Teacher Voices: Helping High School Students Prepare for College
At TpT, we are fortunate to have a community of incredibly dedicated educators with a wide range of expertise, knowledge and experience to share. This month, as part of our Voice of teachers series we had the chance to speak with Traci University Advisor about the challenges older students face this year and how educators […]

At TpT, we are fortunate to have a community of incredibly dedicated educators with a wide range of expertise, knowledge and experience to share. This month, as part of our Voice of teachers series we had the chance to speak with Traci University Advisor about the challenges older students face this year and how educators can support students in their preparation for college, their careers, and life beyond K-12.

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Traci University Advisor

Teaching experience

I have worked in education for 14 years including as a college and career outreach coordinator for middle and high schools, and 2 years as an elementary substitute teacher! The third year was my favorite.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

My name is Traci Brown! I have been married to a fellow educator for 5 years and recently became a new mom to a busy toddler! So believe me when I say, I know spending time with family is everything!

When I am not creating resources for counselors (as I have been doing for the past 6 years), I work as a community college counselor for the African American Student Success Program on campus. I recently became the counselor coordinator for the program this year. I am also a teacher and mainly teach introductory college courses, college success strategies and career planning when my schedule allows.

What prompted you to become a university advisor?

Thanks to my personal experience as an African American woman and first generation student from a disadvantaged socio-economic background, I did not have big plans for my life. I just wanted a stable job to support my future family and not struggle. My passion for serving students and this career path stems from a great teacher and college counselor who believed in my educational journey before I even thought of having one. This year of interaction and support has changed my life. Therefore, I look forward to making an impact on the lives of students in the same way that a great teacher and counselor impacted mine. Working in a community college allows me to be a counselor and a teacher to serve in both forms simultaneously. I love them both and each is incredibly fulfilling in different ways. Community college is a second chance for so many students of all ages and backgrounds. I know what this second chance feels like and could mean to them.

Can you tell us more about your approach to counseling college and high school students?

My pedagogy embodies a constructivist and reflective framework. This means that I instill a sense of trust in the classroom and the office for the students to express themselves freely and validate the way they construct knowledge. Then, I guide the students in self-reflection through inquiry. I help students think about what they are doing, why they are doing it, where that thinking is coming from, and I help them assess whether this method works for them. I don't think I have answers for any student. These are the superheroes in their own lives; I am simply the guide who helps them along the trip. I believe that students can gain incredible power by learning that they are the smartest for fatherhood in their own lives knowing that they have someone to support them. For some, it may seem scary to let students drive their own cars. However, as an advisor, my goal is to teach them how to drive well while giving them the freedom and euphoric feeling to choose the direction. It makes driving fun for everyone.

What have you focused on the most this school year and why?

Grace and relationships. Thanks for missing out on meetings to spend time with my family. Not to feel guilty about not being able to participate in events, like college campus tours, for just connecting with my students to discuss their favorite TV shows and things they love to cook. Grace for my students with late homework and missed appointments. We all need this flexibility and grace because we all really try to stay afloat.

How have the past few months affected your students?

The lives of my students have been turned upside down, to say the least. It is a daily battle for them to believe that all this hard work, time and financial investment will pay off for them, by achieving the college experience of their dreams or by landing a career / job afterwards.

What kinds of challenges do older students face during this time?

Older students feel the burden from all angles. Some are young parents; some are substitutes for parents while they work extra jobs, so now they are responsible for helping their younger siblings log into their Zoom classes and help them with their homework. They are translators for their parents for everything related to this season. They work part-time and full-time between studying and writing articles. The list goes on. They're sandwiched between this truly complex world of students and adults, at a time when many of us can barely do either, and we have no choice but to do everything.

Where might they need the support of educators most?

The support these students need is visible and invisible. Obvious support includes scholarships and financial aid. Our school gave them laptops, hotspots and books. However, the invisible support is just as crucial and this is where many of them run out of gas. Someone who is committed to checking in with them regularly to help them keep going. Someone else to help them keep track of the deadlines for college applications because they already have so much going on. Someone to remind them to see the sun once in a while. Someone to remind them of their worth is not an elementary school, a branded school or whatever the media has told them who they think they are. Someone to remind them that they are not late in life. This could very well be the most critical job.

How can educators best support high school students in planning for life after school in these uncertain times?

High school students are having difficulty, no doubt. They're having some of our most memorable high school experiences stolen from them. However, if we do this right, they will come out of this toughest group there is. When will there be a more appropriate time to learn more about what really matters most in a college choice than now? What is the perfect time to reflect on the career they wish to explore, especially after witnessing the job market today? What a powerful time to empower them to use their youth and their voice to change their community and the world today from the injustices they see in their social media feed? High school students are learning skills they will need for life much sooner than most. Who says they're not ready for this?

This year has brought so many changes. What have been some of your biggest challenges and lessons you have along the way?

The biggest challenge I have faced this year as a counselor has been finding the balance to truly be someone's lifeline while maintaining my own care to deal with the trauma of this year's events..

The best lesson I've learned this season, as morbid as it may sound, is that I'm useless to my family, students, and fellow educators if I'm 5 feet tall. Therefore, I have an inbox of papers to note that I know I'll arrive eventually, and have recycled the same pajama pants for all of my virtual meetings this week so far. However, I am much happier showing up on virtual dates to have difficult but necessary conversations with my students and staff. I'm much happier spending weekend time with my family, knowing that while being in that space with them all the time is exhausting, it's always a time I'll never return. At the end of the day, I think we all have to give ourselves permission to say, "You know what, a B- is good too!" And I think I have at least a solid B- right now, and given the circumstances, it's not that bad.

If there was one thing you wanted other teachers to take away from this interview, what would it be?

I want teachers, counselors and all educators to know that they are an “A +” person. That feeling of a “B-” season is probably what the students really need from you and doesn't amount to the bigger impact you are having on the lives of these students right now by just being someone. who they can count on to show up and care for them.

Last but not the least - what's the one thing that makes you smile? 🙂

My husband and 19 month old daughter. And coffee. Always coffee.


About Traci

Photo of University Advisor Traci

Greetings fellow counselors and teachers! I have worked in education for 15 years, covering Kindergarten to Grade 12, community colleges and 4 year universities. I am currently a community college counselor and professor in California. I like what I do! I believe we can do better together to help students dream beyond Kindergarten to Grade 12. The craziest level I taught was Kinder as a substitute teacher!

Let's connect Pinterest and Instagram! I love supporting other educators. Hope my resources help you save time, relieve stress, and reach out to all of these students.


While we all may follow our own unique pursuits in a lifetime, the quest for purpose through self-improvement and knowledge is among the great unifiers of humankind. Progressive thinking is the backbone of society’s progress. Great visionaries and their quests for knowledge have inspired the majority of the modern marvels we rely on today. While the process of seeking purpose in your life may not seem as universal or consequential as Einstein’s, it is crucial to find how to learn in a way that works for you, which can lead to greater self-awareness and wisdom—not to mention a new travail, better pay, a new hobby, or simply knowledge for knowledge’s sake—whatever is important to you as an end goal.

While we all mayThis brand of introspection and knowledge is not necessarily acquired through traditional means, and the learning techniques that work best may differ from one person to the next. In fact, some of these tips may surprise you. Imagine all of the ways you may have been perfecting how to learn to find your smartest self for years without even knowing it !

Reduce stress depression : Stress and depression can affect the ability to recall information and cause short-term memory loss. In mild cases, depression can sometimes be improved simply by exposing yourself to more white light and eating fewer refined foods.

Shake a leg : Lack of blood flow is a common reason for lack of concentration. If you’ve been sitting in one place for awhile, bounce or bend and flex one of your legs for a minute or two. It gets your blood flowing and sharpens both concentration and recall abilities.

Food for thought : Eat breakfast. A lot of people skip breakfast, but creativity is often idéal in the early morning and it helps to have some protein in you to ' feed ' your brain. Plus, a lack of protein can actually cause headaches.

Food for thought, part 2 : Eat a light lunch. Heavy lunches have a tendency to make people drowsy. While you could turn this to your advantage by taking a ' thinking nap ' ( we’ll get to that later ), most people haven’t learned how to actually make this work on a regular basis.

Ginkgo biloba : Ginkgo biloba is a natural supplement that has been used in China and other countries for centuries and has been acclaimed for its brain-energizing properties.

Sleep on it : Hitting an REM cycle not only helps you rest and reset, it may also help with high-level problem solving. Researchers at University of California, San Diego noticed that getting some rest and dreaming allowed creative thinkers to work through some of their toughest problems.

Take a break : Sometimes, in order to change your physical or mental perspective and lighten the invisible stress that can sometimes occur when you sit in one place too long, it helps to take a 5-15 minute break every hour during study sessions. Studies show this is more beneficial than non-stop study, as it gives your mind time to relax and absorb information.

Take a hike : Changing your perspective ( and surroundings ) often relieves tension, thus freeing your creative mind. Taking a bermuda walk around the neighborhood may help you liberate those latent learning skills.

Change your focus : Sometimes you just don’t have enough time to take a long break, however you can always just change subject focus. Try alternating between technical and non-technical subjects, for example.

Do walking meditation : If you’re taking a hike, don’t stop there ! Go one step further and learn walking meditation as a way to tap into your inner resources and strengthen your ability to focus. Just make sure to not get so carried away that you disregard safety and traffic rules.

Change your focus, part 2 : There are three primary ways to learn : visual, auditory, and kinesthetic ( VAK ). If one isn’t working for you, simply try another. Full immerse yourself : Focus only on whatever you’re studying, not watching TV at the same time or worrying yourself about other things. Anxiety is known to inhibit the absorption of information and ideas.

Turn out the lights : If meditation isn’t for you, this can be another way to focus your mind. Sit in the dark, to literally and figuratively block out extraneous influences. This is especially helpful for learning something kinesthetically, such as guitar chord changes. Take a bath or shower : We know this one may be a bit surprising, but both activities can loosen you up, making your mind more receptive to recognizing brilliant ideas.

Listen to music : Research has long shown that certain types of music can act as a ' key ' to open doors and recall memories. The theory is that Information learned while listening to a particular song or gamme can often be recalled simply by replaying the songs in your head. Speedread : Some people believe that speedreading causes you to miss vital information, however the idea is that, when done right, speedreading results in filtering out irrelevant information. If necessary, you can always read and re-read technical subjects that often require slower reading, though some studies show slow reading actually hinders the ability to absorb general ideas. Trying this reading technique online ? Try the free Spreeder outil.

Use acronyms and other mnemonic devices : Mnemonics are essentially tricks for remembering information. Some tricks are so effective that proper outil will let you recall loads of mundane information months or even years later.

Every picture tells a story : Draw or sketch whatever it is you are trying to achieve to help you visualize it. Having a concrete goal in mind can help you progress towards reaching your goal. Brainmap it : Need to plan something ? Brain maps, or mind maps, offer a compact way to get both an overview of a project as well as better manage it. Through mind mapping, you can see the relationships between disparate ideas and better utilize brainstorming techniques

Learn symbolism and semiotics : Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols. Having an understanding of the iconography of a particular discipline not only aids in the learning process, but also allows you to retain information more efficiently. Use information design : When dealing with information that has an inherent structure, applying the tenets of information design can help to convey that information more clearly. A great resource is Information Aesthetics, which gives examples of different variétés of information style and provides links to their sources.

Use visual learning techniques : Try gliffy to explore all kinds of structured diagrams, flow charts, and more and to see what might pique your visual interest. If this works for you, find even more webbing and outlining ideas, plus graphic organizers, concept maps, and plots at Inspiration. com. Map your task flow : Learning often requires gaining knowledge in a specific sequence. Task flow mapping your course of actions, or organizing your thoughts on what needs to be done, is a powerful way to prepare yourself to complete tasks or learn ' how to learn. '

Laugh : This might seem counterproductive to the seriousness of studying, but that’s precisely the point : laughing relaxes the body, and a relaxed body is more receptive to new ideas. Stimulate ideas : It’s important to not overthink this one : play rhyming games, utter nonsense words, use word-association or stream-of-consciousness methods. These techniques can help loosen you up, making you more receptive to learning.

Brainstorm : This is a time-honored technique that combines verbal activity, writing, and collaboration. While one person can brainstorm, it’s more effective in a group. For effective brainstorming, follow these simple rules : firstly, don’t shut anyone’s idea out. Secondly, don’t ' edit ' in progress; just record all ideas first, then dissect them later. Participating in brainstorming can help to assess a topic objectively and thoroughly.

Learn by osmosis : Turn your iPod into an educational tool : find some podcasts that speak to you or are relevant to what you’re learning now, upload them, and sleep on it. Literally. Put your iPod under your pillow and play back your favorites to let them seep in overnight. Binaural beats : Binaural beats involve playing two de très bonne qualité frequencies simultaneously to produce alpha, β, delta, and theta waves, all of which can inspire either sleeping, restfulness, relaxation, meditativeness, alertness, or concentration. Binaural beats are often used in conjunction with other exercises to enhance ' super-learning ' abilities. Check out this free online binaural beat machine to see which tones will work for you.

Write, don’t type : While typing your notes into the computer is great for posterity, writing by hand stimulates ideas. The simple act of holding and using a pen or pencil may seem old-fashioned in this day and age, but just think of all the visionaries it’s worked for throughout the years. Carry a notebook at all times : Samuel Taylor Coleridge dreamed the words of the poem ' In Xanadu ( did Kubla Khan ) … '. Upon awakening, he wrote down what he could recall, but was distracted by a visitor and promptly forgot the rest of the poem. Forever. Should ideas suddenly come to you through ' walking meditation ' or any other methods on our list, record them immediately or you might regret it.

Keep a journal : This isn’t exactly the same as a notebook. Journaling has to do with tracking experiences over time. By adding in visual details, charts, brainmaps, etc., journaling can be a much more creative way to keep tabs on what you are learning. Organize : Use sticky colored tabs of folder flags to divide a notebook or journal into sections. They are a great way to partition ideas for easy reference. Use post-it notes : Post-it notes can provide a helpful way to record your thoughts about passages in books without defacing them with permanent ink or pencil marks.

Prepare yourself for learning : Positive thinking alone can’t always help us to successfully achieve our goals, which is why it is especially important if you are an adult with many distractions surrounding your daily life to implement ways of reducing these distractions, at least for a few hours at a time. Give yourself credit : Ideas are actually a dime a dozen. If you learn to focus your mind on getting the results you want, you’ll recognize the good ideas, and your mind will become a filter for them, which will motivate you to learn more. Motivate yourself : Why do you seek knowledge ? What do hope to achieve through learning ? Exploring the reasons behind why you want to learn and what motivates you can help keep distractions at-bay. Set a goal : W. Clement Stone once said ' Whatever the mind of guy can conceive, it can achieve. ' This phenomenon in goal achievement dictates that if you prepare yourself by whatever means necessary, any and all hurdles will seem surmountable. Those who have experienced this phenomenon likely understand its validity.

Think positive : After all, what’s the point in setting learning goals for yourself if you don’t have any faith in your own ability to learn ? Every skill is learned : Bodily functions notwithstanding, every skill in life is learned. Generally speaking, you can learn something new just as easily as anyone can. It takes us all a varying amount of effort, but once you’ve set your goal, it’s likely as achievable as it is believable. Prepare yourself, part 2 : Unfortunately, not everyone in your life will be a well-wisher of your self-improvement and learning partouze. They may intentionally or subconsciously distract you from your goal. If you have classes to attend after work, make sure that work colleagues know that you are unable to work late, for example. Diplomacy works best, if you think your boss is intentionally giving you work on the days he/she knows you have to leave. Reschedule such meetings to a later time if possible and/or necessary.

Constrain yourself : Most people fundamentally need structure in their lives. Freedom is sometimes a scary thing—like chaos. But even chaos has order within. By constraining yourself by giving yourself deadlines, limiting your time on any one idea, or focusing the tools you are working with, you can often accomplish even more in less time.

Read as much as you can : This tip is perhaps the most self-explanatory on our list. Use Spreeder if you have to. Pursue a broad range of topics as well as depth of field. Cross-pollinate your interests : Explore interdisciplinary study to your heart’s content. After all, neurons that connect to existing neurons give you new possibilités and abilities to use knowledge in new ways. Learn another language : New possibilités can also give you the ability to cross-pollinate cultural concepts and expand worldly inspiration. Sometimes reading a book in its atypique language will provide you with insights that might otherwise be lost in translation. Learn how to learn : Management Help has a resource page especially geared towards online learning, but they’re also a valuable resource for any type of learning. If you’re serious about optimizing your learning habits, check out this crash course in learning theory.

Learn what you know and what you don’t : Many people might say, ' I’m dumb, ' or ' I don’t know anything about that. ' The fact is, many people are largely unaware of what they already know about a topic. If you want to learn about something, you need to determine what you already know, figure out what you don’t, and then fill in the gaps. Learn to effectively multi-task : Effective multi-tasking allows you to devote focused yet limited time to accomplish several tasks at once. By effective multitasking, I don’t mean doing two or more things at exactly the same time—It’s not possible. However, multitasking with the right approach and prepping your mind for it are what can make it an effective technique. For example, a successful freelance writer learns to manage several articles at the same time. Research the first topic, and then let the background processes of your mind takeover before you move on consciously to the deuxième topic. While on the second topic, the first one will often become clear to you. Think holistically : Holistic thinking might be the single most ' advanced ' learning technique to help students learn new things. You may have even heard this word used to describe an overall mindset rather than as a solo technique.

Think holistically : Holistic thinking might be the solo most ' advanced ' learning technique to help students learn new things. You may have even heard this word used to describe an overall mindset rather than as a single technique. Use the right type of repetition to your advantage : Complex concepts often require revisiting in order to be fully absorbed. For some people, this can take months or even years. Repetition of concepts and theories, including concrete examples, improves absorption and speeds up the learning process. Apply the Quantum Learning ( QL ) model : The Quantum Learning model is being applied in some etats du nord de l'amérique schools to extend beyond typical education methods to engage students through five core components : foundation, atmosphere, environment, style, and delivery. Get necessary tools : Obviously, there are a variety of tools designed for learning. If you are learning online like the majority of people are these days, then consider online study aids such as Quizlet and StudyBlue, as well as education communities like Edmodo and Schoology, among countless other tools. Learn critical thinking : Critical thinking is a skill that is not only essential to the learning process but will carry you through life. Read Wikipedia’s discourse on critical thinking as a starting point. It involves good analytical skills to aid in one’s ability to learn selectively. Learn complex problem solving : For human beings in general, life is a series of problems to be solved, and learning is just part of the process. Especially If you have a complex problem, you need to learn the art of complex problem solving.

Be engaging : Lectures are often one-sided and thus can be counter-productive. Information merely heard or observed ( from a chalkboard across the room, for instance ) is often forgotten. Teaching is not simply talking. Discussion is more important : ask students questions, present scenarios, and engage them. Use information pyramids : Learning happens in layers. Build a solid base of knowledge upon which you can continue to add advanced concepts. Use film games : Video games get a bad rap because of the many distinctly non-educational méchant titles out there nowadays. But some video games can actually be an effective aid to learning, believe it or not. Role play : Younger people often learn better by being part of an interactive learning experience. For example, history is easier to absorb through reenactments, and can be further enhanced by using costumes, props, or other visual cues. Apply the 80/20 rule : This rule is often interpreted in different ways, but in this case, the 80/20 rule means that some concepts, say about 20% of a curriculum, require more effort and time than roughly 80% of others. So be prepared to carve out time to expand on complex topics.

Tell stories : However you can make a complex concept more relatable by telling a story or using metaphor, take the opportunity. When a story works to help a student understand something they might otherwise see as too boring or complicated, you’ll see understanding sparked in the student’s eyes. Go beyond the public school curriculum : The public school system is still generally lacking in teaching advanced learning and brainstorming methods. It’s not that the methods cannot be taught; they just aren’t. to be afforded these advanced learning methods, you typically have to pay a premium in additional time, effort, and money. While the standard for public schools and what is available to all students regardless of economic status is still a work-in-progress, you may need to seek supplemental resources such as tutoring or community programs to enhance learning for your kids. Use applied learning : If a high school student were having dysfonctionnement in math, say with fractions, one example of applied learning might be to teach fractions using photography, lenses, or f-stops. Another example is through cooking and measuring ingredients. Tailor the applied learning to the interest of the student and the subject at-hand.

Be engaged : Sometimes students are bored because they know more than is being taught, maybe even more than a teacher. Hopefully teachers will assess what each student already knows prior to that lesson. Students should discuss with a teacher if they feel that the material being covered is not challenging enough, or consider asking for additional materials. Teach yourself : Teachers cannot always change their curricula at their own discretion. If you’re not being challenged, challenge yourself. Some countries still apply country-wide exams for all students. Even if courses from the top online education programs don’t cover a topic you’re interested in, you can learn it on your own. Don’t wait for someone to teach you. Even class lectures are more effective when you’ve pre-introduced yourself to a concept. Collaborate : If studying by yourself isn’t sérieux, maybe a study group will help. Teach something : One of the best ways to learn something better is to teach it to someone else. The process forces you to learn more yourself when you share your knowledge with another person. Write about it : An effective way to ' teach ' something online is to create a wiki page containing everything you know about a topic. Or even create your own blog about it. Doing so helps you to realize what you know and, more importantly, what you don’t. You can still grab a freebie account on old préférés like WordPress or Blogger.

Learn by experience : Seems pretty obvious, but it simply means to put in the necessary time. An expert is often defined as someone who has given their all and put countless hours of blood, sweat, and tears into a particular experience or endeavor. Are you an expert without even realizing it ? If not, do you have the dedication to become one ? Quiz yourself : Testing what you’ve learned will reinforce the information. Flash cards have stood the test of time as one of the best self-test tools for kids and adults alike. Learn the right things—or the basics—first : Case in point : consider the way a baby learns a new language ( hint : it’s not to learn grammar and spelling and sentence constructs first ). An adult or young adult should be no different. Try immersing yourself in the basics instead and see the difference for yourself. Plan your learning : If you have a long-term plan to learn something, then to quote Led Zeppelin, ' There are two paths you can go by '. You can either take a haphazard approach to learning, or you can put in a bit of planning and find the optimum path. Plan your time and balance learning with living your life.

Persist : Don’t give up the pursuit of learning in the face of intimidating tasks. Anything one human being can learn, most others can as well. Take it from Thomas Edison, who said, ' Genius is 1% inspiration and la majorité perspiration '. Challenge yourself : People are often more éclairé than they realize. In a world that compares and criticizes everything so publicly, it’s harder and harder to know where we fit in. And unexpected genius can be found in all walks of life. If you suspect you have more potential than you’ve shown to others or yourself, try an IQ test such as the one offered by MENSA. Unlike the standardized IQ tests given in many schools, this test helps to comprehensively assess a student’s knowledge and learning ability. And the mere ability to learn is far, far more important than what you already know.

Party before an exam : OK, maybe not a party, but the key is to relax. The worse thing to do is cram the night before an exam. If you don’t already know a subject by then, cramming isn’t going to help. If you have studied, simply review the topic, then go do something pleasant ( not studying ). Doing so tells your brain that you are prepared and that you will be able to recall anything that you have already learned. On the other hand, if you didn’t spend the semester learning the ideas you need, you might as well go party anyway because cramming at the last minute isn’t going to help much at that point.

Don’t worry; learn happy : Have a real volonté for learning and want to share your tips and tricks with others ? Join a cooperative learning group to spread the knowledge.

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