Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Is a Career in Teaching English as Easy as ABC?

by Evelyn Robinson

The standard process of becoming what many refer to as a typical ‘English teacher’ is a long and arduous one. With no breaks from education and extra time spent re-sitting exams, the typical procedure takes, all in all, an extra six years on top of your compulsory academic life. Only then can the job hunt begin…

The Standard Route

This additional six years consists of: two more years of relative specialisation post sixteen academic completion, a further three years of completing a Bachelors Degree in the subject and a final year doting to extensive teacher training. The entirety of this commitment however, does not guarantee you a job at the end of the long and merciless road. Educational institutes are far keener to take you on board as a young promising, fee paying pupil, than they are to spend money employing you as a member of staff. Consider the staff to pupil ratio throughout your academic career – outside the schooling habitat the world of employment is a lot more cut throat.

English unfortunately, opposed to the sciences and even the humanities, is comparable to the arts; horribly oversubscribed. The linguistic abilities of the modern generation seem to be fast developing and ever more challenging and rigorously monitored making the market for teaching the material ever more competitive. Even after a suitable placement can be found for a potential teaching candidate, their practice is continually monitored at the beginning of their career to ensure high standards are consistently met in accordance with their achieved qualifications.

Looking for Work

Finding this suitable placement is a tricky process and no easy challenge to even the most qualified of applicants: excelling as a student by no means indicates that you will excel as a teacher. Towards the end of the training process, many institutions offer practical advice and guidance as to where to begin the hunt. Many issue their graduates with reputable recruitment sites that offer a variety of online jobs that can be applied for. In today’s day and age, online applications are by far the most common type of application which discouragingly suggests that both agencies and individual job postings are able to be all the more rigorous due to the ease at which they can administer the initial recruitment process. Beneficial to potential employees however, is the simple way in which many of these applications can be viewed and subsequently reviewed and completed. It also gives the candidate additional time to reflect and adjust their responses to questions and requested information. The interrogatives administered by many agencies and for individual posts are also similar, allowing job contenders to develop a framework that is suitable, to an extent, for most roles and can therefore be used repeatedly.

Universities recommend a number of job sites such as: TES, Schools Recruitment, FE jobs and Capita Education Resourcing. These are just a handful among the numerous sites out there with the sole aim of recruiting teachers.  There is a substantial amount of assistance, especially online, that can help find English teachers work; the downside of this is that it gets in the way of jobs being advertised directly and thus limits your chances in many situations. If the agencies become saturated (whereby the most popular ones do), applicants find themselves swimming in a sea of menacing competitors that aren’t afraid to bear their teeth.

Alternative Routes

One market that currently appears devoid of such saturation, is teaching English abroad - this is potentially due to teachers leaving the country to find work. It is highly ironic that the most convenient method of job searching, using the internet from the comfort of your own home, can lead to a far than convenient job post sometimes requiring the candidate to move continent. The World Wide Web truly does live up to its name, allowing even the humble English teacher access to exciting opportunities across the globe.

Teaching English internationally as a second language has a completely different agenda to a language taught to natives. Whereas teaching English as a core subject (along with Mathematics and Science) is highly creative and dominated by subjectivity surrounding things like poetry and Shakespeare, English as a second language, is taught in a precise and pedantic, formal manner, concentrating much more on structure and grammar than the content as is required mainly in a core subject course. In addition, if you find the job hunt for teaching English to natives too disheartening, you not only have the contradictory syllabus and different teaching styles to contend with for this alternative role but you may also not be qualified. There are a multitude of acronyms that extend way beyond ‘teacher training’ that apply to numerous teaching standards and methods that qualify you to work in a variety of environments. A breakdown of the commonly recognised qualifications are as follows: TEFL - teaching English as a foreign language, TESOL - teaching English to speakers of other languages, TESL – teaching English as a second language and CELTA – certificate in English language teaching to adults. CELTA is one of the most commonly recognised qualifications for teaching English internationally and is often considered a minimum requirement for most roles.


The aforementioned qualifications highlight the point that the job market for teaching English is a lot more complex than it first appears. The consequential perplexity involved in simply being able to apply for jobs rather than actually getting them, means that prior research into available job roles and requirements for these positions is among one of the most important things to be considered before you even begin to study towards becoming an English teacher let alone seeking employment as one.
Research is also a vital component upon deciding any impending career though many overlook this when considering something supposedly as straightforward such as teaching. As pointed out above, this is a common misconception and a disastrous mistake to be made by any potential job seeker. Even if you do a lot of research and decide on your intended teaching role beforehand and obtain the correct qualifications there are still opportunities for things to go wrong. This is mostly the case when teaching abroad in other countries. Online job sites advertising such roles often fail to provide specifics such as facilities present in provided accommodation. For example, the popular teaching destination of Korea (which is widely advertised on the internet) often doesn’t have housing provided to teachers that possesses in house washing machines which is something many English and American people consider a necessity. Problems such as this are often down to overlooked cultural differences; things that we may consider a regularity in our everyday lives may be completely different in other countries. Different areas in the world have different customs, eating habits, wear different clothes or may be dominated by a particular religion. Although employees would be undertaking a teaching occupation primarily, their occupation does not alter the land they are living in and candidates must ultimately abide by native customs which could come as a great culture shock and lead to all kinds of complications if they are not prepared for every eventuality.

There are also hidden bits of information that your standard teaching recruitment site won’t mention about overseas positions, such as the difference between a private and public sector school. Whereas public sector schools pay less, their income is more stable and you know what you’re getting before entering the classroom, whereas a private school can be touch and go depending on the area. There have been reports of less reputable schools refusing to pay teachers and being late with payments, this is down to the schools being privately established and therefore regulated differently.

English teaching is a time tested reliable source of income that is highly regarded in society, it is however not as straightforward as many think is and the route to finding a suitable job can vary heavily; it is not however to be dismissed, as once settled it can be an enjoyable and exciting practice that could potentially lead you across the world on a life changing adventure that ironically teaches you much more than simply how to teach.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Student Counseling is a Necessity in Traditional and Online School Programs

by Estelle Shumann

School counselors have always played critical roles in the lives of students, but as students are asked to participate in increasingly competitive academic and professional realms, the need for counselors to help guide students is growing. In today’s post by Estelle Shumann, a writer for an Internet resource for students interested in online schools, Estelle argues that every kind of school, from traditional to charter to online, benefits from having a school counselor. Although the ETNI blog pointed out earlier this year that coaching is different than most forms of counseling, school counselors act as coaches to help their students succeed and achieve their goals.
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While widespread budget cuts cause school counselors to fear for their jobs, school counselors are often expected to take on more tasks than ever. For years, the role of a school counselor was seen as “working with kids and dealing with their emotional growth problems,” says Dr. Joseph Biscoglio, associate professor of guidance and counseling at the College of New Rochelle. Today, though, Biscoglio asserts that the pressures of college acceptance have changed expectations dramatically. “There's an overwhelming amount of paperwork. In many places, the counselor is dealing with parents who can't speak English and can't help their child.” As technology and legislation continue to alter and complicate the education system, counselors are proving to remain an essential school service.
In recent years, schools have been under intense scrutiny by many parents who feel their children are not being adequately prepared for college and career success. A great deal of the criticism has been directed towards high school counselors, as many parents feel they should act as equal parts guide, motivator and psychologist for their children. Understandably, as increasing numbers of high school and college graduates are having trouble finding jobs or getting into increasingly competitive colleges, many parents are directing their frustrations at counselors. A survey from the non-profit research organization Public Agenda found that most high school graduates feel their counselors provided little meaningful advice about college or careers. However, despite the opinions of students and parents, a growing pool of research is finding that extensive school counseling programs can be exceptionally effective in positively influencing their students' later success.

Many studies have confirmed the importance of school counselors in creating a successful learning environment. Research has shown that school counseling interventions have had a substantial impact on students' educational and personal development. Individual and small-group counseling, and classroom guidance have all proved markedly effective in gauging student success both in the classroom and in later life. Another study, of Missouri high schools, showed that in schools with fully implemented model guidance programs, the student population was overall more likely to achieve higher grades and were receiving more college and career information. The schools with strong guidance programs also reported feeling a more positive climate among students and staff, decreasing classroom disturbances and promoting effective education.
Perhaps most importantly, there is evidence that school counselors can be most effective among students from economically or socially disadvantaged backgrounds. In an issue brief from the American Institutes for Research, it was found that an important part of preparing students for life after high school consists of “early and ongoing counseling for students and their families,” with results for students from troubled backgrounds showing the greatest improvement.
With online programs as well as private, charter and alternative or magnet high schools all gaining traction, the importance in school counselors to guide students through the increasingly complicated education system will only become more apparent. If students are expected to compete in a high tech global marketplace, especially students from disadvantaged backgrounds, on-site school counseling is a critical necessity. When counselors are supported by their school administration and given the freedom to work with students on both emotional and practical issues, school counselors remain a vital component of a sophisticated educational system.

Estelle Shumann is a freelance writer for Online Schools and extremely interested in technology's effect on education and the human mind. She is currently considering a graduate program at Cornell. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Exploring the World of NLP

by Allan J. Hirshey

A retired financial analyst, Allan has been living in Israel for eight years. Writing social science articles, learning part-time in a yeshiva, voluntary tutoring and counseling, and playing tennis take up most of his time. 

You’ve probably heard the term “NLP” at academic venues and social events. But do you really know what it is? If not, then this brief summary will provide a general framework and enhance your NLP vocabulary.

NLP began in the early 1970’s at the University of California, at Santa Cruz. The co-creators were Richard Bandler, a gestalt psychologist, and John Grinder, a professor of linguistics. Bandler wanted to find out what made certain psychotherapists more effective than their peers.  He then teamed up with Grinder to discover the “magic” of three eminent psychotherapists - Fritz Perls (father of Gestalt Therapy), Virginia Satir (mother of Family Therapy), and Milton Erickson (father of Clinical Hypnotherapy).  Grinder and Bandler modeled the language skills demonstrated by these therapists.  As a result, they created several models of excellence and a new form of psychotherapy, called Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP).

Understanding NLP is made easier by focusing on its three terms or systems. Neuro refers to the mind or brain, how we think, and to our five senses. Linguistic refers to language, how we use it and the way it affects us. Programming relates to our emotions and behavior, resulting from the interaction of the mind and language. All three of these systems “glued” together can be likened to a human communication model - inputting, processing, and outputting information brought in from the outside world (reality) or “territory”. 

The mind makes “sense’ of the world by creating representations of pictures, sounds, and words and generating feelings, tastes, and smells.  What we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell in the world is inputted into the brain as a “sense experience”. The latter is then filtered by our meta programs (habitual ways of thinking), memories, value, beliefs, decisions, and culture and backgrounds.

The filters affect the “sense” experience by deleting (selectively omitting), distorting (selectively weighting), and generalizing (making decisions based on one experience) it. Afterwards, the “‘sense” experience is then shaped into an internalized experience, representation, map, or model of one’s world. The map is then combined with a physiology (heartbeat, breathing level, etc.) to form an emotional state (angry, depressed, terrified, confidant, etc.). The emotional state triggers and determines one’s behavior at any given moment.  

Importantly, our maps determine how we perceive the world of reality, how we express (language) and feelings to others, and what behaviors (ways of interacting within ourselves and with others) we see available to us.  Imbalances between our personalized maps and the real world can result in emotional pain and destructive behavior patterns. The goal of NLP is to bring our unhealthy maps closer to reality, by re-mapping them.

We communicate our map feelings and perceptions with others through a two-level language representation system (deep and surface structure).  This dictum was copied from Noam Chomsky’s Transformational Grammar discipline. Chomsky posited that the deep structure represents the core semantic relation of a sentence which is mapped into a surface structure  (spoken words).  Flow-wise, the map’s language is unconsciously transformed into words from the deep structure into a surface structure.

So what does all this information tell us about NLP?  Here are some major points.

 (a) Our maps are seldom reality. Instead, they represent our internalized perceptions of the world or reality - how we feel things ought to be, rather than how they really are. We don’t experience the world, since we are always deleting, generalizing, and distorting its information.

(b) Since language is not real in the same way the experience is real, it (language) is only an abstraction of the experience. As Albert Korzybski (famous linguist who founded General Semantic discipline) posited - “the map (language) is not the territory (outside world). 

(c) The mind and the body are part of the same cybernetic loop. A change in one will affect a change in the other - there is no separate mind and no separate body. If one’s body is tense then his/her state of mind will also be tense.

(d) Two people witnessing the same experience at the same exact time can present incongruent mental states and behavior patterns. For example, identical twins wake up one morning and see a snake crawling down their open bedroom window. One twin might remain “cool, calm & collective”, phoning the local animal control center. But the other might go “totally ballistics”, screaming and throwing every object in sight at the reptile.

(e) Similar to actual road maps, if our maps are too restrictive, the more difficult it will be to find our “destinations”.  Limited choices of behaviors (ways of interacting within ourselves and with others) can lead to serious mental problems. Therefore, the people presenting the greatest number and flexibility of behaviors navigate through life more smoothly.

A few NLP “tools” designed to re-map unhealthy maps are now briefly described.

Meta Model - the therapist uses an explicit set of language patterns and questions to aggressively challenge the client’s miscommunication patterns (deletions, distortions & generalizations). Therapist: “How’s your social life?” Client: “It sucks!”  Therapist:  “Why does your social life suck?” Client: “Because, I’m a loser.” Therapist: “Who says you’re a loser?” Client: “Everybody!” Therapist:  “Everybody you meet socially calls you a loser?”  “Is that really true?” Extricating the client’s deep-rooted anxieties reconnects the deletions, distortions, and generalizations to his/her original “sense” experience. Therefore, the client’s restrictive map is expanded, resulting in a more objective surface structure.

Milton Model - the therapist puts the client in a trance state via hypnotherapy.  This is done to disconnect the surface structure, making it easier for the therapist to penetrate and probe the client’s deep structure for problems and solutions. The therapist communicates with the client by using vague and expanded language patterns.  This strategy makes it easier and more comfortable for the client to find and choose words expressing his/her true feelings. In NLP lingo, making meaning of someone else’s words, by referring them to your own feelings and experiences, is called a transdrivational search.

Reframing - an approach used when the client feels disempowered, angry, and in despair.  Assuming this was caused by a sudden job loss, the therapist attempts to put a positive “spin” on the situation. This is done by focusing on the situation’s positive sides. Here, the positive sides might include finding a better job opportunity, being able to spend more time with immediate family, and having time to learn new skills in demand that pay higher salaries. Reframing advantages are minimizing fear and panic and creating empowerment feelings.

Today, NLP is a world-wide industry. No longer restricted to psychotherapy, NLP has taken off into other directions - management, business, sales, education, sports, parenting, and law.  Coming into play here is the idea that modeling analyses can also be applied to other areas, not just psychotherapy.     
Is NLP controversial?  It certainly is!  Certain NLP opponents (linguists, psychiatrists, and psychologists) claim that it can’t address learning disorders, depression, phobias, and psychosomatic illnesses.  For example, some critics claim that NLP’s “anchoring” technique (a take-off on Pavlov’s conditioned response theory - remember “Psych 101?”) doesn’t hold up.  Worse yet, some academics claim that NLP’s title, concepts, and practices can’t be validly tested.
In summary, the NLP “industry” needs to tighten up the accreditation of its practitioners and the literature they produce. Furthermore, the “industry” needs to refute the pseudo-science accusations made against it, by demonstrating that its foundations, concepts, and practices are valid.  Establishing a recognized central authority would be a start in the right direction.  

Well, that’s my internalized representation of NLP.  You’re entitled to yours!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"Coaching" - A Different Connotation and Application Today

By Allan J. Hirshey

Allan J. Hirshey (LLB, MS) is a former U.S.Government financial analyst, and business lecturer (adjunct faculty) at a Maryland community college. Training Medicare reimbursement specialists was a major part of his career.  After making aliyah, he earned a professional counseling diploma, and studied English teaching/tutoring theory.  He writes scholarly articles on the social sciences.  Additionally, he provides voluntary English tutoring to yeshiva students, adults (through AACI) and also to disadvantaged students at a local Jerusalem community center. “Express Tutoring” is the name of his business, specializing in business English, business math, resume preparation,  job interview coaching, personal financial problems, and life counseling using Reality Therapy techniques.   

Historically, coaching has always been associated with the sports world.  Today, however, coaching has taken on a new meaning.  No longer restricted to sports, coaches are privately being hired for a variety of personal reasons.  There are dating coaches, divorce coaches, writing coaches, voice coaches, lawyer coaches, executive coaches, and the list goes on.

How does private coaching differ from athletic coaching? In private coaching, the client sets the agenda & is considered “king.”  Furthermore, the client/coach relationship takes the form of an “alliance” or partnership to meet the client’s needs.  In this “alliance”, the partners interact on a “level playing field” - an authoritative relationship doesn’t exist. Ideally, the coach guides, supports, and empowers the client to recognize and then solve his/her problem(s) - poor motivation, low self-esteem, unsatisfactory job performance, etc.  In other words, the coach doesn’t provide answers or solve the client’s problem(s).  How does this work?  

Basically, the coach uses skillful powerful, creative, and opening questioning techniques, to stimulate the client’s thought processes and to break away from his/her problem “mindsets.”  If these questioning techniques are used effectively, the client recognizes the problem(s), and then sets up appropriate personal goals, satisfactorily achieving them within realistic set time frames.   

There are also other differences.  Whereas athletic coaching is done face-to-face, private coaching is also done over the phone, including long distance and by email.  Athletic coaches are normally paid straight salaries. However, private coaches often negotiate their own fees.  In that regard, top-class business and/or executive coaches often negotiate their own remunerations, based on fixed percentages of their clients’ future profit margins.  Consequently, compared to other private coaching areas, corporate coaching is the most lucrative, financially.

How does private coaching differ from psychotherapy, mentoring, counseling, consulting, & tutoring?  Unlike professional therapists, teachers, & counselors, private coaches are not government regulated - they don’t require licenses to practice their profession.  Moreover, private coaches don’t delve into clients’ past lives trying to uncover reasons for present problems.  Some other notable differences, broken down by related disciplines, are as follows:   

Psychotherapy - therapists normally work with poorly motivated and low self-esteem clients.  In contrast, private coaches, especially, at the corporate level, work with high driving, functioning clients, who strive for more excellence. 

Mentoring - mentors are normally older, wiser, with expertise in one area.  Basically, mentors bestow their knowledge to their clients.  Therefore, the client is not solving his/her problem(s).

Counseling - similar to a therapist/client relationship, there is no “alliance.”   Instead, the counseling relationship is more hierarchical.  The counselor is “boss”, and normally solves the client’s problem(s).

Consulting - consultants are hired for their fields of expertise to solve their clients’ specific problems.  So in this relationship there is no “level playing field”, and the consultant, not the client, solves the client’s problem(s).

Tutoring – again, there is no “level playing field” - the tutor is “boss.”  The client depends on the tutor to solve his/her problem(s).    

What are some of the key qualifications needed for successful private coaching?  A background in behavior modification psychology (including NLP) is one important tool.  To specialize in business and/or executive coaching, an aspiring coach also needs to know the following:  the fundamentals of business management; how corporate organizations develop and function; and the principles of risk and crisis/conflict management.  Moreover, having an MBA degree, supplemented by management experience in such areas as marketing, corporation finance, human resources, and/or telecommunications, provide a further “competitive edge.”  

Assuming an aspiring private coach’s CV lists the above qualifications, his/her glass is only half full.  Just as crucial is his/her mastery over certain key interpersonal skills. In that regard, recent studies have identified five critical interpersonal skills needed for successful private coaching. The first is the ability to develop client rapport.  Without client rapport, a partnership or “alliance” can’t be crafted.  Here, having a condescending nature is an important asset. Second, a coach needs to have deep listening abilities at multiple levels.  Hearing what the client is not saying is just as important as hearing what the client is saying.  Third, a coach needs powerful, creative, and opening questioning skills to effectively guide the client to solve his/her own problem(s).  Coming into play here is the coach’s ability to adroitly manage the conversation, and not the client.  Fourth, a coach needs to know how to implement open and objective feedback skills to maintain an effective coach/client “alliance.”  Praising the client as much as possible strengthens implementation of the feedback process.  And fifth, a keen sense of intuition is needed to ensure that the client is staying on track and exerting the maximum effort required to achieve his/her goal(s).  Here, a coach must be careful to trust his/her intuition, but not to overly rely on it.

What’s today’s job market picture look like for private coaches?  Unfortunately, it’s pretty bleak!  Although the supply side is growing at an exponential rate, the demand remains stagnant.  Some of the major factors causing this supply/demand imbalance are as follows: little, if any, governmental regulation (no coaching license requirements); a proliferation of  coaching courses and seminars, mostly short-term in length and without realistic enrollment requirements; high global unemployment rates; and the related scarcity of jobs for recent college graduates.  

In conclusion, an aspiring private coach needs three critical tools to be effective: (a) expertise in a specific field/occupation; (b) a working knowledge of the fundamentals of behavioral modification psychology; and (c) the innate personal skills to empower people to recognize and then to solve their own problems. If anyone of these skills is deficient or lacking, particularly, (b) or (c), pursuing a private coaching career isn’t realistic.  Perhaps a consulting, mentoring, or a counseling career would make a better choice.