21 reflections on 21 years


It strikes me that November 2022 marks 21 years of Green Ivy Educational Consulting (no, I can’t quite believe it either!). In a time of constant change, I remain so grateful for this work and for our incredible staff.

Over the past few years, we’ve been working on ways to expand our message and to reach a larger audience. There’s so much to love about working with students and with schools, and I wanted to share 21 reflections on 21+ years of working with students and speaking and consulting in schools:

  1. When I first started this work, there was no Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube…. Back then, students would share that their main distractions were daydreaming, their pets, food, and their siblings.
  1. Our fundamental focus on certain elements of executive functioning skills – organization, planning, prioritization, and completing work without distractions – remains unchanged. Today, though, we help students organize physical binders as well as digital folders, and our students use different apps and web blockers to manage distractions (including Freedom and SelfControl).
  1. Today, the top three most popular social networks that teenagers use (as of spring 2022) are YouTube (used by 95% of teens), TikTok (67%), and Instagram (60%). (Source: Pew Research Center.)
  1. When then-New York Times education reporter Alan Finder visited my office in fall 2007 for research on his article about helping disorganized boys, he asked me what I would like to happen as a result of the article. “I want to write a book,” I replied.
  1. I received my first book deal, for That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week, in the fall of 2008—a year after the release of the first iPhone.
  1. The students whose stories are highlighted in That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week are now in their early 30s. A few are married and have kids of their own.
  1. All these years later, I have yet to find an online planner that works as effectively for distracted students as a well-designed paper planner does (feel free to send me your recommendations!). My favorite is the pricier but personalized Plum Paper. I use it myself, this is #notanad!
  1. The middle school– and high school–aged girls I interviewed for The Myth of the Perfect Girl turned me on to the potential dangers of anonymous messaging apps. All the original apps are now defunct, though here’s a new one to know about: NGL (not going to lie). 
  1. When I started to write Social Media Wellness in 2012/2013, publishers were initially reluctant to support a “whole book on social media.” One publisher reasoned that it didn’t seem like social media was a big enough issue to warrant a whole book (!!).
  1. Today, Instagram is 13 years old, with 2 billion monthly active users, and approximately 500 million daily active users.
  1. My first international school visit—to the United Arab Emirates in 2012—helped me see the challenges that would come when technology was brought into the classroom without streamlined guidance for teachers and families. At the time, teachers at the school were using Google Calendar to track assignments, except some put the assignments on the date that they were assigned, and others put them on the day that they were due…
  1. In 2013, I argued that the first round of digital citizenship education was well intentioned but misguided; it told kids what not to do and used a fear-based approach. My concern was that kids would hide what they were doing from adults, which could be detrimental. I later wrote about this issue in my 2017 New York Times piece The Secret Social Media Lives of Teenagers.
  1. A personal highlight was when I lent my voice and my message about social media wellness, and they were put on video for The Atlantic magazine.
  1. The trailers for my books have gotten progressively better:
  1. We began our first iteration of the 90-minute one-on-one organizational workshop in 2016. Today, all the students who work with us on executive functioning skills start with some form of this workshop.
  1. At Green Ivy, I am particularly proud of the work that we’ve done over the past 15 years to develop our college application advising program, beginning with our unique interactive and comprehensive 4-day summer bootcamp. At the start of the pandemic, we made the bootcamp virtual, which means that we have had students from all over the United States and from four continents join in (though not all at once!).
  1. In 2018 and 2019, I traveled to schools to speak about social media wellness. I provided a survey in advance. My biggest takeaway? At every school, between 5% and 10% of students didn’t have an adult or a peer they could turn to if something inappropriate or uncomfortable happened online. We need to help every student proactively identify multiple trusted adults in their lives.
  1. In 2019, the Green Ivy staff and I began the ambitious project of creating a middle school advisory program through our nonprofit initiative Luminaria Learning Solutions. We piloted the program for 3 years during the pandemic (!!), and we’re thrilled to be currently partnered with schools who can implement the work with fidelity and who are consequently seeing amazing results.
  1. Two years ago, we began a formal program of working with college students on executive functioning skills. Given our pandemic-adjusted world, that remains an area where we are getting an increased number of requests.
  1. A few weeks ago, I spoke at Birch Wathen Lenox School in New York City as part of the school’s speaker series. The interim head of school, Bill Kuhn, and I met 10 years ago when he called my office after having seen the “disorganized boys” article in the NYTimes. The world is so small!
  1. I am currently in the middle of revisions for my latest book, Erasing the Finish Line: The New Blueprint Beyond Grades and College Admissions, set to be released in late summer 2023. As part of my research for the book, I went back and interviewed my students from 5, 10, 15+ years ago. So many of them could pinpoint positive aspects of their work habits that they had developed or learned in our office, and they explained how they use habits and ideas learned in our office in their daily work and personal lives today.

Thank you, as always, for the opportunity to work with your children and in your schools.

Warm Regards,