Executive Function Coaching Saves Lives

Here’s is a recent report from Executive Function Coach and Trainer Erin Wilson:

“It was a Friday–I had just gotten home from school, the Seattle summer had started early, and I was exhausted. I was getting a popsicle out of the freezer and beginning to settle down when my phone rang. It was a number I didn’t recognize, but I had broken the rule of not giving my phone number out to students; so, student was my guess. I thought about ignoring it—Oh, come on! It’s Friday evening!—but I hit the green button anyway.

“It was one of my 17-year-old students who immediately started apologizing for bothering me, and talking of hanging up, but I kept him on the line. ‘No, I’m here. What’s going on?’ I asked.”

‘Well, I am on the Aurora Bridge and getting ready to jump, but I knew you would be mad at me if I didn’t talk to you before I jumped.’

‘Oh, gosh, Malcolm. Yes, indeed. Thank you for calling. I am here. Let’s figure this out together.’

A conversation ensued, at the end of which they agreed to go for milkshakes. She drove to the bridge and picked him up. Malcolm is still with us.

As unique as this conversation was, it is also typical. Malcolm meets with Erin once a week for executive function coaching. Erin mostly just asks questions: “What’s going on?” “How was your week?” How are you doing on your goal?” “What is your strategy?” “How is that working for you?” “What did you learn from that?” “What can you do differently?”

As unique as Malcolm’s problem is, it is also typical. So many kids in our schools are problems, or cause problems, feel they have a problem, told they have a problem. What was Malcolm’s problem? Was it dyslexia or ADHD? Was he a victim of high stress in the home or the neighborhood? Was he being bullied? Was it “Executive Function Disorder?” Suggest your favorite dysfunction.

Notice what bad habits we are in! It doesn’t really matter what “problem” he has or what his “learning difference” is, does it? Whatever the problem, he needs a partner who knows how to strengthen his executive function. Does he need better planning skills? Whatever. Whatever the matter is, he needs practice in owning his own brain, so he can own his own decisions, so he can own his own life.

What saved Malcolm’s life was not Erin’s personality, but a person who was trained to do what few people in schools are in the habit of doing: talking to students as if they are decision makers, as if they want to make a difference, as if they are leading their own lives. Each of us needs another person who acts as if the only thing that matters right now is the choices I make, and knows how to help me figure out the good ones.

Is any work in a school more important than this? How many “at risk” kids would be “at risk” if school were a place for learning to think? What would happen to our graduation rates if school focused everyone on maximizing internally motivated decision-making?


About the Author

Rick Ackerly is a nationally recognized educator, speaker and leadership coach with more than 40 years of experience in schools, 35 as head of school. He is the author of The Genius in Every Child: Encouraging Character, Curiosity and Creativity in Children. His blog is www.geniusinchildren.org.

ADHD Playlist

Music. It lifts us up. It soothes our soul. It keeps us going when we are working out. It helps us get ready on time.” WHAT?! You heard right — use music to motivate you and keep you on track in the morning.  You probably already have a “Workout Playlist” on your iPod.  But do you also have a “Get out the Door Playlist”? Here are some tips for setting up a playlist to get you out the door on time. … READ MORE

Stop Underestimating Start Believing| Edge Coaching

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Ever wonder what it’s like to have the benefit of and ADHD coach?  Five students who are receiving Edge ADHD coaching recently shared what they like about it with us. Here are 5 great reasons to get an ADHD coach:

 Focus on what you need to do

“Making lists for weekly work and accomplishment really helped me focus on what I needed to do.  It made my exhibitions much better.  When I break down what I need to do each week, it makes it easier to think about each task and get it done quicker.”

–Jordan T.

Find your own answers

“[Recently my coach and I] had a talk about my personal life and really being truthful about what it came down to.  I made a goal for school because my attendance was bad.  So we made up this thing where I would text [my coach or teacher] when I came to school.  And, so, I’ve been texting her, letting her know.

“It gave me this push to start improving.  I loved seeing how my priorities all fell together, so while I was improving on one priority; it makes all the other priorities better too.  I loved the support and direction coaching gives me. You see, all of these goals kinda come down to my self-image… they reflect how I feel about myself. Jaymi didn’t give me answers.  She made me ask questions.  She made me get my own answers.”

–Alicia B.

Take ownership

“Coaching taught me that you have to take ownership of your work.  I couldn’t just tell Jaymi that I didn’t get something done.  She would then ask me, “why didn’t you get it done?” and then I would have to think about the ways that I think about myself.   She told me that I’m well-equipped to get the things done that I need to get done.  But it’s the personal qualities- time management, caring about myself, that allowed me to get done what I needed to get done.  Jaymi taught me that personal qualities are things I can build and develop about myself. “

— Stephen D.

Figure out your priorities

My coach really helped me figure out my priorities.  Each week, we make lists of tasks and named the positives and negatives of each task.  That helped me figure out what was important to me.  I love coaching!

— Kymberly G.

Organize your schedule

My coach helped me organize my academic schedule. Before I took coaching I was very disorganized and had no motivation. But my coach helped me gain confidence and helped me to become a better student who works harder and more focused than I did before.

— Rozzland K.