A Day in the Life of a Focus Collegiate Learning Specialist

The success of our organization is due to the excellence of our team. Because of them, we are able to bring success to those students who may not have not known it before. To honor them and their hard work, we are presenting A Day-in-the-Life, a short series on how our team makes the magic happen for Focus Collegiate students. Certainly, the team works in concert with one another, in this series we will look at individuals, starting with Jamie Hare, our Learning Specialist.

This quote from her bio gives a glimpse of her determination: “Traditional learners may come in the front door. Non-traditional learners may use the window, but they still get there.” In this post, we’ll look at her ways of “getting there.” To Jamie, “getting there” means students learn to advocate for themselves, to seek out resources and supports that will help them ultimately work independently without a coach.  

“In high school, many of our students were enabled, in other words, things were done for them. Our goal is to help them figure out how to do things for themselves. College is a different ballgame; we help scaffold for students to find support in a different manner in a different delivery model to gain independence using different resources at their college…We don’t want to have the student for their entire four years – ideally, we kick them out the nest.”

“I want to help students figure out how they learn best – to achieve academic success in their own right – to apply the skills that John Marinilli and I teach to be successful in whatever they want to do. Even though I’m the Learning Specialist, and he’s the Collegiate Life Coordinator, we keep each other informed as to what we’re working on with each student to make sure we are giving the best possible support and not leaving anything out.”

By comparing learning objectives (those created by class requirements, tests, quizzes, projects, etc.) to individual student challenges, Jamie bridges the gaps to academic success. Through fine-tuned analysis of both the task and the student’s capabilities to meet that task, Jamie breaks things down into approachable, digestible pieces appropriate to each student.

It starts online. Each day, she pours through the various school websites and portals to check on daily assignments and class activities. She confirms her appointments with students and goes through her CRM notes. (CRM, is client relationship management software that Focus Collegiate uses to streamline communication, track appointments and assignments, log student progress and history, and help keep students accountable to their vision for themselves.)

Then Jamie moves to email. She contacts academic coaches, therapists, offices of disabilities, and any other support people on the team “to ensure that we are not at cross-purposes with other support providers. Then it’s on to campuses and to the Focus Collegiate office to meet with students, go through their week or month to see what’s coming up, and make time management plans.”

“For example, of Friday or Mondays, we look at the following week to block off time when they need to work on an essay and agree upon a time when they will email that essay to me for review. We also look at when I can have that essay back to them with comments and suggestions—I am held accountable, too. We also block off other appointments, online assessments, quizzes, things like that. It’s basically looking at all of their classes and making sure they have built in time to take care of their assignments. We also connect them to tutors and academic resource centers so that they can learn how to get the help they need from their school.”

“The it’s checking in with students during the week – via text, google hangout, or phone. ‘Did you complete this? Did you break this down?’ To make sure they have done the tasks that they have set out for themselves for the week.”

“By helping students learn how to prepare and do things in advance, they gain the power to keep everything from happening all at once. Though many students want to do everything all at once, we help them appreciate that one-thing-at-a-time is a better way to go. We remind students to breathe and relax in order to find clarity and take small steps. Headspace is an app I like to use for students that offers one to three-minute meditations. The meditation pops them out of negative thought patterns and gets them back into the ‘now.’”

“My approach varies depending upon the student and our rapport. When appropriate, I use direct questions, other times it might be more subtle. It’s based on the student’s personality; we don’t ever want to put them in a position where they shut down. The philosophy I share with John is that if something doesn’t work out, we don’t ruminate, we learn, recover and get moving. Rather than berate the student and make them feel bad, we acknowledge and learn from the problem. Forward momentum is key to overcoming obstacles.”