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Lessons from Teen Coaching: Honest Reflections from a Recent IB Graduate

By Oyinlola Osinoiki (Class of 2023) - a super star Intern at Linden

- Written by a teen for teens -

As a recent IB student, I can confidently say that much of my success depended on having solid organizational and project management skills (as well as strategies for managing stress). This life skills have helped me on my journey and will continue to do so as I prepare for university. I will attempt to pass on a few tips I learned along the way (sometimes the hard way)!

Overcoming Fear: Doing the work until it no longer scares you

When I was struggling with certain subjects in high school and consistently scoring low, it felt daunting and made me question my academic career. I made the mistake of putting off these challenging subjects and focusing my efforts on those I excelled in naturally. However, my Teen coach at Linden encouraged me to get a tutor in the main subject I was struggling with, which happened to be Chemistry. Initially, I felt discouraged, being in my second year of the International Baccalaureate diploma program and believing that catching up was impossible. Working with my tutor, though, improved both my grades and my confidence.

My lack of clarity regarding the topics I understood and those I didn't hindered my progress. With the help of a tutor, I discovered my strengths in certain concepts. This realization allowed me to adjust my focus while studying and reduced panic when encountering unfamiliar topics. Moreover, I used to avoid certain types of problem questions, assuming they required a higher level of skill. However, working through these problems with my tutor taught me that I already possessed the necessary skills; I just needed to understand what the questions were asking.

Procrastinating on challenging subjects only makes them more daunting over time. The key to overcoming fear is to practice and learn until the subject no longer intimidates you. As the saying goes, "Winners fail until they succeed," and the path to self-confidence lies in facing our fears. Avoiding failure in a subject also means avoiding success.

Procrastinating on challenging subjects only makes them more daunting over time. The key to overcoming fear is to practice and learn until the subject no longer intimidates you. As the saying goes, "Winners fail until they succeed."

Importance of Routine and Automation

In hindsight, I wish I had known earlier how much easier life can be with a consistent nighttime routine. The evening provides an excellent opportunity to prepare for a better tomorrow. Establishing discipline the night before is an act of compassion toward your future self. To maintain these routines effectively, they should become automated, meaning they are easy to follow. For instance, placing a book on your pillow in the morning when making your bed makes it easier to read before sleep.

Working with my coach, we created an effective nighttime routine that was easy to maintain. My coach also emphasized the importance of allowing myself flexibility day-to-day. This realization was liberating, as I had previously been hard on myself for not completing my routines each day, leading to added stress. My coach introduced me to 'time-frame timelines,' providing a buffer to complete tasks instead of rigidly planning every minute of the day.

The Art of Asking Questions and Understanding the Basics

The Art of Asking Questions and Understanding the Basics

It can be challenging to ask questions or seek clarification when it seems like all your classmates understand the material. I had developed a habit of not asking questions even when I needed answers. This issue was exacerbated by the fact that knowledge in high school builds on previous concepts, and neglecting to seek understanding could lead to problems down the line.

Having attended an international school in Berlin after moving from the UK to Germany, I experienced differences in pre-high school education compared to my peers. Many times, I didn't speak up when teachers assumed we had covered certain topics in 6th Grade, when, in fact, we had not. Consequently, I felt lost and struggled with certain subjects.

Through working with my coach, I learned the importance of asking for what I need as a form of self-care. This confidence translated into my ability to ask teachers and peers follow-up questions that advanced my learning.

The Importance of Short-Term Goals

Working with my coach, I gained insight into the main stressors. My coach and I then began breaking down my work into small, achievable ongoing goals. By hitting these targets, I felt rewarded and accomplished. Despite my natural organizational skills when it comes to academics and my use of tools like Notion to stay on track, having specific targets and time frames for these short-term goals allowed me to experience small but meaningful wins each day, releasing a surge of dopamine and boosting my motivation.

Saying NO, Learning To Prioritize & Balancing Fun & Responsibilities

Learning how to gracefully say both yes and no is a valuable skill. As a social person, I often found myself frustrated by my own inability to say no to plans I didn't truly want to attend, which led to feelings of resentment towards myself and my friends. I frequently struggled with finding the right words to politely decline or knowing when to say no.

Of course, I'm an advocate for having fun and embracing the joys of youth, especially in a vibrant city like Berlin. However, saying yes to every plan and attending every social gathering can leave you feeling burnt out and emotionally drained. It's essential to recognize the need to balance constant availability for fun with the reality that not all experiences turn out to be as enjoyable as they seem.

Through the guidance of my coach, I was able to reflect on my past experiences and address the elements of people-pleasing that I had internalized. By setting healthy boundaries, I found a better balance that benefited both me and my friendships. Learning to say no not only freed up time for my hobbies and self-care but also strengthened my connections with close friends and family.

Don’t Quit the Good Stuff!

While working with my coach, I learned how to make space for hobbies in my life that energize me. My coach encouraged a continual commitment to at least one positive thing while getting through high school. I often felt tired and unmotivated because I wasn't doing enough things that made me feel alive. By learning how to say no and by creating goals and organizing my time, I found space for the hobbies I really enjoy, such as playing the piano.

Furthermore, I learned how to set goals with my hobbies and interests as well. I became dedicated to reaching certain levels on Duolingo and practicing the piano. While this may not be for everyone, for me, I regularly put off my hobbies because they didn't feel 'productive,' and I felt guilty if I wasn't working towards my academic goals. So for me, having manageable goals in my free time was rewarding. This approach might not be for you, dear reader, but working with a coach, you can explore different approaches to maintaining healthy habits.

Organizational Materials & Resources

For the IB, there are endless, free resources. Ask your tutors and classmates what they use, and watch videos of other students and keep learning. The syllabus is a great tool that includes all you need to learn. Teachers have to teach homeschoolers the same material every single year. Understandably, some teachers tend to embellish their information with fun facts and additional learning, while others omit some things they don't enjoy teaching. To ensure you have covered all the knowledge in your subject, use the syllabus.

Additionally, if you take a course like the IB that includes a large coursework element, use the marking criteria to understand what the examiner wants from you. By doing simple things like formatting or using a certain language, you make it easier for the examiner to give you a good grade.

Organizational resources like calendars and Gantt charts can help a lot so that you aren't holding all these goals in your head. Some people prefer vision boards, monthly planners, to-do lists, or post. Find what works for you. I started using Notion years ago and have found ways to make it super easy for me, but this literally took years and I am still improving it each day. Tools like Notion are wonderful but some may find it complex so find a platform/tool that you find accessible or stick to pen and paper. Or use things on your phone like reminders or the notes app.

By working with an organizational skills coach, you can explore all these different possibilities while having someone to hold you accountable and guide you through the learning process. Also your coach can help to remind you of your goals as well as your dreams.


Big thank you to Lola for sharing so much wisdom with us!

You can find out more about our organizational skills coaching for teens here or speak to a teen coach or counselor.

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