Inside the Apple: Help Students Start the New School Year Supplied with New Skills

Jenna Berk
July 27, 2021
min read
Inside the Apple: Help Students Start the New School Year Supplied with New Skills

A new school year always means a new set of school supplies, but the new school year to come - for some students, the first time they will be back in a traditional classroom since the pandemic began - may require a new set of skills along with the usual fresh looseleaf, color-coded binders, and sharpened pencils.

While some students thrived in a distance-learning environment that offered less pressure and greater flexibility, others struggled to manage all that independence all at once. As it is, few schools dedicate time to teaching students how to study, prioritize competing demands, and organize their class schedules, and yet it was those skills that students really needed during the pandemic as much as they needed to remember the quadratic equation or the causes of the French Revolution. Our founder, Dr. Jed Applerouth, calls those skills, known as executive function skills, the ‘hidden curriculum.’ To shed light on that hidden curriculum - and how IECs can help identify students who need help with it - I spoke with Jed and John Cadenhead, our Senior Director of Tutor Services.

Here is Jed’s perspective on what executive function (EF) skills encompass (spoiler: a lot more than just academia!) and how EF coaches help their students become their best selves:


Oftentimes, IECs have to act like triage nurses, advising families on when to find a specialist for a particular area. But when you see a student struggling in math, you may wonder if it is just an algebra or geometry problem - or if it might be indicative of a deeper-seated problem. John Cadenhead, who leads our EF coaching team, identifies moments where students with EF deficits fall apart:


EF struggles might rear their head at the most unexpected moments, such as when a student just can’t seem to commit pen to paper to draft an admissions essay for their top choice school! Task initiation is an important EF skill to hone, and Jed digs deeper into what that looks like for a student:


EF coaching has long been a resource for students with learning differences, especially those with ADHD who often struggle with transitions and task initiation. I know that many of the techniques I’ve learned as an EF coach have been personally helpful for me as an adult, and I was interested to hear John’s perspective on the benefits of EF coaching for all students, regardless of their learning styles:


Something that I’ve heard from parents is that there never feels like a safe time for their child to fail, so it can be daunting to commit to coaching when there are already so many demands on a student’s time. However, EF coaching can help a student work through problems now so they’re able to plan for the future:


Perhaps most importantly, it’s never too late for a student to sharpen their EF skills. The transition to college can be a great time to consider whether they have a strong enough framework to manage all the increased responsibilities and independence that college promises:

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