miércoles, 13 de febrero de 2019

What to do to Enhance Our Employability

By María de la Lama

          Since 2009 there has been a dramatic increase in the demand for English teachers in our country. But even though these professionals are needed in schools and universities, for many of us those job offers do not respond to our expectations. Thus, it seems   that getting the desired job is not an easy matter.

          I have been hiring language teachers for a long time. And the truth is that most of the time successful teachers get the job for reasons that go beyond language proficiency and academic qualifications.

          Many teachers may believe that because of their command of the language and professional qualifications they will be hired easily, hoping that the fulfillment of these two requirements is enough.

          Somehow they have this idea in their minds:

          Today, a strong command of the English language, as well as an updated academic education, are expected; but, unlike some years ago, they are not a plus anymore. In fact, in addition to language competence and academic background, there are important characteristics that employers have started looking for. Then, the traditional belief that language competence and educational background are more than enough does not work anymore. Let’s see how our graphic has changed:

          The   teacher as a human being, with their talents and potential is indeed a key factor for the success of any language program.  In particular, there is a need for teachers with specific soft skills. Without them all the language competence and professional qualifications won’t be enough to reach an institutional goal. So which are those characteristics that will boost hiring probabilities?

About the teacher’s personality traits

ü  Cares for their professional growth
ü  Has excellent communication skills
ü  Knows how to handle conflicts and keep personal problems away from their work.
ü  Has empathy
ü  Knows how to listen

About the way a teacher works

ü  Enjoys working in groups and has the potential to become a leader in the institution
ü  Cares for their students’ progress
ü  Keeps their students’ motivation
ü  Loves to change the way things are done
ü  Has developed good organizational skills

          An educational activity will be successful only if the teacher, in addition to transmitting knowledge, makes an effort to reach the student through careful listening, continuous motivation and genuine interest in the development of their pupils.

And now your turn:
Are you looking for a job?
How are your job skills?

DE LA LAMA, MARIA, Bachelor in Education, has a master's degree in Applied Linguistics and a Bachelor's in Linguistics, both obtained at the University of California, Davis. She also holds an MBA from Universidad del Pacífico. She currently serves as the Director of the Language Center at Universidad del Pacífico.

miércoles, 6 de febrero de 2019

Emotional Intelligence: Is it More Important Than any Other Assets?

By Flor de María Vila

      Nowadays people contend that it is essential to be able to handle certain difficult situations at work. These situations usually are related to the ability of managing your emotions in a social context.
      What does this have to do with teaching English? We think that our job is safe if we have a good level of English, we know how to apply the different teaching methods needed to instruct different kinds of learners and sufficient teaching experience, don’t we? Shouldn’t that be enough?
        Thinking about this, a memory of a difficult situation came to my mind.
This is it:
            I used to train teachers who gave lessons in a five-day program institute and one of them came to  me and related the following case: As part of his duties, he had to give a grade for the homework done in the workbook. He needed two scores per week, so he didn´t need to check students´ workbooks every day. One day, he checked the students´ workbooks and after that there was a break. When he returned to class, a lady (one of his students) was waiting for him outside the classroom. She claimed that he chose the day she didn´t do her homework to ask for it to make sure that she would fail. Unbelievable, wouldn’t you think? Everything that came to his mind was: “What! What in the world is she talking about?” Instead of retorting to the absurdity, which was his first spontaneous reaction, he tried to calm down himself, and tried to understand why she was behaving that way. Eventually, he realized she was extremely worried about the possibility of failing the course, so he serenely explained to her that there was no way he could know beforehand when she had o hadn´t done her homework. He also offered to help if she had trouble doing the assignment if she didn´t understand. The woman quieted down, returned to class and later in the course she asked for help only once. After that, she became the sweetest person one could ever imagine. Even more, she recommended him to all her contacts.

       So, what had happened? Why didn´t this episode with the woman become a nightmare?Had the teacher used his emotional intelligence or Emotional Quotient-EQ, as David Goleman calls it? According to him there are five components. Let´s see if the teacher in the example used them.

1. When he calmed down himself and tried to understand his student, he definitely identified his emotion and worked on regulating it. This covered two abilities: self-awareness and self-regulation.

2. Offering his help he showed he was able not only to understand how she was feeling but also to manage his response at the light of this information. This is related to a third component: empathy.
3. Being able to interact well with others is another important aspect of emotional intelligence. This ability is known as social skill and he used it when he could manage the woman´s emotions by listening actively when she was explaining what she thought was happening. He got her to return to classes and, even better, later act as a reference for other students.
4. Even though the example given does not display a specific action that illustrates motivation, it is certain that the teacher mentioned encouraged himself to achieve his goals which were beyond mere external rewards. In fact, he used this experience as a driving force to use his emotional intelligence every time it was necessary and became a teacher whom everybody liked and wanted to work with. 

            Was he born with these qualities? Can we learn them? 
                            Do we need to learn them?

       Many employers find emotional intelligence extremely important since it is the one quality that allows people to productively work with peers in better conditions. Employers consider soft skills as important as hard skills since without them employees find employment challenges insuperable.
For us, teachers, the situations in which we may need to use our emotional intelligence are many. Probably the most common ones are the circumstances in which we interact with our students, our colleagues, our students’ parents or relatives and our supervisors, whether they are coordinators, trainers or directors.
       A tip that usually works for me is to think the following: Behave, react and respond in the way that person would if he or she were you. For example, be the teacher that student would need if he were you. In the example given lines above, did he need an interlocutor as a punching back? or one that tried to find out what was happening that made her behave that way? It´s certainly not an easy job, but if we work on this, we will definitely be on the right track. Putting myself in the other person’s shoes works for me. What about you?

       And if you do not want to love your neighbor as much as yourself, think about the possibility of losing your job because it is very demanding for others to work with you. If it is extremely difficult to manage your emotions with students, it is very likely that the same happens with the other people with whom you work. We need to educate ourselves or look for help.
        We would be “safe” and keep our jobs if we act proactively and update not only our language skills and our methodological foundation but also train to improve our emotional intelligence since this is precisely what technology would never dominate, in the words of laureate professor Vikas Pota, Chairman, of Varkey Foundation, a family organization seeking to improve global teacher capacity and promote universal access to quality education.

What do you think?
Is Emotional Intelligence really important?
Have you ever been in a situation in which you needed to use it?
Have you trained yourself or is it natural in you?

Goleman,D. "Emotional Intelligence (Goleman)," in A Blog by Concordia University, November 17, 2017, https://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/classroom-resources/daniel-golemans-emotional-intelligence-theory-explained/
Pota, V. World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/people/vikas-pota

M.A. in Cognition, Learning and Development from PUCP, B.A. in Education with a major in English Teaching. Ms. Vila is currently Teacher trainer, Pedagogic Consultant and Member of the Research Team at Centro de Idiomas de la Universidad del Pacífico. She is Academic Director of International Contacts (test training & foreign applications advisory) and relationship manager for American universities´ MBA admissions officers with International Contacts. She is official Examiner for several University of Cambridge tests, freelance consultant with Universidad ESAN, experienced speaker on diverse English teaching issues for prestigious institutions, and senior international examinations trainer (GMAT, GRE, TOEFL, IELTS).

miércoles, 30 de enero de 2019

Struggling With job Interviews? 10 Tips to keep in mind

                                                                                                  By Zarela Cruz                                                                        

         Looking for a new job may be a tiresome experience, even when we have been looking forward to a new opportunity or to making progress in our career path.  Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the prospect of the big day? Below you will find some important aspects to keep in mind, although they are quite often neglected.

1.   Get ready for the interview.
2.   Show up 10 minutes before the arranged time.
3.   Always bring a copy of your resume.
4.   Observe their dress code or a reasonable one.
5.   Do not use your cell phone during the interview.
6.   Make eye-contact with your interviewer.
7.   Do not criticize your former employer.
8.   Do not tell the interviewer that you really need the job and the money.
9.   Be ready to explain how the company will benefit if they hire you.
10.  Prepare a model class should you be asked to give one.

         Is that all? not exactly. Whenever I have been in charge of evaluating applicants for a teaching position, I could see that some of them had a tendency to replicate the teaching model they were used to.  Furthermore, they used the same slides, a grammar-centered approach and examples related to themselves. They did not have any information about the students’ profile, education, age and interests to name some; the kind of courses that the institution offered, even the technology that was available.  In a word, they hardly did any research about the institution they wanted to work for, not to mention the position.  On the other hand, some of them mentioned personal issues such as how much they needed the money or that they wanted to have additional income. We all work for money, up to a certain extent, but it should not look like our top priority.

      Once you got the job, your homework is not done yet: it is the beginning of a new phase in your working life, so you have to be ready to undo some routines and embrace new ones; such as working in teams and participating in the training programs.

    By keeping these remarks in mind you will show that you are really suitable for the institution and for the position.

And now your turn:

Have you ever made a mistake in the course of a job interview?
Did you find the job you were looking forward to?

         We will be expecting your comments, suggestions and/or tips regarding this topic.


Zarela Cruz graduated from Ricardo Palma University as a translator.  She also finished her master’s studies in Linguistics and took some specialization diplomas in the Teaching of English and Spanish. She has also completed some online certificates:  Teaching the Working Adult, Online, Hybrid and Blended Education, among other self-study courses. She has taught different courses, programs and levels and has been a teacher trainer, a lecturer and online instructor for more than 25 years. She is has just finished her master’s studies in Translation. This article aims to reflect on the convenience of getting ready for a job interview to deal with it successfully.

miércoles, 23 de enero de 2019

Experience, Degrees or Language Proficiency? Does One Overshadow the Others?

By Mayra Yaranga Hernández

          As a new year starts, many English teachers begin to make decisions regarding their careers. This is the best time to analyse their strengths and weaknesses. They evaluate the labour market and may start looking for new jobs. Which aspects of their careers, as seen on their CVs, should they improve in order to stand out from the crowd?

          Some teachers take pride in their years of experience and consider them to be their best asset. Granted, seasoned teachers know the profession, which helps them justify their classroom decisions. However, if this experience is not linked to progress, it may not be so attractive to potential employers, since it may mean that these teachers were not able to step out of their comfort zone and try out new dares: teaching more challenging courses, preparing students for international exams, changing schools or adopting new methodologies, doing research, etc. Having said that, there should always be one or two areas in which English teachers should feel most confident and demonstrate more expertise.

          On the other hand, postgraduate courses (Diplomas and Masters’ Degrees) are nowadays much more attractive and more readily available than in the past; this is why quite a few teachers choose to take this option as part of their professional development. This seems to be a good idea: postgraduate courses usually provide theoretical foundations to many of the things that happen in class, as well as foundational research methodology for those more academically inclined. However, in practice, postgraduate study may not have an impact on the quality of language teaching and learning overall as some courses are probably too abstract or do not cater for their audience’s everyday needs.

          We could argue that English teachers may find that strengthening their language proficiency is probably more useful in the long run, as this is the core of their daily work as well as an important asset when seeking further challenges in their ELT careers. Teachers are usually advised to be at least one level above their students in terms of proficiency. This is especially true these days, since many Peruvian schools have decided to start teaching the language from early years and more parents also decide to enrol their children in private language schools after school classes. This results in an interesting challenge: by the time pupils arrive at secondary school, their standard is very close to B1 or B2, which means that teachers would need to operate at a good B2 or C1 in order to deal with language issues more confidently and without “losing face.” Naturally, spending in language training and qualifications requires time and money to invest, which not all teachers have, although maybe they could compensate for this by being constantly exposed to the language outside work.

          All in all, the three aspects are important for English teachers, and should be upgraded as much as possible throughout their careers; but, if they want to make themselves more attractive in our current career market, they should think very carefully about which of the three points they need to hone the most. Arguably though, improving their own language proficiency could yield the best long-term results.

Now, it’s YOUR turn:
Is it enough to focus on one aspect only?
 Is there one that you consider more important than the others?

Mayra Yaranga (1985) Doctor in Education (UNIFÉ); Master’s Degree in Media, Culture and Identity from Roehampton University (London) revalidated by PUCP, a Bachelor’s Degree in Education - UPCH and the Professional Title of Licenciada - IPNM. Currently she is Cambridge Oral Examiner and Member of the Research Area for Universidad del Pacífico Language Centre. She is also ESP coordinator and Pre-University Centre Director at UNIFÉ.

jueves, 17 de enero de 2019

We Will Keep Searching for Topics of Your Interest

By Enrique Rojas Rojas

 As we said before, 2019 started and with it our fourth year of existence as the Research Group of the Language Center, Universidad del Pacífico; it also signals the fourth year of publishing this blog, dedicated to the interchange of thoughts and ideas related with the teaching of foreign languages and the wellbeing and advancement of the persons dedicated to this endeavor.

         We must express our recognition and gratitude to the individuals who have accompanied us in this journey, not only in this country but throughout the Americas, and even in some faraway, and unexpected, places such as Russia, where we know we have regular readers.

         For the New Year we have started we have a number of very interesting topics swarming about our heads which we are eager to work and share with you. We begin this 12-month period with a series analyzing what is that makes a teacher attractive in the labor market. Is it their knowledge of the language or their learned pedagogical techniques? In other words, is it language competence, perhaps demonstrated by an international certificate, or a university teaching degree what makes teachers more desirable in the eyes of employers?

Or perhaps we might deal with what a language teacher should know in order to be able to drive a good bargain at interview time?   Or maybe which are the   other --more valued now— qualities, such as soft skills or emotional intelligence? Of course, which is the teacher profile sought by learning institutions nowadays will be another topic we will submit to scrutiny.

         So keep with us, we will keep working

Graduated in Journalism at the PUCP, Peru, Enrique Rojas R. holds a MA in Journalism and MA in Inter American History from Southern Illinois University, USA; an MA in Literature from University of the Americas, Puebla, Mexico, all the coursework for a MA in TEFL at Universidad de Piura, Peru and BA in Education from Universidad Federico Villarreal. He has also obtained Certificates of Proficiency in English both from Cambridge University and the University of Michigan and the Diploma for EFL Teachers from Universidad del Pacifico. He is an Oral Examiner for the Cambridge University exams and has been awarded the title Expert in E-Learning from Asociacion Educativa del Mediterraneo and Universidad Marcelino Champagnat. He has worked as a professor in universities in Peru, Mexico and the United States; as a newscaster and a producer in radio and television stations in the United States and Mexico, and as a writer and editor in daily newspapers of the same countries. He has been in the staff of CIDUP for 19 years teaching English and Spanish specializing in International Exams, English for Business, ESP and Teacher Training. He has been a speaker in every Congress of English for Special Purposes organized by Centro de Idiomas de la U.P. He is also a member of its Research Area. 

miércoles, 5 de diciembre de 2018

Are CLIL courses that good for boosting foreign language acquisition?

 By  María de la Lama E
In many private schools in Lima there is an increase in the number of courses taught in English. Courses like  Social Sciences, Mathematics and Literature have boosted parents’ demand for such courses like never before. The term CLIL (Content and integrated learning of languages) appeared in the nineties with the aim of integrating the learning of a foreign language with the learning of new content. In this methodology, language and content are two equally important aspects and a special effort must be made to maintain the balance that prevents one from eclipsing the other. The ultimate goal is to achieve proficiency in the language by learning new content.
What are the main benefits of the CLIL methodology? To begin with, the integration of the aforementioned content with language provides a real communicative context, one of the main foundations for the acquisition of a second language. In fact, CLIL seems to correct several problems of language teaching. In CLIL courses, students have a real interaction in the language due to their need to develop knowledge. On the other hand, in foreign language or second language courses, there is frequently a very controlled interaction between the students, enough to practice a new structure and, generally, in contexts that may not be too attractive for them. In fact, CLIL courses expose students to topics that are more relevant to them, increasing their motivation, which in turn will promote the acquisition of the foreign language.
However, the integration of language and content, which is the heart of the CLIL methodology, is not an easy task, especially due to the insufficient number of teachers. For this methodology to be applied successfully, teachers, if they are not native speakers, must have a native command of the language as well as a solid knowledge of the content to be taught. But even if the availability of teachers were not a problem, it must be asked whether students really improve their performance in the second language with the CLIL methodology compared to the results of the foreign language courses.
Research aimed at comparing the results in language acquisition with that of traditional language courses shows that CLIL students improve their listening comprehension, fluency, reading comprehension and their vocabulary range. In an excellent paper entitled “Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL): Limitations and possibilities”, written by Ena Harrop, there are some interesting research results worth to be considered. According to some authors, CLIL students’ pronunciation and writing accuracy do not show a significant improvement when compared to students that have been learning English as a foreign or second language. Furthermore, according to Cummins (1998) in CLIL courses, there is not enough focus on the form, which in may in turn cause the fossilization of grammatical errors. Finally, CLIL courses can only favor the development of receptive skills rather than the  productive ones.
In summary, although CLIL courses can offer several advantages over modern language teaching approaches, it seems that the balance between content and language has not yet been reached. Much research still needs to be done to point out the benefits of this methodology compared to the results of modern language teaching approaches.

And now, your turn:
 Are CLIL courses that good for boosting foreign language acquisition?

   How much do our students improve their command of a foreign language when learning not the language per se, but something else through that language? 

   Should schools promote the teaching of subjects such as Literature, Social Science or Math in English?

DE LA LAMA, MARIA, Bachelor in Education, has a master's degree in Applied Linguistics and a Bachelor's in Linguistics, both obtained at the University of California, Davis. She also holds an MBA from Universidad del Pacífico. She currently serves as the Director of the Language Center at Universidad del Pacífico.