Emma and I – brighter futures [guest blog]

At the first meeting, I got to know Emma* as a sensitive, careful girl. We spoke about her dreams for the future, but also about how the atmosphere was at home, and what she wanted to change. She soon revealed that it was her dream to become a doctor. This came up regularly during the conversation. I mainly listened to her so that she could express her ambitions and passions. I also learned a lot about her hobbies: she used to dance, but has by now stopped doing this. I thought it was too early to discuss whether she wanted to pick up the sport again. This might be asked in another conversation – provided we also get to know each other a little better.

As our conversation progressed, Emma was sometimes distracted by boys from her school (we were sitting outside). It was therefore clear that she could be distracted to a certain extent, and that she had focus again, every once in a while. We discussed what she wanted to improve in the coming months, indicating from the beginning that homework tracking was one of her weaknesses. However, she also indicated that she had difficulties with subjects such as technology and English, although she seemed to have a great interest in English. Based on this, we agreed to make a schedule together. She would also take her books next time. I also told her that we could then focus on her further education.

plan ahead!

The next meeting, Emma forgot her books. Nevertheless, we made an appointment quickly afterwards, this time at Cafe Zuyd. I noticed that she felt more at ease here than at school. Personally, I also found the environment at school to be not a positive, stimulating atmosphere. We discussed which tests were planned and how many days she had left for this. What shocked me is that she apparently already had an English test in two days, which she had not shared anything about in the beginning. Given that this was still the initial phase, I indicated to her that it was not a problem, but that we could see this as a learning moment so that she could prepare optimally for the major test week, which she said would take place in June. Together we wrote down everything in her agenda and looked realistically at the moments when she could take a break, and when there was space for free time. Next time we would spend a little more time on her further education.

dreams for the future

Emma canceled the following appointment, so I gave her the assignment to think about her follow-up study and to look up different studies, and how she could possibly achieve this. It was great to see that she had completed the assignment! Professions as a doctor emerged, courses for which you need VWO (Dutch higher education). But, Emma follows VMBO (practical education). I addressed this and together we looked at alternatives, such as the Doctor’s Assistant course. This really appealed to her, and I indicated that I would try to find someone who could give her some more information about this.

and then.. corona

When the corona crisis came, Emma and I met almost weekly through video chat. We discussed how her family was doing, and how she coped with it herself. We also talked about whether she enjoyed online education better than traditional classes with her classmates. She preferred the latter. When I asked her about her habits, I was stunned to find out that she immediately starts doing homework when she gets up, leaving her free all afternoon and evening afterwards. She indicated that she had developed a nice rhythm for herself and I did not hear any further stumbling blocks. She did send me a one-time question about physics. I have absolutely no understanding of this, so I brought in a friend of mine who is studying at Delft University of Technology. I indicated to Emma that she could safely ask her any questions about technology. She seemed to appreciate this.

my roal as a coach

In the recent months, Emma has learned to take responsibility. I also notice that she wants to discover more topics herself. She has worked consistently and independently at school, with her stepfather sometimes helping her with maths. Sometimes I have also given her an explanation about this, where I noticed that, for Emma, training is the link to understanding the material. I therefore feel that she has become a bit more confident. Whether that is really the case, we will discuss the next lesson (along with her approach for the upcoming test week).

As a coach I tried not to give too much tutoring, but to direct her in how she can learn, summarize, and plan. I have never emailed teachers on her behalf, I have always asked her to approach the teachers herself so that she builds up a degree of independence. Emma seems to be satisfied with this. She is a sweet girl with a lot of potential when she is focused, and when she knows what she wants! I hardly experienced moments with her when she closed completely, as previously indicated by the school. As a coach, I think a different environment would do Emma good. If Emma could be approached any other way, it would be better for her. I regularly ask her for tips on how I can improve my guidance, where she cannot always come up with something (haha). But she tries! 

the future

In any case, I will continue to supervise Emma until the end of the school year, during which we (mainly Emma herself) will look at her growth in the recent months. Perhaps we can continue the guidance next year, but first I want to finish this year with her in a good way. In any case, I am confident that Emma will be alright! In the coming months we will therefore mainly work on summarizing the past year, by asking questions such as “what are you most proud of that you have changed in recent months?”. It is a question that I asked before, in which she indicated that the habit of doing her homework after getting up is a habit she is proud of. In any case, I thought it was nice to see how Emma has grown as a person and I am curious about what is to come.

By: Julia van Nijhuis, student coach Match for Brighter Futures
* the name of the student has been changed for privacy reasons

The project

In Match for Brighter Futures, students help teenagers in need with their homework and coach them to develop their talents and realise their dreams.

Do you also want to coach high school students? Applications are now open for Match for Brighter Futures 2020-2021. Apply here!

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