CCA family gives tips on staying motivated after holidays

Erma Sauder, CCA family mentor in the Northeast region, offers tips to keep students motivated.

Creating a plan and setting daily goals can ​give students structure to work within and completing assignments.

This is the time of year when it is easy for students to lose motivation. Coming back to schoolwork after the holidays can cause students to get stuck in a rut. This week’s blog includes tips for staying motivated and for starting 2018 in a position to end the school year strong.

Learning coach and family mentor Erma Sauder has three children at CCA, and she finds that this time of the year it is difficult for them to bounce back into their regular schedule.

"It seems like every year for our family that January rolls around and we are tired from all the holidays and celebrations, and now we're looking at a few months with not a whole lot of nice weather and everyone is just down in the dumps,” Erma said.

Erma’s daughter, Cheyenne, admitted that this time of the year is hard to come back and get focused.

“During the earlier part of the year you have the holidays to look forward to, you have Thanksgiving food, but later in the year it’s just dull weather and gloomy outside and, for me, that usually reflects how I feel on the inside,” Cheyenne said.

It is often hard to stay focused and stick to the schedule that worked earlier in the year, but Cheyenne said she found her own solution.

"Recently, I've discovered if I put a time frame on when I'm working on schoolwork, when I'm going to take a break, and how long the break is going to be, it really helps me schedule my time and be more focused,” she said.

Because she allows Cheyenne to make her own schedule for the day, Erma has to check in on where she is on her schoolwork less frequently and Cheyenne is more inclined to stick to the plan.

Jake Ramsey, host of the WeAreCCA podcast, said this tactic is one he recommends to students who are new to CCA and struggling to find their groove.

“I tell them to come up with a game plan every day before they even start doing lessons,” Jake said. “Figure out what you're going to do and why you're going to do it, and that will give you some type of structure to work within and set goals periodically throughout the day.”

Cheyenne said, by getting more independence, she feels more inclined to see it through and less like she is completing a chore.

Erma, as an active family mentor who works with other family mentors in the Family Services Department, said she finds that talking to her children about the bigger picture has made an impact on their motivation in school.

“At CCA, we want to do education differently,” Erma said. “And my kids are a part of that bigger picture.”

Talking to her children about the privilege it is to have access to a great education, and how CCA helps so many families get that access, has proven to ground them.

“They get really excited to know that they are a part of something different,” Erma said.

Whenever Erma sees that Cheyenne is dragging out her schoolwork, from distractions or just feeling overwhelmed, she will give Cheyenne time constraints for her to kick it into high gear and feel more motivated to complete whatever she is working on.

Additionally, Erma said one of the simplest things a learning coach can do is to be consistent about what to expect from the student.

She said, even when she is working, her kids will call her to let her know when their schoolwork is done and ask what chores they need to do before they can do other things, like playing "Minecraft."

"Just those little, day-to-day, consistent expectations really help them stay in the game, so to speak," Erma said.

Cheyenne had tried a traditional brick-and-mortar school for about half a year without success. When she switched back to CCA midyear, she felt stressed and unable to get back to her regular pace — until she found a Family Service Center.

"Coming from a very intense environment in my brick-and-mortar school, I was lost," Cheyenne said. "So when we found the Midtown Center in Harrisburg, after a while I found that I had this backbone that I could depend on. I have a support team. And having that, having a group behind me, really helped remind me that I'm not alone in this, and that makes me more motivated."

Jake said students should never forget the unlimited resource they have in their teachers, too, if they are struggling to find motivation.

“Pick up the phone and call a teacher. You can get direct support. Start attending LiveLessons if you haven't been already,” Jake said. “Having that connection with a real, live person, with a real voice on the other end of the phone that cares about you being successful, is something that is beneficial for students to have at their disposal.

“The most important people to you when times get tough are going to be those teachers, and if you've taken some time to invest and build a relationship with them, they'll know how to help support you as an individual, rather than just throwing darts at a dartboard,” Jake said.

"As a student phone calls might be scary or overwhelming, but in the long run after I call my teachers I feel much more relieved and have a clearer idea of what I am doing," Cheyenne said.

Top takeaways for staying motivated to finish the school year:

For students:

• Self-motivation. Find motivation in a manner that works best for you, and make it your own. You will be much more likely to stay motivated to reach your own deadlines than you will for ones someone else sets for you.

• You are not alone. At CCA, there is an entire village of people behind you rooting for your success. Go to centers near you if you are feeling stressed and alone in trying to get through your schoolwork. People are there to help in whatever way you need.

• Don’t be afraid to call your teachers. In other schools, student-teacher relationships might be a little different, sometimes even nonexistent. CCA teachers want to be a valuable resource when you need it. They are interested in what works best for you and habits that help you learn and stay motivated. Reach out, and you will see that the person on the end of the line is rooting for you.

For learning coaches:

• Set expectations. If they know they can’t play or watch TV until their schoolwork is done, they’ll want to get it out of the way so they can fill the rest of their days with other activities.

• Be consistent. Establishing a routine or setting expectations for your student doesn't matter if you are consistent in reinforcing them. 

• Pay attention to your student's behaviors. If you notice they take longer when they are overwhelmed, help them stay motivated by giving them timelines until their next break. Sometimes, the flexible schedule can lead to procrastination. Use this as an opportunity to teach them how to hit deadlines, stay organized and motivate themselves.


Commonwealth Charter Academy


January 10, 2018


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