working with me

mpcupcloseI am a teacher, thinker, strategist, and math gentler.  I am trained and certified as an elementary and middle school teacher and have worked with young people in many different educational, therapeutic, and recreational settings. I now work one-on-one as an independent tutor and coach to children and teens, and as an adviser to parents who are striving to understand, support, and interact more collaboratively with their children. My office is in Portland, Maine.

I have worked with young people who…

have trouble focusing on schoolwork,
love learning but not school,
love learning but not academic learning,
fight with their parents about doing homework,
are anxious about school,
hate math,
think they’re terrible at math,
love math and are bored in school,
are generally bored in school,
hate school and want to do something else instead,
want more time to work on non-academic pursuits,
wish they could be more organized,
have parents who wish they were more organized,
can’t figure out what they’re interested in,
feel like they’re not good at anything,
and others.

Yes, math is mentioned several times in this list.  I do a lot of work with math, but I also work with many families in other realms – coaching, mentoring, and consulting on a wide variety of learning and learning-related challenges, issues, and aspirations. I work with elementary, middle, and high school students as well as families who homeschool. Here’s a bit about my approach – first in math, and then in other realms.

Math tutoring/coaching

The work I do with young people in math is a hybrid of tutoring and coaching in which beliefs and attitudes about math can be rebuilt or revitalized.  I help with actual content, but I do it in a way that is intended to free a young person from the need for help with math.  My intention is to support young people in building strategies for using and dealing with math in an empowered comfortable way.  I don’t try to talk anyone into liking it, but if a person seems like they might like it if they saw it in a new way, I offer access to that new way.  If there seems to be no possibility of that, I don’t push it.  I believe that different people are suited to different relationships with different disciplines, and to try to force a love of anything (math, reading, anything) on a person decreases the chances that an authentic love or affinity can develop and undermines a person’s ability to use a tool or skill for whatever purpose they are able and would like. I also work with young people who already love math and need more of it in their lives than they are getting in their school environments.

Learning-Related (and other) Coaching & Consulting

My coaching and consulting work varies a lot from family to family and depends on individual strengths as well as educational circumstances and other factors.

I begin every first meeting with a young person the same way, with an informal discussion about interests, strengths, and challenges in which I look for potentials and possibilities beyond what is reflected in how things are going for that person in school.  Sometimes in my early conversations and observations I see an academic capacity that has been overlooked or misunderstood, other times I see a capacity that lies outside the scope of what school concerns itself with.  I also watch for information about the young person’s temperament.  I consider how the features of this temperament, along with existing capacities and affinities, may bear on the young person’s experience with schooling and other factors of life.

Then, I imagine pathways – what could we do with this information and perspective?

From there, I make a recommendation to the young person and his or her parents about what might move him or her in the direction of increased thriving.  I take into account all the circumstances – educational, historical, financial, familial, emotional, social, geographical.  Sometimes I recommend that parents consider a different choice of school placement.  Others I recommend that the young person meet with me for further discernment or coaching.  Others I recommend supplementing extracurricular activities. And often I recommend resources – books or other materials that might resonate with the family and offer insights and options for consideration that haven’t been introduced before.

Executive Function

I am often asked to work with young people in the realm of executive function; getting organized, keeping track of homework assignments, carrying out assorted tasks. What I have found is that when a young person is struggling with challenges of executive function in the context of work he or she authentically cares about, I can strategize successfully with that person toward building a system of management that works.  But I have not found it to be possible to work successfully with a young person who is referred to me for executive function support in the context of work or tasks that are of no real meaning, interest, or purpose to him or her.

I am happy to work with a young person who fits this latter description, but the nature of the work I can do, the way I can help, is not in forcing strategies but in determining how to navigate an existence of expectation and demand that is out of synch with the person’s set of interests, commitments, and capacities.  This type of work involves the identification of areas in which increased executive function could be of interest to the person, finding ways to introduce more of that type of activity to his or her daily life, and getting to the core of the difficulty in context.

If my approach sounds like it could be a good fit for your family, please be in touch via my contact form, explaining a bit about the support you are looking for. I will let you know if I think I can help (and whether or not I currently have room in my schedule).