It’s no secret that there’s a crisis with teenagers. Mental health among teens has been eroding since 2010, with a significant dropoff during the pandemic. Middle and high school life isn’t helping. A lot of kids feel adrift—disengaged from learning, unsure how to process their feelings. One place to turn is to hire a expert—a facilitator who can help teens tap into themselves, explore their feelings and emotions, and find ways to re-engage with life in positive ways, on their own terms.
Teen Life Coaching
Enter Kate Stone, an educator who, for the last couple of years, has been running a successful coaching practice called Heart Speak that is focused teen girls and young women. I spoke with Kate about her work in this 20-minute interview. One note of caution. I stupidly forgot to change my video settings, so it’s one person at a time on camera, which is kind of weird. But, you still get a great portrait of how her concept of “inner education” is so crucial for girls at this juncture.
Kate began her work with teens as a Princeton teaching fellow in Asia. Eventually, she spun up a college essay writing service to help kids with this crucial part of the college admissions process. It was in that work where Kate first detected signs that kids needed help exploring and understanding their feelings.
College Essay Support
“We learn that for college admissions the most important thing is that the applicant has been on a personal development journey,” says Stone. “[They have to demonstrate] that they’ve done some sort of self inquiry or examination that has imbued them with resilience—something that makes them much more efficient at life.”
But what Stone discovered when she sat down to help high school juniors work on their essays was that they had difficulty being introspective and needed a lot of social and emotional guidance. Increasingly, the writing support morphed into coaching.
“I feel like I’ve gotten this incredible peek behind the curtain over the last decade that lets me see what teens are thinking and feeling,” she says. “For example, we ask them to answer the question ‘if you really knew me you’d know…’ or ‘what does vulnerability mean to you?’ And the answers to these questions are really revealing as to what’s going on inside teenagers. Most of them walk away thinking, “oh God, I didn’t realize that this is what the college essay process would be. I’ve never done this before.”
Efficient at Life
One of Stone’s big critiques of traditional, brick & mortar education is that it doesn’t make room for this kind of personal development. It focuses on traditional subjects like math and language arts in order to “prepare kids for the world,” but neglects fundamental life skills like how to examine your value system, identify your strengths, and navigate your challenges, struggles, and fears. We sort of just hope that they pick this up along the way.
Stone sees herself as filling this gap. Her core offering at Heart Speak is a seven-week group coaching program for young women, ages 14 to early twenties. Stone begins the program with a deep dive into thoughts and feelings, a kind of excavation of one’s inner life. Then she jumps into the tools and modalities: meditation and breathwork, body image, self care, managing stress, nutrition, biohacking, boundaries, sexuality, consent, pleasure, and finally financial literacy. “I think of all these as a comprehensive crash course on life,” she says.
A seven-week course costs $2200 and can be booked here.
A Course on Themselves
In addition—and of particular interest to Cicero students—Stone also provide private coaching services, organized in a similar fashion. In the absence of a group, the sessions are much more personalized and focused on the individual. But, the goal is the same, to help kick start an inner journey and onboard some critical life skills. And it couldn’t come at a better time.
“Most of my students are feeling crushed under self-doubt,” relates Stone. “That’s the number one problem I see with students. They are just frozen. Parents say, ‘do this’ or ‘do that.’ But teens can’t take action because they haven’t resolved the root cause of what’s holding them back.”
Whether in a group or 1-on-1, Stone takes teens on a journey that she sees as a “course on themselves” that aims to equip them with resilience, confidence, and mental models for conquering life. “Everything in our outer world is the product of our inner world,” Stone says, sounding like a good Stoic philosopher. We need to get at the root of our inner world and really understand ourselves, she says, in order to have impact on that outer world.
“The sooner we give kids this kind of education on themselves,” continues Stone, “the sooner they can get to work living their lives, pursuing the things that are interesting to them, and being a force for good in a world that desperately needs changemakers right now.”
Stone’s dynamic, thoughtful approach and her view that coaching is core, not peripheral, to education fits perfectly with our thinking at Cicero. You can learn more on her coaching page.