The Tutor Portland Podcast is a show where we sit down with Portland locals to talk all things education.
In our first-ever episode of the Tutor Portland Podcast, host Brian Grant sits down with Dr. Amelia Wilcox, a fourth-generation Portlander, psychological clinician, and cognitive scientist to talk about the reality of anxiety in the classroom. Dr. Amelia Wilcox is an accomplished psychologist who specializes in clinical work, neuroscience, and cognition––so she knows a thing or two about what’s happening in the brain of a stressed-out student. Amelia did her post-doc fellowship in neuropsychology. But she trained as a clinical psychologist prior to that. She taught at UCSF at the school of medicine for 8 years. And she now teaches at Lewis & Clark in Portland, Oregon.
In this episode, we review metacognition (thinking about thinking) and how it intersects with classroom anxieties. We also discuss clinical psychology and how it’s more engaging, exciting, and educational than many give it credit. Plus, Dr. Wilcox offers techniques to help break the cycle of stressful thinking, inside the classroom and beyond.
The Importance of Peer Groups
Amelia talks about something she sees with a lot of her clinical patients—anxiety. Anxiety is really common among teens and students. Nearly 33% of Americans will experience some sort of anxiety. Amelia describes it as the “common cold” of mental health. And that was pre-pandemic!
Amelia also breaks down changes that have happened with teenagers since the pandemic. She mentions that she encourages her patients to get outside and breathe some fresh air. Dr. Wilcox discusses findings from the American Academy of Pediatrics—including how much screen time our kids should be getting. Basically, Dr. Wilcox says our kids need less screen time and more time engaged with their peers. For young teenagers and kids—being with your peers is vital. It’s oxygen. And Dr. Wilcox believes that this separation from the peer group is one major cause of the increased anxiety she has seen among her patients since the pandemic.
Dr. Wilcox believes one of the biggest stressors our young folk are dealing with is our cultural obsession with perfection. But life isn’t always perfect. In fact, it’s far from perfect. Amelia believes that parents shouldn’t always try to protect their children from failure. Because failure is really inevitable—and it’s actually something that we can learn from!
In this episode Amelia discusses some ways in which we can overcome test anxiety. Some of the tips that she mentions are:
- Good Preparation
- Effortful Engagement
- Anxiety Management Tools
- Somatic & Cognitive Calming Methods
- Breathing Techniques
Our host Brian Grant and Amelia Wilcox also discuss meta-cognition. Dr. Wilcox discusses the importance of finding the narrative-thread within someone’s life. She is a big believer in understanding. She wants her patients to understand why they are thinking and behaving the way that they do. She wants her patients to understand the neuroscience of what’s actually going on within their brains and their bodies.
It is the ability to think about your own thinking. It’s basically a form of self-reflection and it can help you become a better student, too. One of the tips Dr. Wilcox recommends is for students to track their time. She wants students to time themselves while they study and track what they are doing every 15 minutes. It’s a form of meta-cognition. They’re gaining more introspection and self-understanding.