Cassandra Bensch has seen academic highs and lows. She has dedicated over 20 years to helping people reach goals, particularly in the academic arena. As a personal development specialist, and owner of One Pebble Life Coaching, she has seen many students struggle in school and has devised a new type of after school help.
“Everybody has, at one point or another, trouble with school,” says Bensch. “It is not a fault, it is just a fact. It may be the subject, it may be the dynamic between student and teacher, it might just be the year. Regardless, every student faces challenges.”
Experience Equals Understanding
Bensch has been on the front lines of the academic struggle for a long time. With a degree in psychology and a MA in Higher Education from BGSU, most of her professional career has been providing resources for helping students. Besides her experience as a coach and advisor, she spent several years as an instructor and Student Services Coordinator for the Professional Skills Institute.
“The number one issue I have seen is that people wait too long to get help,” says Bensch. “I can not say this enough. Everyone will eventually have something in school that troubles them. If you address it quickly it can be a speed bump for the year rather than a mountain.”
Her journey from student to instructor has only strengthened her resolve to be a resource. “I have seen students who swear they will never get past their first test. After some coaching and skill training, they not only pass their class but move on to their ultimate academic goal.” Her passion and focus are being a well-informed passenger on that journey. With the right help, the struggle with school becomes a journey, not a maze.
A Map Not a Mystery
Back to school is, at best, a mixed bag during average times. Anyone who has been a parent, educator, grandparent or of course student knows that these times are anything but average.
Resource reduction, larger classroom size, blended learning, hyper scheduling, and of course finances, make school at any level complex. The bad news is that these challenges are ever present, regardless of which side of the desk you sit on.
The good news is that you aren’t alone. There is after school help out there. Bensch is particularly good at helping learners navigate the terrain of academics. “Most barriers to success for a learner break down to three categories: goal setting, time management, and study skill. These skills are difficult for seasoned professionals to master and yet, somehow, we expect high school and young college students to have those tools in their tool chest.”
More Than Cracking a Book
Simply getting more after school help in a subject may not be enough. Students may have trouble retaining the material, have confidence issues during testing, or be simply overwhelmed with the course load.
Goal setting is crucial. “We hear it all the time, just set a goal and go for it,” remarks Bensch with humor. “However, everyone knows that there is a good deal of distance between the start of a class or school year and a successful finish.” In her experience, most students don’t get enough help in setting realistic goals for the year and prioritizing their workload.
Time management, says Bensch, is one of the cornerstones of a successful academic year. “In today’s day and age, even little kids are really scheduled. It is important to have a balance between outside activities, study, playtime, sleep, and good nutrition. By the way, this includes everybody, from littles to grandparents. In a phrase, self-care. Nobody learns well when stressed, tired or hungry.”
Finally, Bensch emphasizes the basics of study skills. “It is as simple as opening a book, reading, and doing homework,” says Bensch. “We all process information differently. Like most things, studying is a skill. Discovering what works best for each student and developing study habits that accentuate those strengths is a process that needs to be practiced.” And, naturally, when a student starts struggling, the problems compound.
Coaching Versus Tutoring
When Bensch looks at her clients she doesn’t just see a student. “When we seek help with a subject in school it is easy to view the problem as a subject. This student has trouble with math, this learner needs help with reading, etc. And getting extra academic help is important,” remarks Bensch.
“However, I like to see each student as a person first. Not just what they are struggling with but why are they struggling in the first place? Often, with some coaching and skill training, learners will not only bring their grades up in a single subject, but find a whole new success for school in general.”
As a personal development coach, her goal is never just a passing grade. Scoring well on a test, passing a class, and even getting a certification are metrics but not, necessarily, goals. Bensch’s primary focus is helping to uncover both the barriers to learning and laying the groundwork for achievement.
“We spend our lives learning,” she says. “That process does not have to be distasteful. With some basic coaching, learning can become a lifelong process of exploration and fulfillment.”