Based primarily at the Exchange District Campus, Kyle Schewe is an Academic Support Specialist and Academic Coach with Academic Success Centre. Through his role, Kyle meets with students to set and accomplish academic goals by employing research-backed study and motivational strategies.
We wanted to sit down with Kyle and gain insight into his role as tutor -a " jack of all trades" as he defines himself- and what are his most successful strategies when coaching students from different backgrounds and experiences.
Q: What is your go-to advice for students struggling with the new stressors of College life?
Kyle: One of the very first things I tell students is if you feel like you’re in an ocean and you’re just barely staying afloat, that feeling is normal to have. After the first month of the student’s program, that feeling will begin to subside. I try to normalize the feeling because when I started going to College (and then university), I felt the same way. If I’m meeting a student one-on-one, I’d probably ask them directly you know, “what does your life look like right now?” If they’re going to school for the very first time, and this experience is new for them and their family, it’s a change in lifestyle. Even if you worked with your buddies and met them for drinks every day after work, you won’t have as much free time to do this anymore. Or if your family’s expecting you to continue helping out at home after class every day; it might not be feasible anymore.
The student has to have a conversation with the people they care about in their life, explaining to them that “school is difficult and is going to take up the majority of my time”. But the student should also offer their loved ones, “but here are the times I can be available to help out.” I also tell students that the best time to talk to people is after they’ve been fed, and they’re full and happy. Students should try to maintain the relationships most important to them, and they will make new friendships while in their programs. As a student, you want to have a support network in place.
Q: In your self-written bio, you mention “students don’t allow themselves forgiveness in their own abilities”. Can you expand on this for our readers?
Kyle: When you walk into a class, one student might say oh man, my classmate’s so smart and the course content is so easy for them. But the classmate has already had two years of experience with the subject, and the student themselves have zero experience. So, when the student is comparing their ability and level of experience to those of their peers’, it comes down to the basis of experience. What I ask these students is “what do you think you need to do to bridge this gap of knowledge?” Time and energy, that’s all they need to put into it. Students will look down on themselves for not being at the same level as others. But this is okay and acceptable, it’s easily solvable.
Q: You stress the importance of students putting in the work and energy into their studies. How does your attitude toward coaching and teaching influence your sessions with students?
Kyle: There are some assumptions I can bring into coaching sessions. But most of all, I try to hold them in reserve until I get more information from the student. I can suspect they may have certain needs, but it isn’t always true. So my approach to coaching sessions really is that the student has the answer. For example, a couple of days ago I had a student tell me they were stressed by X, Y, and Z. I asked them a question, and they said “this is how I get rid of stress”. And then three seconds later he asked me “how do I get rid of stress?”
I looked at him and asked, “what did you just say?”
He goes, “I said this!”
So, I asked “and what did you say about it? It gets rid of stress”.
He goes “well, of course, I need to do this.”
It’s very clear; it’s asking the right question at the right time. The students have the right response. The coaching is really about pointing out that obvious thing that the students can’t see because of how close they are to the obstacle. It’s so obvious, it’s not obvious. I like to be energetic about it, like “cool, you have the answer! Look at that. Alright, good job! Now let’s make a plan around that goal so you can achieve it.” Part of it, I think is the excitement for having the answers to goal setting, for the student to be successful. That’s something I always try to bring into coaching for the students. I tell them good job when they’re clearly showing good skill-sets like time management, you know whatever they have done in the past or created and structured for themselves. Just because they are looking for more help, doesn’t mean they already haven’t been successful at something. We want the students to think and reflect on areas they may haven’t before.
Q: How do the students usually respond to this style/approach?
Kyle: They respond very well. There is the model and then the application of how you approach coaching. The built-in response is whenever the students show success is to point it to them. I think this a really important step in how I like to coach students. It shows that I can see their success and point it out also, so they can register their success for themselves. Even though they’ve sought coaching for help, it still reassures them that they have done some things properly. It encourages them and makes them more invested in the process; to improve the areas they feel need strengthening.
Whenever I hit a wrong note or happen to ask the wrong question, it cycles down to the student feeling dejected. When this happens, we need to take a step back and approach the session in a different way.
What actions can they take? A lot of the session builds up to this. But often, you need to first ask questions to fill in the gaps, so that we narrow in on the right route to go down for the student.
Q: As a student yourself at one time, what are three tips for success you wish you knew early on in your studies?
Kyle: I teach a class called Self-Management for College Students and what I always tell students as a part of the class is, I’m not just going to give you research stuff or strategies the department has compiled to help. But we’re also going to find an experience because all of this is valuable and works. I was in my third year of university still figuring out stuff. So, going oh, why didn’t someone tell me this? It would’ve been really helpful to know and would’ve only taken ten seconds of their time!
It seems like the educational system; especially university doesn’t have that navigation built-in. It’s really needed and required though. They don’t have a class for just “how to be a student” that covers here are the tips, here are the tricks, here is how to be successful. This is why coaching is so valuable for students.
Q: What originally inspired you to become a tutor/academic coach?
Kyle: What motivated me to become a tutor/coach? Well, I’ve always enjoyed helping people. I remember even in high school, I’d go out of my way to help students who seemed to be struggling the most. So I wouldn’t say I’m “inspired” but rather, my empathy pushed me in that direction. There is a deep desire to help, to want to see students succeed. That has always been with me I think.
Wrap-up Prompt: Is there anything you’d like to highlight that we haven’t touched on in the interview so far today?
Kyle: Seek supports as early as possible. See what they are and what’s available. Use these supports to your advantage. The culture has changed; it’s now viewed as a positive thing to seek help. If there’s a deeply enrooted avoidance from seeking help, it’s viewed as a negative thing. The education cultural coin has flipped.