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How to Be a Great Learning Coach

Shakes things up every once in a while.
Shakes things up every once in a while.
Emily L. Goodman

Being a good learning coach is a challenge. Of course, there are easy ways to go about it. You can choose to rely on your child’s teachers to provide the entire year’s education; but a good learning coach is more than just a secondary teacher. A good learning coach has any number of functions, and they aren’t just limited to the ones that a parent performs throughout the course of a normal school year. A good learning coach…

Makes sure that their student is up on time every morning and ready to learn. This may include fixing breakfast (or at least being sure that your student makes breakfast for herself). It may mean opening the door three or four different times and insisting that they actually get up and out of bed. For many students, this may mean getting dressed in “real” clothes and not just attending school in their pajamas—it depends on the individual student! Making sure that your student is ready to learn may also include having materials ready each day, and will certainly include at least a glance at the daily plan beforehand. If you can get your child off to a smooth start, the entire day will go better in the long run.

Communicates with the teacher. Sometimes, this is a long, drawn-out process of exchanging kmails until you’re sure that everything is “right.” Other times, it’s a phone conversation, or an email, or whatever it takes to be sure that everyone knows what’s going on both with your student and with the school.

Keeps an eye on their child’s progress. This means regular checks to be sure that everything is done, done on time, and done correctly. Virtual schooling is not a perfect replacement for a traditional brick and mortar education. The teacher is not able to as easily monitor each student’s work, because they don’t see the process—they often just see the end result. That makes it your responsibility to find out where your child’s weaknesses are, to get them help when they need it, and to make sure that they’re progressing as they should be. This also means that you need to keep an eye on what your child is accomplishing every day, and make sure that it’s actually schoolwork and not game time.

Knows when it’s time for a break. Is your child starting to bounce off the walls? Getting surly and hard to get along with? Making life difficult for you every time you suggest a new lesson? That might mean that it’s time to sit back and take a break for a little while. This can be as simple as getting up and moving around for a little while, or it might mean being “done” for the day and coming back tomorrow.

Keeps things mixed up a little. Every once in a while, surprise your kids with something completely off the wall! This might be a game during school time that they weren’t expecting, an unexpected present, or just a treat at the breakfast table. It can also mean a surprise field trip, a day with fewer assignments, or a “study island” day when they can play games and still get in some educational time. Obviously, this is something that needs to be scheduled. Students are expected to complete a certain amount of work each week, and they only get eight hours of supplemental time—but that doesn’t mean that they can’t have a little bit of fun every once in a while.

Is involved. This is the critical one. It would be easy to sit back on the couch and watch while your student completes their work each day. They have a plan in front of them, teachers to help them if they get stuck, and plenty of information at their fingertips. Theoretically, your child could learn without you ever getting involved—but that’s not what a good learning coach does. A good learning coach is there, looking over their shoulders and discovering the first time they get off task instead of the twelfth. A good learning coach knows what her kids are learning, how they’re learning it, and when they are supposed to move on to the next lesson. A good learning coach is part of the learning process, advocating for their student and making sure that they have everything they need to succeed.

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