Director with adult ADD is NOT easy. Organization and task management do not come naturally to someone like me, but when I was in high school I met a mentor who showed me how to navigate my learning difference and be successful. That is why I am so motivated to help Thinking Caps families by pairing great tutors with their students. It worked for me.

When I met Allie, my high school BFF, we were in all the same right-brained AP classes. Both highly involved in extra-curriculars, we bonded immediately, but there was something strikingly different about the two of us. Allie was and had always been a straight-A student whereas I had been shrugging off Bs and Cs for years. I ran late for the bus and housed tiny explosions in my backpack, binder and locker.

I had undiagnosed ADD. All of my teachers begged for testing but it was not something my family wanted to admit. My attitude with school was that I would rely on my intelligence and do just what felt comfortable. I excelled at the tasks I wanted to do, was a star in debate and a friend to most, so getting "meh" grades was just fine by me.

Allie changed that. She showed me how to convert my syllabi into calendar notes, how to set up my binder in a practical way that I would actually maintain and she taught me how to organize my efforts. Above all, she was the cool, smart girl, and I wanted to show her what I was capable of. In the process, I surprised myself and my family by resuscitating my GPA and getting into UT. I graduated with honors, in 4 years, having held down a full-time job throughout.

I lucked out when Allie transferred to my high school, it was a serendipitous meeting that left me with skills I can keep. The work I do for Thinking Caps as the Academic Director for Houston is inspired by my gratitude and my want to spread the life lessons to other students in need of a win.

The (academic) Odyssey

Dr. Matthew Goldfine
Columbia University Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders (CUCARD)

Dr. Matthew Goldfine

It's tough being a kid today. School applications, standardized tests, and social pressures all contribute to the way-too-stressful lives of our children. As a child psychologist, I hear countless reports from parents about their child’s anxious behavior and the same question arises—is this a case of normal childhood worry or something more serious? Here are some ways that Moms and Dads can spot excessive anxiety in their children and what to do about it.

  1. Your child isn’t sometimes anxious. He is always anxious. Worrying about stressful situations is completely normal for children. The big difference is that ordinary worry is due to a legitimately nerve-racking situation—think of a big test or the school dance—and goes away relatively quickly and easily. An anxious child will find lots of reasons to worry, even about things that most kids don’t find scary or dangerous at all, and his distress never seems to take a break.

  2. Your child's anxiety is starting to negatively impact her life. We child psychologists refer to this as clinical impairment and it means how much the anxiety is negatively impacting your child’s social, academic, and family functioning. Remember, all kids worry a little bit, but it usually doesn’t spill over and affect their lives in a significant way. But if your child is so worried that she is doing worse on tests than she should, avoiding typical childhood social activities, or can’t sleep at night, then you may have a larger problem on your hands.

  3. When your child is worried, it seems that nothing helps him feel better. We’ve all tried to help our kids when they’re scared. We reassure. We comfort. And maybe we even try to reward them for being brave. For most children, this is enough to get them over the hump and overcome their anxiety. But some kids have worry that persists despite the best efforts of Mom and Dad. This may be a sign that your child needs more concrete skills for dealing with his worry.

Lastly, I want to encourage parents to trust their gut. You know your child best and if your Mommy or Daddy instincts are telling you that something is not quite right, then reaching out for help is a good first step. Child psychologists, like myself, are good resources, but pediatricians, psychiatrists, and school counselors are also professionals that can help children learn ways to overcome their anxiety.

Sense and Sensibility

Question: My mom tells me that I shouldn’t listen to music while I study. We are constantly arguing about music because I like to have something in the background while I work. Is music actually disruptive?

Answer: You and your mom are right on the topic of music; for some people having some background sound is helpful, while others struggle to concentrate with any level of noise. Because everyone has different learning styles and inclinations, it is important to consider what works best for you. If you do feel comfortable working with some level of music, make sure that it is playing in the background and you are not engaging in it. In other words, if you’re selecting playlists, taking breaks to pick songs, or singing along while reading then you are actively interacting with the music and not focusing on your work. But working to a study playlist is fine if it works for you.

Much Ado About Learning

"I make sure that all of my deadlines/appointments for school, work, and my personal life are in an online calendar. That way, everything is in one place and I can access it from anywhere." -- Tory Lacy, New York

"Don't bank on "just remembering later." Keep tangible reminders of your upcoming stuff - post-it notes, a rubber band around your wrist, or anything else to remind you of your assignments." -- Jereme Gray, Houston

"I am one of the most forgetful people on Earth. To keep myself from missing important information, I compulsively write everything down in several places. I have a daily planner that I ALWAYS have on hand or in my backpack so the moment a teacher or an employer throws an important date or assignment at me, I can write it down. I then write the same thing down in a calendar in my phone. I also set reminders for myself. With so many reminders popping up at me all times, I never forget an important assignment!" -- Kathy Kougentakis, New York

"My go-to reminder is a huge dry-erase board on my wall at home that I use for any and all things to be remembered. Appointments, big projects, movies and books people have told me that I absolutely must see/read are written in separate columns and are constantly changing. The dry-erase board made high school ten times easier for me and is now making college...feasible!" -- Lauren Heymann, Austin

"When I need to remember something important, I write myself reminders on sticky notes and place them all over my room in places that I knew I could never miss: the bathroom mirror, on top of my backpack, the kitchen table, even on my glasses! Instead of keeping the information in my head, I have reminders in all of my go-to places." -- David Moroney, New York