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Coach Spotlight: Susan Bloom, Test Prep Beyond the Scores

  • Susan Bloom
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Maybe Susan Bloom has always been “good at school.” Her impressive academic credentials suggest as much—a BA in political science and economics, an MA in public policy from the University of Minnesota, a Ph.D. in political economy from Northwestern University, and teaching positions at Northwestern, UMN, and St. Olaf. But ask her about a formative moment in her education, and she’ll tell you about a moment of what at the time felt a bit like failure: calling her father from college, crying to report her first “B.” “Good,” he told her, “now you can actually learn something.”

All that school—the pages read, the papers written and graded, the tests taken and graded—and all the moments of struggle along the way added up to something far more valuable than a string of As across a transcript. “I know how to learn, how to teach, and how to distinguish getting grades from getting smart,” says Susan.

In addition to her father, Susan cites her fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Trumbull, as an inspiration. “I loved to hate Mrs. Trumbull. She demanded excellence in all things, and accepted no excuses. Now I know she was funny, clever, and truly knew each of her students and how to connect with each one in an subtle, effective, and self-effacing way.” (Could there be a more perfect name for the thrilling terror inspired by the tough love of our fourth grade teachers? Oh that we may all have a Mrs. Trumbull.)

And then there was her mother: “Mrs. T. was the rough side of the sandpaper to the finer grained side of my mother, who was also a teacher.” Susan’s mother was a “special reading” teacher long before 504s, IEPs, and effective diagnoses of autism, reading disorders, and ADHD. “Her quiet and unwavering advocacy of each of her students has and continues to be my true north,” reflects Susan.

As a learning coach, Susan primarily focuses on ACT and SAT prep, with some AP exams here and there. She also facilitates the college application process with students she’s formed long term relationships with. Yet though the subjects she focuses on are primarily those that privilege product over process, Susan is committed to the longterm game of learning with each of her students. “Sure, it’s important to do well on the test, and I certainly help students do just that. But I would argue that the true investment a parent makes in employing Yellow Parachute is our commitment to the beyond-test skills of critical thinking, analysis, time management, and good work habits.” She reminds reluctant students that though tutoring may feel like a burden, it is a manifestation of their parents’ love, who are doing the best they can to provide them with opportunities for growth and learning. She strives to make the process as painless as possible—hopefully even fun!

Susan has been informally weaving “learning how to learn” skills into her tutoring for some time now, but she’s excited to begin more formally incorporating SOS curriculum into her test prep tutoring this summer. This focus on understanding and working with their own executive function strengths and weaknesses has the potential to empower students far beyond the fleeting “test day.” Finding the right “fit,” the skills and tools that work with each student’s unique strengths, “is the best part of the work,” says Susan. “Each student is a new adventure, a new set of possibilities, a new human to cheer and challenge and send off into the fabulous world.” She does literal happy dances to celebrate her students’ victories: watching a student laugh in the face of a semicolon, receiving a late-night text from a student who finally achieved his goal score, and receiving another text, all in caps, that a student had been accepted by Harvard.

In addition to being a passionate learning coach, Susan is a voracious reader, a sometimes gardener, a lover of big dogs and Pink Floyd, and a fascinated watcher of sumo wrestling and Nordic mystery series. She’s a loyal friend, loving wife, and committed parent to two twins she calls wiser than she. Ready to get started with Susan right away? Give us a call.

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Sunday, 25 August 2019