Summer School: A Student Plan of Action to Gain a “Competitive Edge”

As summer begins, there is no better time to focus our attention on academic preparation for the 2015-2016 academic year.

As summer begins, there is no better time to focus our attention on academic preparation for the 2015-2016 academic year. As the CEO and Founder of, I am most proud of the talented young people we teach/coach and of OjoOido’s ability to translate, demystify and explain academic study and learning methods. Within student development pedagogy, OjoOido helps to develop evidence-based study and learning skill competency. This entails making the teaching of student development skills relevant by integrating Latino Role Models’ educational experiences and professional/vocational expertise with widely accepted and recognized core study skills, habits and strategies. It is time to place student development training programs where they belong—in the home and the schools.

I recall my high school teacher, mentor and academic coach, Mr. Robert Walker , who patiently, yet emphatically, explained to me and numerous other Latino students that if we wanted to be “on track” academically, we must do things differently. Not only differently from the way we had been doing them, but completely different from the way all the other students, including those who excelled, did things. I recall him telling me on several occasions, “If only the other classroom teachers were as diligent as ‘athletic coaches’ in recognizing and appreciating that most students can’t psychologically face the reality of their own weaknesses until they discovered it during an exam.” He would say, “Joe, this is the wrong place to discover that you don’t know the material.” In other words, “making the cut “is a great metaphor for academic achievement. As in sports, academic success is in large part about persistence.

Academic success demands grit. Mainly, knowing what to do and doing it repeatedly, patiently and consistently. Such grit permits a student to achieve his or her “best” by developing disciplined thinking and constructively managing, and if necessary defeating, his or her own emotions. Developing a healthy respect for delayed gratification, cultivating patience to internalize the key concepts of the given subject and applying those concepts to one’s own academic life is essential for evolving into a competent student. If you are a student, what is the first step you must take in order to succeed in the face of the many and varied challenges? Jim Rohn’s adage provides direction: “You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.”

“Making the Cut” in the Classroom

It is unquestionable that to get good grades in both high school, college, and graduate school you need to work hard and most importantly, work smart: set-up routines, rituals, and so forth to optimize your study efficiency and effectiveness. From my experience throughout the years, working with a very large number of diverse students and clients, the most enduring and most successful individuals, both academically and professionally, were and are those individuals who have developed self-disciplined management habits and consistently adhered to the core fundamental skills of time management, goal setting and prioritization. The first and most important strategy of academic achievement is to recognize that you are responsible for your own learning. To be responsible in this context requires that you, as a student, manage your time and efforts for creating your own future.

Demanding and/or expecting that a student take responsibility for his or her own learning mandates that he or she not only engage in the routine practice of internalizing and applying theoretical concepts, but also requires evaluating his or her own work. “It would be unintelligible to say of a person that she is thinking in an educated manner, but is not skilled in evaluating her thinking. In the same way, it would be unintelligible to say of a student that she is learning a subject well but does not know how to evaluate her learning.” —Dr. Richard Paul and Dr. Linda Elder 

The Student Development Process

A substantive concept of what it means to be a “good” or competent student not only identifies the skills required, but also implies the proper design and essential minimal conditions for student development. Student development skills are substantively taught as student development thinking, with one major goal: to give students practice in thinking like a student. As a result, students learn not only how to interact and behave in the classroom, but also how to identify, refine and improve their study skills, habits and strategies. Through this mode of instruction, students come to see the significance of student development thinking both in their own personal lives and in their lives as citizens. Study skills, habits and strategies, in the OjoOido student’s transformed mind,  is no longer a set of strict and boring rules made up by instructors they do not relate to or identify with,  but a way to think and make smart decisions in the present and plan for the future.

Mr. Walker, as a dedicated and seasoned professional educator, understood that the single most important factor for rapid academic success for any and all students is to have a general understanding of the role motivation plays. Specifically of intrinsic motivation—doing something simply for enjoyment, without regard to money, power or prestige. He knew it was necessary for the student to develop and/or overcome negative study and learning attitudes, ideas and habits and embrace a healthy respect for internalizing and applying essential student development concepts. Only upon a student’s practical application of the subject (study skills, habits, strategies) in their life, will content be relevant to and valued by the student. This translates into the student taking responsibility for their own learning—inculcating a sense of individual responsibility and engaging in the routine practice of evaluating their individual understanding of the following skills, habits and strategies: time management, goal setting, prioritizing and the study action plan.

My academic coach had an unwavering commitment to lead students to their own discovery that studying for themselves was critical for academic success. In my case, working in the fields placed a limit on how much time we could spend studying. It was a major challenge to truly balance academics and real life responsibility. Mr. Walker accepted his students reality by relentlessly encouraging students to engage in, thoughtfully and systematically, deconstructing the forces at play that affect their performance in both the athletic and academic setting. The ability to manage your time, set goals, prioritize, strategically plan and reflect on one’s decision-making was necessary to learn. It is only through an understanding of the role of motivation, and the aforementioned practices, will a student learn how he or she stands with regard to independent learning. It is the understanding and implementing of these practices that determine one’s attitude to work in middle school, high school, college and later. By teaching, coaching, and suggesting subtle adaptations in their learning strategies, Mr. Walker made competent, confident and self-reliant students. He utilized the existing strengths of his students to compensate for their weaknesses. With his guidance we came back to school from summer “vacation” working the fields, as better students that had a “competitive edge.”

See. Hear. Learn!

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