Someone asks:

“I tutor a high school sophomore named Daniel that does the bare minimum in his schoolwork. His grades are mostly Bs with a few Cs. On his last report card, he received one A in Geography because, as he put it, “The teacher wasn’t lame. She made it interesting.” He is more interested in video games and playing hoops with friends than studying. His parents asked me to tutor him for one hour a week in Geometry, his weakest subject, so that he can improve his grades and his chances of getting into a good college.”

What could you do to help this young man besides assist with his math homework one evening each week?

Right after discussing transversals and inscribes angles, I would first talk about his interests and where he sees himself one year from now. Then in five years. Does he want to go to college, and If so, which one? What’s his favorite subject? If he could do anything what would it be? All of those questions are insights into what motivates him and what he wants out of life as he sees it. Eventually goals will begin to arise from the discussion.

Second, encourage your student to write their goals down. Studies shows that written goals are more likely to be achieved than those that are not written(1,2). Also ask the student to write down a deadline for each of his goals.

Next, ask him to make a list of everything he will need to do to make those goals happen. This can be done together, if time permits, or ask to see a list at your next tutoring session. Then help them to organize the list by priority. Star the items that he needs to be working on now.

Lastly, encourage your student to take action! Every day he should do something to move him toward his dreams.

Having aspirations and dreams, but above all goals, are what motivate successful students.

One of the best things we can do for our students is to get them thinking and working toward goals. It is goals that are the key to success in school and in life. Without them, people drift through each day reacting to situations rather than being proactive. There is a temptation to follow the path of least resistance, to do what is easy rather than what is hard and necessary. We can help students see and understand that with a purpose, life can be more exciting and more fulfilling.


“All successful people are big dreamers. They imagine what their future could be, ideal in every respect, and then they work every day toward their distant vision, that goal or purpose.” – Brian Tracy

“People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going.” – Earl Nightingale

Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” —Pablo Picasso

1 What They Don’t Teach You in Harvard Business School by Mark H. McCormack