Menlo to pilot mentor program for freshmen
Menlo will finalize plans this spring for next year’s pilot program called Study Coaches, in which a handful of incoming freshmen will be assigned to teachers on a one-to-one basis to ease the academic transition into freshman year. The admissions committee, Upper School Director John Schafer and Academic Support Coordinator Kathryn Gray will look at students’ testing data, grades, recommendations, interview reports and personal statements to determine which students will be paired with a Study Coach.
Teachers volunteer to be a Study Coach and will act as mentors, helping their students adjust to Menlo’s workload and academic culture. The teacher and student would meet twice per week or as needed to ensure that the student is staying on top of his or her schoolwork and meeting with teachers.
Students are likely to have the most academic difficulty during freshman year, and the Study Coach program aims to be proactive and provide adequate support, according to Schafer. “Our classes are hard and a big jump from what many students were asked to do in their eighth grade, so why wait until they flunk a test to get them support?” Schafer said. “Why not build a system where they learn to advocate for themselves, they have a quiet place to get some work done, whatever the student needs.”
Director of Upper School Admissions Cathy Shelburne first learned of the Study Coach program from representatives from Marin Academy, a private school in San Rafael, at the Secondary School Admission Test Board conference in November. Kathryn Gray then traveled to Marin Academy and met with its learning services coordinator to learn the finer details of the program. Gray will head the team of Study Coaches, who will meet once a rotation as a group to discuss each student and review areas where the teachers can offer more support.
“I actually sat in on one of the team meetings where Study Coaches were discussing the students kid by kid,” Gray said. “It was great in the sense that they were all bouncing ideas off each other and discussing how to relate to specific kids.”
John Schafer believes that Study Coaches will help students adjust to the academic culture at Menlo by becoming comfortable with meeting with their teachers.
“One of the issues is that a lot of students come from schools where you never meet with your teacher,” Schafer said. “You would only meet with your teacher when you are in trouble; you’d never be caught dead with your teacher.”
The Study Coach program is also designed to teach students self-advocacy, a “key skill,” according to Schafer. “Some kids walk on our campus with [self-advocacy skills;] some don’t. But because it’s such an essential skill, we should help students who don’t have that skill get it,” Schafer said.
Science teacher Bianca Nakayama agrees that the Study Coach program will teach students to get used to Menlo’s rigorous coursework and culture of meeting with teachers. “I think that there are some kids that sometimes slip through the cracks a little bit because [...] they’ve just never been taught certain skills,” Nakayama said. “I just want to be there to support these freshmen that might be navigating this environment for the first time.”
By James Huber, opinions editorTags: John Schafer, Kathryn Gray, news, Study Coaches