Mar 29, 2010

Teach English Abroad

We’ve always been big promoters of travel and international experience. As a means towards new opportunities, travel has a lot to offer, from self-directed learning and résumé building, to simple expansion of world understanding. This week we’ll look at how speaking English can help you get where you want to be.

No matter where you want to go, odds are there will be a demand for competent English teachers. While interested individuals should not expect to make a fortune in this profession, a living wage and ample opportunities to explore are a given. Typically, English teachers remain in the same locale for many months. The extended stay, coupled with direct and daily interaction with locals, makes for a truly enriching experience far beyond what any tourist trip could ever offer.

Like most professions, preference and higher pay are typically given to those with more experience. If you think teaching English abroad would be a good fit for you, start locally. Try volunteering your time in ESL (English as a Second Language) classes and get a feel for the kind of work you’ll be doing. The more experience you have on your résumé, the more likely it is you’ll find your perfect job down the road.

Once you are certain that you want to teach English abroad, it’s time to get certified. There are a ton of programs out there, most containing some kind of acronym, including: TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), ESL (English as a Second Language), TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) and so on. Programs vary greatly in price, schedules, and post-training job assistance, so do some research to find the best fit for you. It’s best to find a program with an established job track to help you on your way once you’ve completed certification. There are even some programs that offer training on-site in certain foreign countries, making the transition from student to teacher that much easier. If you can’t find that perfect program for your chosen destination, look for something close by. Downtime can be spent visiting that ideal place if you’re just a bus, train, or plane ticket away.

Of course, one of the biggest benefits to teaching in a foreign country is all the things you’ll learn. So if you want adventure and low-cost travel, check out becoming an English teacher in a foreign country.

Mar 22, 2010

What is Intelligence?

It’s easy to define improvement in sports. Making another save on defense, clipping time from your fastest lap, scoring more points against the opposing team – it’s obvious when you “get better”. But what about improving intelligence?

“Smartness” is tricky to pin down. Throughout history, there have been several attempts at defining and measuring this surprisingly elusive concept, and so far, a unanimously acceptable definition has remained out of reach.

Why has it been so difficult? One reason is the seemingly endless variety of ways in which someone could be considered “smart”. For example- is a theoretical physicist “smarter” than a master mechanic? The physicist can create elaborate mathematical theories for the explanation of natural phenomena, while the mechanic can diagnose a malfunctioning internal combustion engine just by listening to it- skills that both require intelligence. With such extreme variation, the quest to standardize intelligence may seem impossible.

Yet despite these difficulties, there remains a modern system that attempts to do just that. Understandably, the true efficacy of this system is still under debate. Critics of the modern IQ (intelligence quotient) test state that it is a falsehood to believe that an individual who does not perform well is not “smart”. They say that while a high score does generally correlate to some kind of “proof” of intelligence, the opposite is not necessarily true.

So, if the system in place is not perfect, what can we do to improve upon it? One popular theory is that of “Multiple Intelligences”. Proposed in the 80’s by Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner, multiple intelligences tries to encompass all the ways in which an individual could be deemed “smart”. These varied definitions tie back directly to individual learning styles, and embrace the idea of employing unique methods for teaching unique minds.

Unsurprisingly, multiple intelligence theory is not without its own critics. But while a perfect definition for what intelligence is and what it is not may be far off in the future, it’s important to remember that there are more ways to be smart than a record high test score.