Introducing Academic Coach, Zoe North

Zoe North, the latest Academic Coach to join our team, first started helping students during the pandemic, supporting them with their English studies. 

In this week’s podcast episode, I talked with Zoe about

  • What brought her to academic coaching (spoiler alert -it all started when she read Lucy's book at age 15!)
  • How her past experiences have shaped her perspective on coaching
  • What she loves about academic coaching

You can watch using the video player above, or you can read the summary of the interview below. 

Your history and what brought you to academic coaching.

Yes, so I have been brought to academic coaching because of my own experiences with school and in education so far.

When I think back to my experiences of school the first thing I think of is the discrepancy between what looks like quite a smooth journey, from getting good GCSEs, good A Levels, and then being given the opportunity to study the subject that I love at Oxford. But then also how that journey was nowhere near as smooth or as linear in reality compared to how it looks on paper.

There were periods in my schooling where I really struggled, and I felt overwhelmed and like I wasn’t going to be able to achieve what I wanted to be able to achieve.

For me what helped the most with that was learning how to revise, incorporating good structure into what I was doing and implementing a plan that gave me the confidence that my goals were possible, and meant that I could still enjoy my life at the same time.

I also read your book when I was fifteen, in year 10, so I was lucky to have had a certain framework of active (as opposed to passive) learning and an awareness of those other techniques to return to from quite early on.

I had seen the difference between when I used certain learning tools and when I didn't so I definitely realised their power and effectiveness. Because of this I knew that when I was tutoring, discussing with students how they revised was always as important, if not more important than content.

So in light of that, academic coaching is perfect for me because I love organisation, experimenting with different ways of learning and creating a system that can really work for each person.

Your biggest struggle in your own education and how you overcame it.

I think the main thing that I struggled with across my whole time at school was probably self-comparison. That was to the extent that if I was doing one thing or revising in one way and then saw someone else doing something different, I immediately assumed that I should be doing what they were doing!

I would definitely look back at myself when I was doing my GCSEs and tell myself to focus less on other people and more on myself. I think I probably overcame this by trying to commit more to myself and what I was doing more, as opposed to focusing on other people.

I think it's also about realising that everyone is on their own different trajectory and has to target different things. Everyone is going to have their peaks and troughs at different times so there really just is no point in comparing yourself to other people.

Along the same lines, I also think I used to have a tendency to put down the instances when I did well either as a one-off or coincidence. Whereas when I did less well, I would choose that as the point of information to judge how well I was doing.

So I definitely think I should have been a bit kinder to myself and made sure to celebrate progress and all the little achievements.

And then I also hit a bit of a wall with one of my A Level subjects! There was a time at the end of year 12 when I really thought that I couldn’t do one of my subjects. I thought that it was too hard and I wasn’t clever enough (and all of that stuff!).

Eventually I decided to write down all the mistakes that I made as I went along – and I was making a lot! I told myself that as long as I didn’t repeat any of the mistakes in the exam that I was making now, I would be happy with whatever grade I got.

That worked really well as a strategy for me and I managed to get the grade that I needed!

The experience you have as a tutor and how this gives you a different perspective

Yes, so I started tutoring when I was seventeen. At that time I was helping students affected by the pandemic with English. I still tutor some younger students for English who are in year 4, 5 and 6. However, now it’s predominantly GCSE and A Level for History and English.

I think the biggest thing that I have learnt and seen from doing quite a range of work is that although everyone has different strengths and weaknesses that there are certain frameworks that can always be applied and are helpful no matter what level that you're working at.

So the perspective that I have gained is that there is a certain commonality between everyone and that there are certain frameworks that really will be helpful for most people.

What you love about academic coaching including examples of how you've helped young people you've worked with make break-throughs

I always enjoy seeing the difference that it makes when students feedback that they are now enjoying something that they weren’t enjoying before, or that they feel more in control now.

I find it really enjoyable to work collaboratively with students to help them create a system that is essentially going to do quite a lot of the heavy-lifting for them – meaning that they don’t have to worry as much.

It’s also satisfying to introduce revision techniques and ways of working that students might not have tried before. Things like the pomodoro technique, or retrospective revision timetables, and introducing ways of working that a student may not have heard of or tried before – but once they are introduced to these new ways of doing things it becomes their new way of doing things.

I had a student once who was convinced that she had a bad memory and just couldn’t remember anything. We made some mind maps that doubled up as mnemonics. After we had done that, I asked her to write up the same mind map from memory – she did it perfectly and that was very rewarding.

Quick fire questions

Book that had the biggest impact on your life.

‘The boy, the mole, the fox and the horse’ by Charlie Mackesy.

Favourite teacher and why.

My history teacher in year 7. There were a lot of dramatic re-enactments of historical events!

Favourite holiday destination.

The Outer Hebrides in Scotland.

Favourite take-away / food.

Pizza – preferably with a movie.

Most used app.


Would you like Zoe to be your teen’s Academic Coach? 

If you would like Zoe to help your teen reach their academic potential in a way that works for them, click here to find out about our academic coaching packages.

You can book a call with Helen Chaplain, our head Academic Coach, who will listen to what you need in terms of support. Helen will assess if we're a good fit for you and, if we are, she'll make sure you’re matched with the right Academic Coach for you.

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