Summer 2014: Writing Workshops for Middle and High School Students

April 8th, 2014

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Often, with all the excitement of family trips and overnight camps, summer reading gets left to the last minute. Sound familiar? Has your son or daughter ever spent the final days of summer frantically trying to finish all 600 pages of East of Eden? In an effort to avoid that stressful situation, we are offering personalized, one-one-one summer reading tutoring.

The summer is an excellent opportunity to have your student strengthen and polish his or her close reading and analytical writing skills. In a series of five to ten sessions, we will help your student manage his or her summer calendar by developing a realistic reading schedule during an initial session at the beginning of summer. In the following sessions, your student will hone his or her close reading skills by learning how to write an in-depth passage-analysis, as well as develop a better understanding of writing an entire essay from beginning to end. By the completion of the sessions, he or she will have produced a final draft of an analytical essay.

Our one-on-one Writing Workshops are done either in-person or via SKYPE (so your child can continue even when you are on vacation – and we work with students all over the world!) using interactive tools. To learn more and sign up, contact our office.


Kids today as young as elementary students communicate through text  using “cyber slang”, a term for shortcuts, alternatives and symbols in their everyday terminology. This has affected students in their academic writing, and unfortunately, coupled with the summer break, can cause students to lose their ability to properly compose written assignments.

Keep your students on track with our academic writing workshop this summer.  Over the course of four days, this workshop focuses on helping middle and high school students improve their narrative, poetic, expository, and persuasive writing styles through individual and partner activities as well as group brainstorming sessions. Space is limited, so sign up today!

Middle School Workshop: Monday, August 4th – Thursday, August 7th | 1:00 – 3:30 PM 

High School Workshop: Monday, August 4th – Thursday, August 7th | 3:30 – 5:00 PM 



How To Really Encourage Your Daughter’s Leadership Abilities

March 17th, 2014



A version of this article appeared in the Huffington Post.

One of the most defining moments of my college career is a time I don’t often think about anymore. At the time, of course, it was completely nerve-wracking. It was the middle of the first semester of my sophomore year, and I had decided to drop my Organic Chemistry class. In order to do so, I needed to have my professor sign the necessary paperwork.

The professor was funny and engaging, and his enthusiasm made my decision all the more difficult. It’s not you, I wanted to say, it’s me. Regardless of his efforts, I spent most of the thrice-weekly fifty-minute classes and the corresponding four-hour labs feeling as though I was in a foreign country without a map. After what seemed like a lot of soul-searching for a nineteen-year-old, I knew I wanted to drop the class and consequently did not want to be pre-med (Organic Chemistry is one of the hallmark pre-med requirements).

I was shaking a bit when I walked into the professor’s office, and he probably sensed my impending tears when he invited me to sit and chat. He encouraged me to think of dropping his class not as a failure, but as a new beginning full of possibility. He asked me open-ended questions that forced me to reflect, and I remember walking back to my dorm room on that sunny October afternoon feeling relieved and inspired. I finally felt as though I could have a college experience based on my own personal interests instead of preconceived notions of what I could or should be doing.

Not long thereafter, I discovered that my school, Duke University, allowed students to apply and design their own major under a curriculum called, “Program II.” Interested students had to design their major, find an advisor, and defend the program to the Dean. I like to think of as training for my future career as an entrepreneur. My parents, who had immigrated to the United States years earlier, were unsure of what a “self-designed major” meant, and simply hoped I would be gainfully employed with health insurance upon graduation. They also knew they didn’t have all the answers on how I should run my own life, and asked me open-ended questions on how I wanted to become engaged and involved given my personal interests (they also asked questions like “How are you going to be  financially self-sufficient?”).

Since graduating from college, I have designed and run my own successful business, authored two books (and am working on my third), managed Millennials, attended graduate school, worked with tens of thousands of teens and parents, and spoken at junior high schools, high schools, universities and corporations throughout the country and abroad. Few, if any, of these experiences would have happened if I hadn’t dropped Organic Chemistry that day.

In my work, I like to say, “Ask open-ended questions without expectation.” There are so many thoughts on how to encourage leadership for girls and young women, with the latest being the collaboration between Sheryl Sandberg’s and the Girl Scouts to “Ban Bossy.” So many of my own greatest leadership opportunities and happenings have grown from conversations – including that encouraging conversation with my Organic Chemistry professor who reframed my thinking to discover my own sense of personal purpose.

Last month, I returned to campus to be a panelist at Duke Women’s Weekend. The panel was entitled “What is your Question?,”  and was based on an exercise Duke University Dean Laurie Patton does to encourage students to align their actions around their own personal values. As preparation, I was asked to come up with the question I center my own life’s work around. Other panelists’ questions included, “What does healthy feel like?” “What is success?” “How do I live a life with purpose?” My question, after some reflection, is “How do I encourage and inspire others to become leaders in their own lives?”

The weekend had over 300 women in attendance, and each attendee contributed their own fascinating story and perspective. I had conversations with current undergraduates and women who graduated from the Women’s College over fifty years ago. What struck me more than any accomplishments or accolades of this highly talented group, though, was the thoughtfulness of our conversations about life choices, family decisions, corporate opportunities, and personal challenges. When we are younger, it can seem easy to borrow someone else’s blueprint for success, and as we age most of us realize there is no one “right” decision or life path. So many attendees used their personal experiences to become authentic leaders in their own lives – and in doing so, ultimately created positive ripple effects in the lives of so many others.

As parents and educators, one of the most powerful things we can do is give our daughters the opportunity to start asking questions around personal purpose, leadership, and values earlier in life. What are the qualities that make a good leader? What are your most important values? How do you espouse those values in your daily life? Often we don’t face these questions until we are in some way forced, as I was that day my sophomore year. We hear so much about the importance of developing girls’ leadership abilities, and it can be easy to forget how leadership is most powerful when it develops from within. The earlier we start asking open-ended questions to encourage reflection, the more powerful our next generation can be in creating their own blueprint for personal success and happiness. And, in doing so, they become even more empowered to create those positive ripple effects in the lives of others.


Yik Yak and The Incredible Lull of Anonymity

March 12th, 2014

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In the past decade, social media use has gone from over-sharing personal information on Myspace and Facebook to hiding behind screens and anonymous profiles.  Over the past 6-12 months, apps such as Secret, Whisper, and now Yik Yak are increasing in popularity among teens.

Yik Yak is the latest app following on the anonymous trends, and describes itself as  “a live feed of what people are saying around you, using your phone’s GPS. The posts only stay up a limited amount of time before disappearing.”

This past week, I received an email from a principal at a Chicago high school who had banned Yik Yak from campus after students were posting updates about their classmates in a way that was derogatory and hurtful.  The concept of a local, live feed may have been an innocent one, as its iTunes App Store description pens it as:

- The ultimate way to share your thoughts and recommendations, anonymously.
- Share your own Yaks and see what other people are saying.
- No login, no password, no traces; simply anonymous.
- Upvote and downvote Yaks, see what makes it to the ‘Hot’ page!
- Perfect for college/university students to stay social!

Yik Yak has potential to be what it was truly created to do: let others in the area know what’s going on.  Unfortunately, anonymity gives users the false sense they cannot be held accountable for anything posted, and some posts have been malicious.  At a Massachusetts high school,  administrators saw some of the posts as serious threats and evacuated the building.

“Sources say high school students are using the app to anonymously post hurtful and inappropriate comments about their classmates.  The Chicago Tribune reports that at least two Chicago-area high schools sent home letters to parents Wednesday about ‘Yik Yak.’  Last month, a teenager in Mobile, Alabama was arrested after making shooting threats on the app.” Read more here

Have you talked to your children about Yik Yak or other social media apps that focus on anonymous and ephemeral interactions?

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Images courtesy of the iTunes App Store

Is It More Effective to Take Notes By Hand?

February 10th, 2014


This past weekend, I visited my alma mater, Duke University, and went to the campus bookstore to buy a yellow legal pad and some new pens. For me, buying new pens and a legal pad is a sign I am about to get down to business. Because even though I love technology and all the benefits of the latest organizational apps, I still write out my to-do list by hand – and typically outline most of my writing and presentations by hand as well.

And I am not alone. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg keeps a notebook and pen around to keep track of her to-do list. Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen writes his to-do list (and anti todo list) on a card. So now that we have laptops and iPads, what is most effective way for students (and the rest of us) to take notes if we are interested in retaining the information?

Laptops and iPads bring many benefits into the classroom: students who write slowly or have messy handwriting can type out their notes, and once the document is saved on the device, it’s much more difficult to lose than a single sheet of paper or a notebook (well, hopefully, unless things crash without back-up).

But do taking notes by hand have any benefits over typing?  Two psychological scientists compared the methods side by side and ran experiments to see which type of note-taking was more effective in helping students learn (and retain information).  They used a class where some students used laptops to take notes and other students used a regular notebook and pen.  All the students were instructed to take notes as they usually do.

In the first study, they tested for immediate recall: half an hour after the lecture, the students were quizzed on the material, without any opportunity to review their notes.  What the scientists found was that those who took notes by handwriting did better than the ones who used a laptop.  In the second study, the students were given one week to study for the exam, as if they were preparing for any other test.  Surprisingly, the ones who hand-wrote the notes still performed better.

Those who took notes in longhand, and were able to study, did significantly better than any of the other students in the experiment — better even than the fleet typists who had basically transcribed the lectures. That is, they took fewer notes overall with less verbatim recording, but they nevertheless did better on both factual learning and higher-order conceptual learning.”  Read more here

What does this say about the use of technology in the classroom?  While using a laptop or iPad to take notes can lighten up the backpack by eliminating the need to carry multiple notebooks, it may not benefit students because of the nature of its use: advancements in technology are meant to take the “thinking” out of tasks.  Much like how calculators have made it quite difficult for people to do simple math calculations in their head (or even on paper), typing out notes may be causing students to be less dependent on listening to the actual lectures because now their fingers can do all the thinking for them.

What do you prefer? Taking notes by hand? Or using the laptop or iPad?

Lecture Room 2

How Early is Too Early?

January 29th, 2014

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Over the past decade, our office has worked with hundreds of high school athletes who have gone on to play their respective sport at college including Stanford, Princeton, Brown, Notre Dame, UCLA, UC Berkeley, Pepperdine – the list goes on and on. We’ve worked with football, basketball, volleyball and baseball players. We’ve seen swimmers, field hockey stars, wrestlers, golfers, soccer prodigies and wrestlers go on to achieve athletic greatness (while maintaining a high GPA and acing the SATs).These students are determined, and there is a ton of pressure on them to perform well athletically and academically – often on very little sleep, and with all the typical social stress that goes along with being a teenager.

So, I read with interest last week’s article in the NYTimes entitled “Committing to Play for College, and then Starting the 9th Grade” all about how player recruiting is now happening earlier and earlier – apparently, as early as junior high. Here’s the thing: a lot happens over four years of high school. I’ve seen the sixth man on the junior varsity team become recruited in his senior year. I’ve also seen more than one career end because of several back-to-back injuries. Besides all that, adolescents are going through lots of emotional and social changes, and forcing them or asking them to commit early can backfire.

The New York Times features a girl who, before she started her freshman year of high school, phoned a Texas college coach to commit to the school.  While it may seem odd for a coach to offer a student a spot on the team 4 years in advance, the practice isn’t as uncommon as you might think:

Early scouting has also become more prevalent in women’s sports than men’s, in part because girls mature sooner than boys. But coaches say it is also an unintended consequence of Title IX, the federal law that requires equal spending on men’s and women’s sports. Colleges have sharply increased the number of women’s sports scholarships they offer, leading to a growing number of coaches chasing talent pools that have not expanded as quickly.“  Read more here

I totally understand from a perspective of just knowing, locking in a commitment early can be incredibly anxiety relieving. And when a student is being recruited by top schools, why wouldn’t they say yes as early as possible? But at the end of the day, students who are athletes deserve to have the best high and college experience possible. And committing early limits potential opportunities for social, emotional, and physical growth by forcing kids to make a decision at a time that might be far to early for them to carefully weight the options and understand what is important for them in the next step of the academic and athletic career.

Furthermore, the increased pressure on students, especially female athletes, to perform at this higher expectation can lead to more injuries that those of their male counterparts.  Doctors in Boston are studying common injuries to girls, focusing on what they call the “Female Athlete Triad Syndrome” – nutritional deficits, poor bone health, and hormonal changes.  They are also finding ACL tears and other orthopedic injuries are starting at younger ages, due to girls training more intensely for one sport and failing to cross-train. I talk about a lot of these issues in the Physical Wellness chapter of The Myth of the Perfect Girl (Penguin/Perigee 2012).

“…Female Athlete Triad Syndrome is common among female athletes — up to 78 percent of high school varsity players have at least one of its symptoms. But the syndrome is often missed by doctors who focus on specific injuries, rather than the big picture… Unaddressed, the Female Athlete Triad syndrome can lead to serious bone problems, as well as potential fertility issues, more frequent injuries, depression, and declining performance.”  Read more here

What do you think about such early recruitment?  Is it a self-esteem boost for students, or should the practice be abandoned?

Watching Them Play

Has Facebook Turned Into A News Site?

January 27th, 2014

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I have to say, one thing I have enjoyed Facebook for over the years is the number of news articles my friends link to – for me, it has become somewhat of a newsfeed. And now, amidst reports that its teen user population is dwindling (when teens parents are on FB, it’s just not as fun), Facebook has turned to a feature that closely resembles that of another social media giant: Twitter.

After creating #hashtags in the footsteps of Twitter, the site has portioned a section of users’ home feeds to show trending news stories and topics.  Twitter’s trending feed is based on region, and Facebook wants to tailor these posts to attract a user’s attention:

To the right of your News Feed, you’ll see a list of topics that have recently spiked in popularity. The list is personalized, including topics based on things you’re interested in and what is trending across Facebook overall. Each topic is accompanied by a headline that briefly explains why it is trending. You can click on any headline to see the most interesting posts from your friends or Pages that are talking about that particular topic.”

With its younger population abandoning ship for newer apps that give the illusion of anonymity and ephemeral interactions (see my article here), Facebook is trying to find a new route to attract users and remain the top social media site.  Will Facebook succeed as a news site?  Maybe, as a recent Pew study showed that 30 percent of Americans actually get their news from Facebook.

It requires far less effort, from the user’s standpoint, to pop over to Facebook now and then than it does to bookmark four different news sites and blogs, build an old-fashioned RSS reader, or to wade into Twitter’s raging river of links, jokes, and snarky punditry. In other words, Facebook could become the USA Today of the 21st Century—but on a near-global scale, with a readership in the billions rather than the millions.“  Read more here

What about you?  Do you ever get the news from Facebook?


Our Upcoming Organizational Workshops in SF Bay Area and NYC – THIS WEEK!

January 9th, 2014



It’s never too late to get organized, and the spring semester is a great time to start!

SF BAY AREA/LOS ALTOS: We will be hosting our popular Motivational Organization & Time Management workshop for both middle and high school students on January 11th.  We limit our workshops to 8 students, and the workshop can also be done one-on-one for maximum support.

Our group sessions will be held on Saturday, January 11th at our downtown Los Altos office:

Middle School Organizational Workshop: 1:30 – 3:30 PM
High School Organizational Workshop: 4:00 – 6:00 PM

Please email us if you have any questions or would like to sign up!

NYC/MANHATTAN (Near Union Square): We are also hosting our popular Less Stress, More Success: Managing School, Stress and Social Media workshop in NYC (near Union Square) next week. We limit our workshops to 8 students, and the workshop can also be done one-on-one for maximum support.

 Workshops will be held on the following dates:
January 15, 2014, 12:00 – 2:00 PM |  Parent Workshop
January 15, 2014, 4:00 – 6:00 PM   |  Middle School Student Workshop
January 15, 2014, 6:30 – 8:30 PM   |  High School Student Workshop
January 16, 2014, 7:00 – 9:00 PM   |  Parent Workshop

Confirmation and details will be sent after registration. To sign up, email us or sign up online.

Make a Different Type of Resolution This Year

January 8th, 2014

Pastel New Year 2


HAPPY 2014! We’re back in the office and ready for an amazing year. I don’t know about you, but 2013 was a lot (not back, not good, just A LOT) and I am looking forward to an amazing 2014.

We’ve all been there: it’s January 1st (or maybe even December 31st), and we announce that this year, our resolution is to go to the gym every day, stop eating junk food, or read 5 books every month.

Then spring rolls around, and slowly, quietly, we slip back into old habits and completely forget about our resolutions.  Some of us don’t even make it past the month of January.  And you vow that next year, you’ll follow through without caving in.

Instead of making a resolution that lasts an entire 12 months, what about making monthly resolutions?  Fellow Duke alumni Miho Kubagawa wrote this great post in the Huffington Post all about making 12 one-month resolutions, like handwriting and mailing cards of gratitude to one person every day in November  (I have personally done this and it is incredibly rewarding).  To help motivate herself, Kubagawa keeps in touch with a group of people via email; everyone in the group emails their resolution for the month, and updates the others on their commitment from last month.

“We keep track of our resolutions and progress to date in Google Docs. Seeing everything that we accomplish, both individually and collectively, month after month is incredibly motivating. The fear of having to write the email, “Last month didn’t go so well,” to the group is also just as motivating.”  Read more here

What about you?  What will you commit to this January?

How are the Latest Social Media Trends Hurting Our Kids?

December 4th, 2013

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Messages that supposedly disappear after ten seconds.  Forums that allow users to post comments anonymously.  “Selfies.”

How are some of the latest social media trends really affecting our kids?  My piece on these app features is in the Huffington Post.  Click here to view the article and share it, or read the excerpt below:

 The Teen Vanishing Act: How the Latest Social Media Trends Are Hurting Our Kids

The insults kept pouring in, the middle schooler told me, until she read one that made it nearly impossible for her to concentrate on her schoolwork.

‘U should die,’ an anonymous poster had written.

She had stopped me after a presentation I’d given at her school about social media, and explained the nightmare she suffered the previous school year after creating a profile on, a social media site that allows people to leave nameless, faceless comments on other’s profiles. At least seven teen suicides have been linked to in the last two years.

Hours later I presented to 200 parents at the same school. When I asked how many of them were familiar with, only two hands went up.

For the past few years, I’ve seen teens shift their social media habits to apps and sites that provide illusions of ephemeral and anonymous interactions — illusions that are quickly eroding their social and emotional well-being, and can be deadly.

Read More Here

Green Ivy Holiday Open House! Sunday December 1 at 5:30 pm

November 26th, 2013

It’s almost the holiday season, and this means our wonderful town of Los Altos will be hosting its annual Festival of Lights Parade.  I’ve been going to this parade for decades now – and its a tradition that makes you happy to be in a smaller town. Everyone gets involved – and there are floats, costumed characters, local school marching bands and general holiday cheer. and this year it will be held on Sunday, December 1st at 6:00 PM.

And as luck would have it, our Green Ivy office is right in the middle of all the action, including prime viewing spots from our windows, so we will be participating in the holiday fun by hosting an Open House!

Feel free to stop by and say hello, grab some snacks and apple cider, and watch the parade from our (warm!) office.  Our doors will open at 5:30 PM.

For more information about the parade, visit their website.  Hope to see you here!

Hot Chocolate 3