Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How a Whisper Becomes a Roar

Tom Whitby recently challenged education bloggers to post about positive education transformation in the midst of the teacher bashing occurring in the media. The teacher bashing has upset me, too, especially after hearing teachers at the recent televised Education Nation broadcast resoundingly shout, "Fire bad teachers." Education transformation isn't easy or else the education system would have improved immensely within the last 100 years. Maybe we have better facilities and more children receive an education, but we still have numerous problems to fix.

Current Education Roarers

Every field has employees who don't perform according to certain expectations. Smart business folks will tell you that not only isn't firing cost-effective, but usually it isn't the employee who is the problem. If many employees are failing to meet their job expectations it is a training and management problem. My business background has taught me this, but apparently most of the general public worldwide doesn't realize this when it comes to education or they wouldn't cheer the mass firing of teachers or candidates and celebrities who support this. These unfortunately are the roars that are being heard worldwide in the sudden movement for education reform.

These aren't the voices that the public should be listening to or hearing. Instead, I would love for us, our educator Passionate Learning Network (PLN), to be the voices that are heard.

How We Roar

During the Education Nation debate I commented, "If every educator in our PLN shared, shared, shared their best practices on social media we wouldn't be a voice we'd be a roar." Right now over 50,000 educators participate in Social Networks worldwide for professional development (Just check the membership of the various educator Nings, Facebook educator groups, and Educators on Twitter).

I believe our whispers are getting louder, but we can have more impact if we....

Have daily conversations with all stakeholders

Continuous conversations with all educational stakeholders (teachers, students, parents, administrators, community leaders, and support staff) are the way towards positive education transformation. We need to get all sides to listen to each other and collaborate.

The problem is that we aren't being heard by the majority of society. Parents haven't seen how we are educating students and preparing them to problem solve and collaborate with technology. Other educators we work side by side with don't know we blog or read our blogs even if they do. Our progress with students isn't being noticed by the media only our test scores. Our administrators aren't seeing the potential of social networks. I'm talking about the majority of our situations. Let's face it, most educational stakeholders don't collaborate with us in our social networks. You'll find them on Facebook, with Youtube accounts, and contributing to social networks for personal reasons but they just don't collaborate with us.

But we're growing...

I've been on Twitter for a little over a year and I can see a movement growing. We are adding educators worldwide to our online educator communities. I believe this is because so many of us are sharing with our school communities. We are providing online professional development, sharing through several social networks, and even getting noticed by different media sources such as Mashable, the Huffington Post, and TV news. I love when my PLN tweets they have been in the news. I tweet these resources because we should spread good press to combat the negative press. These sources are where the majority of society tunes into so we should spread the word and try to get ourselves in these various media outlets.

Share, Share, Share....

We need to have daily conversations with stakeholders and share what we do with our students. We have to be transparent and not be afraid of letting the public step into our classrooms. We need to have faith that what excites us about how our students are learning will excite their parents, our staff, and the public. If we invite stakeholders to see what we do then we get them to evaluate us based on more than test scores. Unfortunately, we will be evaluated by standardized test scores for a long time as we have been for decades. However, if our community knows about the work we do with students then we have other measures in place to show our students development.

Projects To Help Us Roar

Our ideas for positive education transformation need to be heard. As long as teachers continue to be scapegoats no real education transformation will take place and the millions of children who fail to receive a proper education and enter into poverty will continue to escalate.

So how do we collect the voices in our PLN so we can become a roar?

Several projects have begun that you can participate in to help us become a collective voice:
  • Participate in blogging calls such as this one by Tom Whitby, Ira Socol's Blogging For Real Reform Challenge, and Scott Mcleod's annual Leadership Day Blog Challenge
  • Join the Youtube Educator Stories project where we are aiming to get over 1000 videos of positive practices
  • Participate in the Reform Symposium and other free virtual conference for educators and invite your entire staff to them
  • Participate in educational chats like #Edchat and invite another educator to join. Here's a list of all educational chats and times by @Cybraryman1
  • Join the 30 Goals Challenge and learn how to use social networks to spread your best practices! Invite teachers new to online educator communities to join this free community of mentors and read the free e-book.
  • Share all these free presentations with your community and invite teachers, students, administrators, and community leaders. It's time we had conversations with all stakeholders.
  • Create news blurbs about your innovative practice and share with the local media. Often they are looking for stories and if they can film you and your students they will jump at the opportunity. Ask several till one says yes! Here are some tips for getting on the news!
  • Send out media waivers and publish your work in a wiki, blog, or free school website. Share this on your Facebook account or other place where the public has access and can see the great things you are doing!

Hear Our Voices Rising...

As I finish this post, I am so happy to note that Tom Whitby's challenge was met with great success. Over 115 educators have written about reform today. Check out their posts in the Wallwisher! Become part of a movement. We need your voice! You have something to contribute!


Participate in one of these projects and have a conversation with someone you haven't about what exciting thing you do with your students!

What other projects do you know of that help educators gain a collective voice for positive education transformation?

I'd like to thank Will for allowing me to repost this on his blog! I welcome you to post your views and experiences.

Shelly Sanchez Terrell is the author of the Teacher Reboot Camp blog and tweets @shellterrell. She is also the VP of Educator Outreach for Parentella and the Social Community Manager for The Consultants-E. She has worked with students of all ages for over a decade and now teaches English in Germany.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Interview with Shelly Kramer: Speaker, Blogger, and Owner of V3

Shelly is the Chief Imagination Officer of V3, an Integrated Marketing Agency located in Kansas City, MO. She's a marketing and online strategist, speaker, writer and a very good juggler. She loves learning, teaching, hanging out with smart people, doing good work and good things. Stalk her on Twitter at @shellykramer and find her online at V3. Meet Shelly Kramer.

Will: Who is Shelly Kramer? Why Personal Branding and Social Media? What about them spoke to your inner core self?

Shelly: I’m not really sure about this question. So I’ll tell you about me. I own a full service integrated marketing firm. We don’t focus on branding and social media – we focus on solving problems. Helping businesses do what they need to do to survive – which is selling more stuff to more people. I’m a marketing and brand strategist. I am good at a lot of things, including social media, but that is certainly not my specialty. It’s just one of the tactics I might employ if the strategy we develop for a client warrants it.

Will: What is V3 Integrated Marketing? What was the genesis for you creating the company? How did you come up with the name?

Shelly: V3. Hmm. The letter “V” just kind of spoke to me, and I knew that what I’m really good at is vision. I have a lot of vision and often help my clients take ideas from concept to reality as a result. Then I decided that what we did at V3 was help clients craft a Vision, which is really an effective marketing strategy, then put a Voice to their brand and that vision, through traditional or non-traditional marketing methods, and then lastly, we add Value because we are fanatic about metrics. That means we don’t market without first setting goals and establishing benchmarks, then measuring our progress every step of the way. That way, we know what part of our marketing initiatives are most effective and where to concentrate budget dollars moving forward. Vision + Voice + Value. It just seemed to make sense.

Will: In reviewing your company’s website, www.v3im.com, I noticed on the Who We Are page a principle you have about not working with clients you don’t like or products you don’t believe in. Why is that a principle of your company? Why does it matter if you like someone or believe in their products? Isn’t it just a job?

Shelly: I’m old enough and experienced enough that I don’t have to sell my soul for anyone just to pay the bills. If I don’t care for someone or their product or service, there’s no way I can be passionate enough to work for them on a daily basis and make an impact. And that’s really the key. The best marketers are passionate about their clients’ products and services. I think about my clients all the time and am constantly thinking of ways to make them more successful – it’s just how my brain works. If I am not working with someone that I like or respect or enjoy being with and working with, it’s just too much. And what I consider not being true to myself. Or to the client. So in those instances, I choose to walk away. It makes for a better world and a happier heart – which are things we all need.

Will: How did you come up with the title of Chief Imagination Officer? I absolutely love it. It has both a social media feel to it and is an immediate brand identifier.

Shelly: It just seemed more interesting than CEO or Founder or a whole bunch of other boring titles. And it also describes what I do best … which is bringing the 30,000 foot view to the table. I have the ability (and one that often annoys people) to look at a concept or an idea and pick apart the things that won’t work and identify the things that will – and those are oftentimes things people haven’t yet thought of. I also always approach things with the “of course we can do this” mentality. I loathe working with groups of people who are constantly identifying all the reasons NOT to do something (I think mostly because they are either lazy or scared) … and would much rather be and work with people who think that the sky is the limit and we’re all collectively smart enough to figure things out and make it happen. I dream big. Then I execute. And I’m not at all afraid of risk. Those things fuel my creative passion and that’s the thing that makes me get up every single day loving what I do and loving the life I’m fortunate enough to lead.

Will: As the Chief Imagination Officer of V3, what is your view of effective leadership within the field of social media? Has social media changed the way leadership should function?

Shelly: Those are really two separate questions. And I’ll be brief or this interview will be boring because it is too long. To my way of thinking, effective leadership within the social media realm is realizing that this is a new field and we are all pioneers. There are no cut and dried right answers, because we’re all experimenting, hypothesizing, testing and learning. Understanding that change is inevitable is critical and understanding that the early adopters aren’t the only folks on the planet is also important. I think great leadership is evidenced by those people who get that and who understand that it’s encumbent upon leaders to teach. To lead. To risk and to dare to try things and fail. Publicly. And who are honest enough to admit that no one knows it all. That, to me, is effective leadership within the realm of social media.

The other question is about leadership in general and how social media impacts that. That always leads to the over-used and over-hyped “transparency” term. But it’s true. Leaders in today’s world, whether CEOs, politicians or religious leaders or any other kind of leader, must all understand that transparency in society is a big deal. You’ve got to be who you say you are, do what you say you will and realize that skeletons rarely stay in closets these days. It takes us back to the rules we learned in Kindergarten: Don’t lie, don’t take things that don’t belong to you, don’t be mean, do the right thing. If leaders remember those things, I think that’ll stand them in good stead. The advent of social media, which is really just a by-product of the age of technology and the Internet, makes all things real time. I think that learning to function in real time, listen in real time, react in real time is all now pretty much integral parts of standard operating procedure for all leaders.

Will: On more than one occasion, you have mentioned the need for people to integrate video into their online presence. What makes video such a king producer of content? How do you personally use video to bolster your online footprint?

Shelly: I think that video is important. Just as blogging is important. And webinars and white papers are important. And location based technology is important. And mobile is important. No one is any more critical than the other. What really matters is your goal. And that changes with every client. And sometimes it changes with every marketing initiative. And being aware of these mediums and their efficacy as tools, and knowing how to use these tools to reach your goals is what’s important. And that’s the part of the equation that many people overlook. Or miss completely. Today’s marketing success stories are typically the brands who realize the importance of reaching customers where they are.

And there are a lot of consumers using YouTube. It’s the second largest search engine in the world and that’s often overlooked. Some people go to YouTube the way that others head to Google. They go to YouTube to learn things like how to can peaches, how to change the oil in their car or how to cut their dog’s hair. If you want to reach those people, you need to create content for YouTube. But only if that’s part of your overall marketing strategy, designed to help you reach your goals.

Will: I don’t get why some people haven’t caught social media fever. I can’t go a day without Twitter, checking my blog, or going to Youtube. Why is social media such a part of our daily lives, and what do you tell clients or other people about the pros and cons of riding the social media wave?

Shelly: I think that not everyone gets social media and others get the concept, but don’t need to use it. My husband, for example, is an example of the latter. And not participating in social media doesn’t impact his life negatively in any way. But, even though he doesn’t use social media, he understands the principles and why it’s an important part of business, marketing and brand management today. As for the people who don’t get it, they are certainly not alone. It’s like the people who don’t understand the importance of websites for today’s businesses. Some will survive, in spite of that, and others will fail. The same is true of social media. Not everyone NEEDS to participate in social mediums, for business or for personal use. And just because we do, and enjoy it, benefit from it, etc., doesn’t me we earn the right to judge others who don’t. The world has changed. Some will change with it and some won’t. And only time will tell whether opting not to change and adopt new media strategies and technologies will have a negative impact. Of course, I have an opinion on that, but the fact is – time will tell. And I’m comfortable with that. And feel as if I’m headed in the right direction, and ensuring that my clients are as well.

Will: Ok. As part branding company, what do you tell your clients they should be doing in relation to their brand? What top five tips do you have for the average professional or individual?

Shelly: Identify the following:

Who you ARE.
What you BELIEVE in.
What you can DELIVER.
What PROBLEM do you solve for your clients or prospective clients?
What makes you BETTER than the competition.

This is your brand story. Your unique selling proposition. Marketing is about solving problems. And doing it in a way that people trust you and turn to you as the best resource for making that happen.

Will: I have never asked the following questions in an interview. Mac or PC? Blackberry, Iphone, or Android? Coffee of Tea?

Shelly: Mac, iPhone, Coffee. And beer.

Will: Any final thoughts?

Shelly: Thanks for being patient while I took so long to answer 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Reflections on Waiting for Superman

This post is cross-posted from my Philly Teacher blog. Thank you, Will, for the opportunity to share it with a different audience.

This past Friday was a half day at my school for Professional Development. As a nice surprise, our CEO took the entire staff to see Waiting for Superman at a movie theater downtown. It was a very thoughtful (and exciting) outing.

As I sat in the theater before the movie started, I realized that I was going into the movie with a lot preconceptions and I already had a sick feeling in my stomach.

As the movie progressed, I realized that there was very little in the movie that I didn't know already. I recognized Geoffrey Canada's voice before I even saw him. I had learned about the Rubber Room in NYC 2 years ago when This American Life dedicated part of a show on them with interviews with actual Rubber Room teachers. Most people in the theater, including my colleagues, were learning about a lot of things for the first time. The other thing the movie failed to mention? Mayor Bloomberg and the union have agreed to do away with rubber rooms altogether.

Throughout the movie I was frantically typing notes into my iPhone, and trying really hard not to be a curmudgeon. I'll be honest, I did yell out a comment or two, but I tried to control myself.

Who are the Real Superheroes?
To me, the real heroes in this movie are not the teachers or the education 'reformers,' but the families and parents of the children the movie follows. We watch parents who have struggled themselves but have made a conscious decision to put their children first. We see a parent who takes a 45 minute subway ride just to visit a school that her child has a tiny chance of getting into. These parents are empowered in that they seem to know what their options are, they see the value of education for their child and they are willing to do whatever it takes to give their child the best education they can.

To me, the shameful thing is that while this movie shows the dedication and love of these parents, it chooses not to celebrate these engaged and caring parents. Instead, it chooses to demonize teachers and unions and lift up a small group of 'experts' as the true heroes of education reform.

Public Schools are Evil
At one point, the movie states that these poor performing schools are doing damage to the neighborhoods in which they exist. I can't argue that fewer graduates means more youth on the streets and higher crime rates, but what the movie doesn't discuss is the deeper issues that influence students outside of school. If you know more people who have been to prison that have gone to college (a statistic from the movie) a school has a huge hurdle in helping you understand the importance of school. This hurdle is magnified by uninvolved or neglectful parents.

What really saddens me is that what the movie doesn't discuss is the fact that many of these low-performing schools in high-poverty neighborhoods are teaching scripted programs, have cut out art, music and other creative arts and teach primarily to the test. Of course a student in a school like this would find no value in education. Worst of all, the teachers have little say in the introduction and implementation of these programs. This is NOT a generalization. I taught for 5 years in a school like this. We were nearly at the bottom of the list of state test scores.

What IS evil about public schools?

The wall in my old classroom.
Yes, there are a number of poor-performing or novice teachers (though for some reason if you're a Teach for a American teacher this stigma doesn't apply to you) and yes, it does require a series of paperwork to 'get rid' of a poor-performing teacher. However, the true evil is many traditional public schools are over-enrolled, under-staffed, under-funded and in many cases, the buildings themselves are falling apart.

The world Jonathan Kozol described in 1991 in his book Savage Inequalities has not changed much. In fact, Camden, which sits a stones throw across the river from Philadelphia, is, I believe, still one of the lowest performing districts in the country.

Teachers Unions are Evil
One of the most disturbing parts of this movie is the way it depicts teachers' unions. There was ominous music playing when AFT president, Randi Weingarten appeared on screen and many in the audience, including those in my staff may as well have booed at her.

Throughout the movie, the Guggenheim refers to the fact that the education reformers always find that 'the union gets in the way.' At one point, Jonathan Alter, a Newsweek writer, actually used the term "menace" when referring to unions. This from a man who writes about the economy and from a magazine who wrote the 'brilliant' cover story: The Key to Saving America's Education or Why We Must Fire Bad Teachers. (To which I responded: Shame on You, Newsweek)

I have my own issues with unions, and I'm not a gung-ho union supporter. That said, I understand their importance and their place in education.

It a complete and utter myth that union teachers are lazy and do the bare minimum because they can. Some of the best articles I have read about education have come from American Educator, a publication of the AFT.  The union and its members is dedicated to celebrating good teachers and good teaching.

The movie describes what some districts call the 'lemon dance.' This is a process by which administrators agree to shuffle around their poor-performing teachers to share the burden rather than fire them (wait, we should blame that on the teachers?).

This process happens constantly in the School District of Philadelphia with administrators. A strong administrator will be pulled out of his or her school to go 'fix' a school with a poor-performing administrator. This poor-performing administrator is then either shuffled to a new school or put behind a desk at the central offices. Principals have a union, too.

For the 7 years I taught in the unionized School District of Philadelphia I met teachers from all ends of the spectrum. 90% of them were talented, hard-working and dynamic. They had classes of anywhere from 25-30 students with no aid. They weathered fights and lock downs, they taught students were neglected, malnourished, students with a variety of learning difficulties, and they did this often in a building with a broken heating system, no air conditioning, peeling paint, broken stairwells and a schoolyard that looked like a prison yard.

The other 10% were like the 10% in any other profession.

So why did they still have jobs? Yes, partially it was because of due process. Not tenure, as some would call it, but what I would like to call 'due process.' (Thanks to Ken Shelton for reminding me of that distinction.)  Some of these teachers were receiving extra support and had already been disciplined. Some had not been disciplined, but were offered extra support by school coaches. 

Others? Lord knows. In some cases, everyone in the school knew they were a poor teacher, but nothing was ever done about it. In my opinion, it may have been too much of an effort to go through the discipline process. Or, maybe certain steps had been gone through, but then the administrator never pushed further.

Why, you ask, have due process at all? Why make it so difficult? It may seem simple enough. Do away with due process and you can get rid of these poor performing teachers more easily.

Here's why.

Many administrators here in Philadelphia solve the paperwork conundrum by just writing teachers out of the budget. However, they usually don't write out the poor teachers. Instead, they write out the people who speak their mind, the people who stand up for themselves. The people who won't accept the status quo.

Without due process, without a union, these people would essentially be out of a job just because they stood up for what they believed in. I am not speaking hypothetically here. I personally know of two people who were written out of the budget for these reasons.

So why else are unions important?

In a large, urban district, a lot goes on in any given day. A teacher may be dealing with a dangerous child who has destroyed a room 2 or 3 times without repercussion. They may be publicly teased or harassed by a co-worker, an administrator or a student. A union is there to help them out.

The current system of tenure (due process) does get a few things wrong.

I was granted tenure by the School District after 3 years and a day as any employee is. However, I had not received the necessary official observations required of a non-tenured teacher. Despite that fact, I was granted tenure automatically.

That system is inherently flawed. No one really knew what was going on in my classroom.

I wonder, as a side note, how Michelle Rhee herself kept her job after applying masking tape to her students' mouths during her first year as a Teach for America teacher.  I'll tell you one thing, though. Her union would not have been able to do much if she asked them for help.

However, focusing the conversation on tenure is a waste of breath. It is, in my opinion, the least of our worries at this point.

Divide and Conquer
What I feel that this movie has done is successfully pit 'us' against 'them.' Charter versus traditional public, union versus non-union.

I see this in my day to day conversations and it breaks my heart. Recently, on Facebook, a friend told me that I was part of the "Charter school movement." I had no idea, first of all, that there was such a thing. This statement just reaffirmed my beliefs that we are moving away from the real issue, which is educating children.

My response has become my personal mantra:

I'm a part of the educating kids movement. Charter, regular public, whatever works ;) I think all schools should be free to do what they think is right for kids. So do most of my union buddies.

Why the Movie Appeals to Us
One thing that Guggenheim does to reel the audience in is to use scenes that depict school the way it looked when 'we' went to school. The desks are in rows. The kids are using pencil and paper. They are taking tests. There is some carpet time with a story. He also intersperses some school scenes from the 1950s and 60s. There is a warm sense of familiarity to the scenes that helps pluck our heartstrings.

The problem?

from Wikimedia Commons
None of the scenes depict a truly innovative or progressive school. School just doesn't look like that anymore. To see what progressive and innovative education actually looks like just see George Lucas' response to the movie and watch the videos at the bottom of the post.

What is it That Teachers Do?
If you were hoping to get that answer from this movie, be prepared to be let down. There is little insight, aside from the clip of a teacher whose use of rap songs to teach the alphabet and other concepts inspired KIPP founders Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin. Other than that, it's all similar to stock footage. One can also assume that the teachers they filmed were at the charter schools and not a local public school where pretty much the same kind of teaching probably goes on.

What you will see, however, are images of kids heads opening like a door with a teacher pouring knowledge into their brains. Because we all know THAT'S how teachers do their best teaching.

Some Surprises
There were a few comments about the profession that really amazed me. One came from Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children's Zone. In describing his path to teaching and his experiences, he stated that he became a Master teacher in his 5th year of teaching.

I was floored.  I am in my 6th year of teaching and I am hardly a master. In fact, I believe that there is no such thing as a Master teacher. If you call yourself a Master, it implies that you have no more to learn, that you have mastered everything you need to know. Anyone who has ever taught before knows that, as a teacher, you can never master everything you need to know about teaching. Becoming a teacher means dedicating yourself to a life of learning new things.

The second surprising comment came from Michelle Rhee, who stated that she came into her job as Chancellor of schools in Washington, DC, knowing that she'd be a one-term chancellor. She is also a TFA graduate. What does it say about her motives or dedication to students and families to come into such an important, powerful job with that mindset?

What it Gets Right
As I went into the movie trying very hard not to be a curmudgeon, I made a point of finding parts of it that I agreed with.

The first statement I agreed with was actually by Michelle Rhee. She stated that after all of the trials and tribulations she had been through that in the end, it's "always about the adults." While we may not agree on why that is or which adults we are speaking about, it is entirely true that in the discussion and implementation of school reform, it is most often the students who are thought of last.

The movie also makes an important case for the detrimental effects of tracking students. However, it is not necessary to attend a charter school to avoid tracking. Many schools have done away with it. It's a shame that the one featured has not yet.

I also agree with the movie's statement that we have an obligation to other people's children.  Now who 'we' are in the movie I'm not sure, but I would agree that we are in this together.  I would also agree with Guggenheim's statement that "schools haven't changed, but the world around them has." This indeed, is one of the roots of the problem. Too bad he didn't take the time to show schools who are changing with the times and it's a shame that he says that almost at the end of the movie.

Final Thoughts
All in all, Guggenheim has produced a film that is heart wrenching and has a clear message. It provides a solid jumping-off place for dialogue to happen.

Let's just hope that the dialogue happens and that people learn to read between the lines of a well-produced and well-funded movie.

I hope that others will join me in my mantra.

I'm a part of the educating kids movement. Charter, regular public, whatever works ;) I think all schools should be free to do what they think is right for kids.

Other posts about the movie:

Abandoning Superman - John T Spencer
Seeing Waiting for Superman - Kirsten Olson
We're Not Waiting for Superman, We're Empowering Superheroes -- Diana Rhoten
Larry Ferlazzo's list of posts about Waiting for Superman 

An excellent description and explanation of Charter Schools:

The Toll-- Chad Sansing

Superman image from Xurble on Flickr

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Are You A Helper? Know Your Strengths Factors

By Ingrid Stabb (@ingridstabb)
This is PART TWO of a series that walks you through nine career types. To learn more, see www.careerwithinyou.com.

You’re the Helper if your greatest strengths factor is about “Meeting Needs.” If you are the second career type, you understand FEELINGS, know how to PLEASE, and like to ASSIST your boss and others. You take PRIDE in being needed and in being instrumental to the success of the group. RELATIONSHIPS are of utmost importance to you. Since many careers for Helpers require ASSESSING NEEDS of others, popular roles are as psychologists, caregivers, teachers, human resource directors, receptionists, medical practitioners, and chiefs of staff. Helpers can be found in just about any profession, including law, finance, accounting, science, journalism, and the arts, especially in roles that require interacting with PEOPLE. However, some successful Helpers spend long hours alone, such as Danielle Steele, who writes best-selling novels about love relationships.

WARMTH and going ABOVE & BEYOND what is required stand out about both male and female Helpers. While most are extraverted and have strong people skills, introverted Helpers feel more comfortable contributing behind the scenes.

If you are a Helper, you are good at reading people—even to the extent of knowing what they need before they do. This skill helps you get you where you want to go whether by being kind, altruistic, dignified, cordially welcoming, affectionate, or seductive.

You may lean towards the style of one of the types next to yours. If you are a Helper who is more influenced by the Perfectionist career type, you may be more objective than some Helpers. If the Achiever “wing” influences you, you may be quite image-conscious and unusually ambitious for your own career for a Helper career type.

If the Helper describes you, what do you consider your greatest strengths factors? Rate yourself below (or stay tuned to read about the other career types).

How do you rate your ability to communicate emotions or ideas to one person or a group successfully?
LO 1 2 3 4 5 HI

People Skills
How skilled are you at winning people over to your point of view, creating a comfortable environment, conversing, and being diplomatic?
LO 1 2 3 4 5 HI

How alert are you when it comes to picking up insights and awareness about people and other complicated subjects?
LO 1 2 3 4 5 HI

How much can others depend on you to be responsible and to do what you say you will do?
LO 1 2 3 4 5 HI

When a new situation or problem arises, how do you rate your ability to solve it by using your store of knowledge, your own creative solutions, and/or your own intelligence?
LO 1 2 3 4 5 HI

Stay tuned to learn about the strengths factors of seven more career types!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Are You A Perfectionist? Know Your Strengths Factors

By Ingrid Stabb (@ingridstabb)
This is PART ONE of a series that walks you through nine career types. To learn more, see http://www.careerwithinyou.com/.

You’re the Perfectionist if your greatest strengths factor is about “Making Improvements.” If you are the first career type, you are interested in doing what is right. You are clean, neat, fair, idealistic, physically fit, health conscious, or a combination of these. You like to MAKE IMPROVEMENTS, to be CONSCIENTIOUS, and to WORK HARD. Perfectionists shine in roles such as auditor, dentist, fighter pilot, and chef, where they must pay attention to DETAILS. Down to earth jobs where they can be ORDERLY include nurses, mechanics, and personal organizers. Particularly IDEALISTIC Perfectionists may be found as reformers, political columnists, heads of charitable organizations, teachers, and ministers, where they bring PRINCIPLES—-an interest in MORALITY or BELIEF SYSTEMS—-to the workplace.

As a Perfectionist, you try to be good. You can forge ahead on a project, do well in school, and are likely to have been teacher’s pet. Putting a high premium on education, you will continue to learn through life, picking up traditional cues from your surroundings and polishing your values of fairness, cooperation, and self-sufficiency.

Measuring yourself often against others’ performances and your past performances can lead to dissatisfaction, but you try to maintain a pleasant demeanor even if you fall short of your ideal. Having good manners is just one of the areas in which you hold yourself to high standards.

Two career types related to yours, the Helper (the second one) and the Peace Seeker (the ninth one), may especially influence your own personality. Perfectionists with a more developed Helper side tend to be more interested in working with and caring for people; Perfectionists with a more developed Peace Seeker side tend to make use of more objectivity in their work.

If the Perfectionist describes you, what do you consider your greatest strengths factors? Rate yourself below (or stay tuned to read about the other career types).

To what degree do you strive to remain dignified and gracious when relating to others, including as good team players and as good listeners as well as communicators?
LO 1 2 3 4 5 HI

Logical Thinking
To what degree do you think in a methodical and systematic fashion?
LO 1 2 3 4 5 HI

Rate your ability to do skilled precision, thorough, and/or detail-oriented work.
LO 1 2 3 4 5 HI

Rate how conscientious and dependable you are in roles where you are in charge. This may include the ability to handle stress.
LO 1 2 3 4 5 HI

Improving Things
To what degree do you raise the standards of your individual work, move the group project ahead, and/or make the world a better place?
LO 1 2 3 4 5 HI

Stay tuned to learn about the strengths factors of the other eight career types!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Interview with Mallory Bower: Student Affairs Professional

Mallory Bower is new to the field of Student Affairs. In her role as the Assistant Director of Career Services at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, Mallory helps students navigate the process of discovering rewarding and personally meaningful careers. She is also an active advocate in the field and seeks out opportunities to network and learn from other Student Affairs professionals. You can check her on her blog: Declaration of Interdependence or on Twitter: @MalloryBower. Meet Mallory Bower.

Will: Who is Mallory Bower? Why Student Affairs? Why Career Services specifically?

Mallory: My name is Mallory Bower and I am currently the Assistant Director of Career Services at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

I am a new student affairs professional and college career coach who works with students to create strategic plans for success. In my role as the Assistant Director of Career Services at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, I help students recognize their strengths and turn interests and passions into meaningful, fulfilling careers.

I am an advocate, resource, teller of difficult truths, and figurative cheerleader. I am a strong believer that education, hard work, and a healthy dose of support and challenge can be the best recipe for success.

I spent a lot of time in college struggling to figure out what I wanted to do as a career. My interest in student affairs happened by accident. I landed an event planning internship with my university’s career center. In addition to my task of planning career and internship fairs, I was required to meet with students and give group presentations. Turns out, I liked this part of the job the most. Both of my supervisors had student affairs backgrounds and they pointed me towards graduate programs and opportunities that would help me break into the field.

Why Career Services? For a lot of people, their careers are a huge part of their life. I think it’s really cool to see a student’s face light up when they finally figure out what they’re meant to do.

Will: How long have you worked in the field? What is your Student Affairs philosophy?

Mallory: I am a new professional. I’ve been working at UNCP for a little over a year, but I have worked in various career centers for the past three years.

I believe that a student’s environment and experiences shapes his or her identity. My approach to working with students is simple: I always assume that I am the first person they have met at the university. If the interaction is a good one for them, they are more likely to make a connection to an office, a person, or an experience. This helps students to become more comfortable in their environment and encourages them to seek out other resources. The more connected and involved a student becomes the more productive and satisfied they are.

Will: What do you find students need the most help with?

Mallory: The students I work with are struggling to find their identity as adults. In terms of career and adulthood, it is sometimes difficult for them to separate what they want from what others want for them.

I think faculty and staff need to do a better job of connecting classroom and out-of-classroom experiences. There needs to be a better tie-in—how will the curriculum help students achieve their career goals? What skills will they need to become hired in their field of choice?

Will: What is the toughest part of your job? What have you learned that you wish you knew coming into the field?

Mallory: The toughest part of my job is convincing students that they need to begin career planning now. Many wait until the last minute to start thinking about careers and job searching. It truly breaks my heart when I meet with graduating seniors who don’t have a plan. Not sure where they’ll be working or living.

Will: There are a lot of strengths and personality tests out there. Are they legitimate? Which one do you use the most in your practice?

Mallory: We use a variety of interest inventories in my office. We use online assessments such as DISCOVER and Career Liftoff to explain Holland codes to students. We also give the Self Directed Search and MBTI. Looking more into StrengthsQuest.

Will: How do you negotiate the impasse of a student loving an academic major and that major not directly leading to a career field? What do you tell those students? Have you ever told one to change their major?

Mallory: I will never tell a student to change his or her major. My job is to listen and to provide alternative/additional options for the student. It is truly heartbreaking when a student has a clear passion for something but will not pursue it because their friends/family want something different.

My role is to support them and to help them think outside the box. Everyone deserves to have a career doing what they love—I just show them how to get it.

Will: We all know that it is tough out there for everyone seeking full-time employment. How has the economic downturn changed how you do your job?

Mallory: I have a lot of honest conversations with my students. About 40% of our May 2010 grads didn’t have job offers or acceptance into graduate school. And that is scary.

The thing is, they know that it’s rough out there. Many students are afraid to fail, so they don’t even try.

It will always be a struggle for career services professionals to reach students early. Students just aren’t focusing on these things early enough. Some aren’t even sure what they can do with the degree they are earning. Beginning to job search two weeks prior to graduation is a surefire way to end up living with Mom and Dad again.

Will: How are you using social media, and what are you teaching students about social media?

Mallory: My office has a Facebook page, Twitter account, and Linkedin group. Our Career Peers are looking to start a blog about students in different stages of their college career.

Our students definitely need to start thinking long-term. We talk about online identity in our Introduction to Career Development course, in Freshman Seminar, and in our presentations to student groups. In our class, we have students complete an “Online Identity” assignment. They are required to type their full name into three different search engines. After viewing the results of the searches, they write a reflection from an employer’s point of view. This has seemed to work very well.

Will: So, what’s next for you? Do you plan on staying in Career Services? If not, what other areas in Student Affairs peak your interest?

Mallory: I’m not sure where I’ll go next or what I’ll be doing. Right now, I love what I am doing, so I’ll be around for a while.

Recently I discovered my particular interest working with first-year students. This is when the magic happens, when we can make a positive impact. Within the first minutes, hours, days on campus… this is when we validate students’ decision to attend college.