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Bullying: A Historical Case

We tend to think of bullying as a modern phenomenon, a product of public schools and the Internet. Bullying, however, has deep roots that go back to the dawn of civilization. Tales abound in history and literature, even, arguably, the Bible (in Genes…

How to ace a job interview

Nowadays it’s rare to sit for an interview as part of a college admission. Only a handful of schools bother anymore, mostly because they just get too many applicants for it to be practical. Being interviewed, however, is still a part of life, because it’s still a key method in the hiring process. Yes, we’re talking about the dreaded job interview, source of so much fear, anxiety and downright panic. It needn’t be something to dread — in fact, with the proper preparation, believe it or not, a job interview can be something to look forward to. It can be your time to shine!

The web is full of advice on the sorts of questions you can be expected to ask, and how you should answer them. There are tips on what to wear, on shaking hands, on every aspect of the interview process. But here’s a tip that cuts to the heart of all of it: what all those questions are really asking.

Imagine you sit down before a manager whose job it is to find out what they can about you and decide whether you’re a good fit for the position. You’re nervous and fidgety, expecting to be asked about your resume or your work experience. Then you get hit by this one: “I’ve interviewed a dozen people today, some of them with more experience than you have. So why should I hire you instead of them?”

It’s a pretty devastating question. It’s also kind of a test. Basically you need to justify yourself in a very serious way. You have to say more than just “I’m going to work hard” or “I’m trustworthy.” You have to be able to talk about yourself with self-awareness, confidence, and especially what makes you unique, what makes you — well, you.

When you think about all the questions that get asked at an interview, most of them boil down to this one, brutal, horrifying question. Just why should you be hired? What is it that you want out of life? Not just out of one job at one employer, but life? What is your relationship with society, and how do you wish to contribute to the world? What are your values? In a crowd of people, how do you stand out? What makes you special? Just who are you, exactly?

Unfortunately there isn’t an easy solution we can give you, but that’s all right. What you need to do is get to know yourself, search your heart and soul, find out who you really are and what you’re all about. Yes, it’s difficult and a lot of work. But once you’ve really explored your insides, so to speak, you’ll be able to march into that interview and not only answer all their questions with a clear voice and a confident gaze. Not only will you be in a better position to get that job, you really will stand out from the rest.

Now go get ‘em!


Advice for de-stressing a teen

Growing up has never been easy. Teens have been experiencing stress for generations, but these days, we have data that gives us a clearer picture of what’s going on among today’s teens, in part thanks to a recent study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, Canada.

The study offered some interesting observations. To begin with, despite the apparent “kids today” consensus that being young is worse nowadays than ever, reports of bullying have been in steady decline for some years now, as have reports of teen gambling and opioid use. Social media has not created an apocalypse in the realm of teen psychology.

There is one area, however, in which conditions are very serious: teen stress. According to the CAMH study, 34% of teens report experiencing moderate or severe stress — an increase of ten percent over 2013.

Put another way, one in three teens experiences enough stress that those around them should feel concerned. The question is what to do about it.

Know thyself

A big part of growing up is learning how to grasp our own feelings. For some of us, knowing what’s going on is second nature, but there are plenty of folks for whom it’s a struggle. This is especially true of teens, whose feelings can seem feel powerful, even overwhelming, and difficult to master. The subtle feelings can be tricky too, sitting in the background and altering perceptions. It’s important, therefore, to learn to recognize the signs of stress when they appear. Look for physical symptoms and behavioral changes. This should not be limited to the parents either — teens themselves need to understand stress and how it works, and spot the warning signs of stress within themselves in order to respond with the appropriate self-care. Trying to power through it, or maintain a positive facade, does not help anything.


Failure happens in life

A high schooler might feel like a failed exam is traumatic, but in the grand panoply of a life’s experience, it’s barely a pothole on Main Street. That’s not to say it’s nothing — feelings are feelings and they’re entirely valid — but honestly, a test is just a test. Grades are important, as are assignments and presentations and all the other steps on the journey to graduation, but students should understand that failure is a part of life, and a crucial life skill is being able to pick oneself up off the floor, brush off the dust and get on with life.


Feelings are responses to reality, they’re not reality itself

Stress is a thing that occurs in our lives from time to time, at all ages. Stress, however, is a response to one’s interactions with the world, it’s not the world itself. In other words being a teenager applying to university, preparing for the SAT or ACT, waiting for responses to applications — well, it’s perfectly natural to feel stress in response to all these things. But that stress, however justified, is still just a feeling. It shouldn’t be allowed to alter one’s perception of life itself. If it is allowed to do so, then life can seem mighty dark and unhappy indeed. In practical terms, this can have many negative effects on health and happiness, as well as making it harder to succeed in life. Acknowledge feeling as feelings and don’t let them take over.


Do some good, it might help

One of the worst things about stress and anxiety is the feeling of being out of control, of an absence of independence, even of agency. But some studies point to an unusual way to tackle that feeling: helping others. According to Michael Ungar, director of the Resilience Research Centre at Dalhousie University, helping other people can be an empowering experience. “One of the best things you can do with kids if they are anxious,” he says, “is not just ask them to do things for themselves, but ask them to do things for others.” A bit of volunteering, mentoring or coaching might help a stressed teen.


Get some sleep!

Seriously, sleep is a crucial component not only of mental development, but of mental health. Getting a good night’s sleep as often as possible is one of the most important things anyone, of any age, can do for themselves. Sleep. No joke!


Get more exercise

No, this isn’t about being thin. It’s about getting the heart pumping and working the old muscles a bit. Playing a sport, going for walks, swim, climb — it doesn’t matter. Exercise works wonder for stress and always has. It doesn’t need to be intense; even a moderate, gentle workout can really help in relaxation. Be careful, of course — don’t risk injury. But try moving around, it’s likely to help.


The key to handling stress is to be open about it, acknowledge it, and be methodical about tackling it. No one should feel any shame or embarrassment in being stressed. Indeed if left alone it can be very harmful, both physically and mentally. Learning healthy ways of dealing with it while still young can be a fantastic, empowering skill that will reap great rewards for decades to come.


Preparing your child for a future career

Every parent wants their child to be successful in life: to succeed academically, socially, spiritually, in every way possible. Included in that list is the desire of every parent to be rest assured of their child’s ability to get a good job and be financially stable for the rest of their life. Some might dismiss career talk as materialistic, even crass, but a good job is the gateway to good health, secure housing, good food — everything necessary for a happy, meaningful life. So how can youngster and parent prepare early for the many career choices to come?

1. It’s never too soon to pick up skills

There are all kinds of practical skills that are useful in the job market, yet are neglected while in school. For instance a strong familiarity with a word processor like Microsoft Word or Google Docs will be a useful line on a resume. Another extremely helpful ability, but one that often gets overlooked, is a mastery of spreadsheets. Being able to handle loads of data and process them into pivot tables would come in handy in a great many professions. There are also manual skills, such as carpentry, welding, car repair. If you put your mind to it, you’ll probably come up with a long list of skills and abilities that your youngster could get a head start on, an effort that could pay major dividends later on.

2. Try to get a deeper understanding of interesting careers

There’s a strong tendency, when researching jobs and careers, to start and end with web searches. But that approach drastically limits learning opportunities, and, as a result, limits potential career opportunities. Don’t just surf the web, get your kid out there in the real world — visit workplaces, talk to people living and working in various fields. Find out what it’s really like to work in the fields in which your youngster is interested. You might be surprised by how much can be learned with direct experience.

3. Know your requirements

The earlier you understand what steps are required to reach your child’s career goals, the better off you’ll be. Courses needed to get into needed college majors, college credits needed to get into postgraduate programs, further programs and work experience required for professional certification — there are a lot of steps that will have to be taken on the long journey to working life. A bit of strategic thinking early on will make sure it’s a productive journey.

4. Build a portfolio

It’s easy to buy a web address and build a basic website. Such as A website can be an ongoing project maintained and updated throughout the years spent in high school and college, allowing the youngster to develop all the skills related to web design and upkeep.There are also tons of websites designed to distribute content created by individuals, so photography, music, writing, art and more can be shown to a global audience. Now it may not bring in money to your child (though it just might!), but it will create an identity and a brand that can be controlled and shaped. Why is this important? Because everyone should expect to get Googled when applying for jobs, post-secondary education, and more. A positive online identity will be a huge help.

4. Relax!

Career exploration can be an immensely stressful process. The younger your child is, the more it can feel like career discussions are threatening to lock them into something long before they’re ready. It can turn a useful process into a counterproductive exercise in stress and anxiety. Therefore, don’t try to lock in anything too early. Keep an eye out for special skills or potential interests. Assure your child that the point isn’t to decide what to do with their life, but to ensure the best possible tools are available if and when that decision is made.

Professional Development: An untapped market?

Professional development days are a staple of school life. Students get a day off, parents scramble for childcare, and teachers sit in a stuffy room and become students. In truth, however, professional development (PD) is a huge part of work life for a teacher, with around ten percent of the school year, or 19 days, devoted to training. But much of that effort is wasted, according to a new study [note: report behind paywall]: “By and large, U.S. teachers are receiving professional development that is superficial, short-lived, and incoherent.” Does this present a hidden opportunity for modern trainers and educators?

The point of PD is to ensure that teachers are fully versed in current educational knowledge and techniques. A lot of people tend to think of teaching advancement in terms of generations, with younger teachers picking up new skills when they train for their certificates, and bringing those skills into the classroom while older teachers retire. However if that viewpoint has any basis in reality, it’s a disastrously inefficient way to keep teachers current, especially in this day and age.

The world is full of data and practical experience, and private companies make the most of this through constant skills training — and being profit-making entities, they work hard to ensure that all their training is effective, useful, and is retained by all learners. The study, a

2016 EdNET Insight report entitled The Evolution of Professional Development to Professional Learning, finds essentially no effect on student outcomes by teacher PD, while most teachers believe it has little relevance in their work. Despite this, the report views PD as a huge potential opportunity.

Modern training offers countless venues for picking up, honing and maintaining skills. Micro-credentials, online learning, collaborative learning — the list is long. And the market is huge, with an estimated US$18 billion spent on PD in the United States alone — this totals around $18,000 per teacher per year. Would talented teachers, trainers and tutors outside the education system be able to crack this market and start offering PD to educators? At the moment, few schools would even think of such a thing — but making it happen could have major business ramifications. It’s an opportunity to make a profit, and to make a difference.

Remembering Roald Dahl

September 13th is Roald Dahl Day, and in fact the 2016 version marks 100 years since the author was born. So let’s take a look at the man and his work, and what it all means.

A common thread winding through much of his work is the portrayal of adults, especially teachers, as the enemies of children. In fact, Dahl himself pegged this as a key source of his literary success, since it allowed him to connect with his young readers and make them feel understood. But there’s a bit more to his work — a certain dark edge mixed in with the fantastical storytelling.

In Dahl’s classic novel Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the eponymous head of a candy company brings in some lucky kids to sample his factory’s sweet, sweet wares. However beyond providing candy, Willy Wonka is also there to mete out punishment for misbehaving youngsters. Severe punishment. While the Oompah-Loompahs serve as obedient drones operating the often very dark machinery of Willy Wonka’s world. Some people, when they look at that novel, see a symbol of corporate greed gone wild. Others see a serial killer. But no matter what you see, it’s hard to deny the tale’s innate harshness — a harshness that winds its way through much of Dahl’s work. Where does this darkness come from? What gave Roald Dahl his edge? The answer is quite simple: Trauma.

In his essay Lucky Break, Dahl begins by offering helpful pointers on how to become a writer. He also tells his own story of being discovered (on writing his first article, the respected author C. S. Forester asked him, “did you know you were a writer?”). But the essay also describes the nightmarish suffering he experienced in his life. As a child in the 1920s, he was sent to a British boarding school, and there he lived under a true reign of terror that will be familiar to anyone with knowledge of old British schooling practices. The kids were beaten, and beaten severely, for the slightest infraction. In Lucky Break, Dahl, in excruciating detail, describes this abuse — and it was abuse, let’s not tiptoe around it. Later, during the Second World War, Dahl served in the Royal Air Force, (RAF) and while there barely survived a plane crash in North Africa. His horrific injuries, which included many broken bones (including his pelvis), caused him to be sent home, and served as the subject of his first published piece, as described above.

This suffering is what infuses the work of Roald Dahl. He had an extraordinary imagination, and a gift for original stories, but as a human being he had suffered a great deal. While some may see frightening overtones of evil and cruelty in Dahl’s work, however, it might be more fair to say that a part of Dahl was that frightened, wounded child, calling out to readers with a very simple message: be kind to children. It’s a message that calls out to parents, teachers, tutors — everybody.

That, perhaps, is his finest legacy.


Learning to work with Common Core

Of the many controversies in American education, few are more intense than the issue of Common Core. But whether you’re a fan or a critic, Common Core is a thing that exists, and there are some facts every parent should know if they want their youngster to prosper under the new system.


1. Common Core is not a curriculum

Some may think that Common Core consists of learning content that all students must learn. Not quite. Common Core is a set of learning requirements that affect every grade, from kindergarten to grade twelve. Put simply, it doesn’t tell students what they must learn, so much as how they must learn it — or perhaps it’s more accurate to say how they must prove that they have done the learning. The changes, however, are substantial, and will probably make school a great deal more challenging for a great many students. After all the official goal is to ensure America “catches up” with the nations at the top of the global education rankings. It is also intended to make sure that young people are better equipped to handle college and work.


2. Guessing is much harder

Questions presented to students will offer a lot less “wiggle room” for those who only have a partial understanding of the material. In other words the questions themselves will sort of be “mini tests” that require analytical thought to comprehend. No, they don’t get a mark just for understanding the questions. The idea is to push students to have increased comprehension in general, rather than just having them study specific facts or formulae.

Here’s a sample Common Core test question:

“Jim uses ribbon to make bookmarks. Jim has 9 feet of ribbon. He uses 1/3 foot of ribbon to make each bookmark. What is the total number of bookmarks Jim makes with all 9 feet of Ribbon?”

This is a fairly straightforward question, one which might appear on any exam, Common Core or not. However the answer isn’t multiple choice; the test-taker has to do the calculation, showing their work, and provide the correct result. Guessing is pretty much a waste of time. A student sitting for this exam, in other words, needs a very thorough understanding of the concepts involved if they want to get a better grade.


3. Answering different questions

You might remember studying as involving a whole lot of memorization. Two students sitting on the floor of a busy high school hallway testing their recall of formulae, historical dates and so on. But under Common Core, the idea is, instead, to make sure those students reach a far deeper understanding of the subjects on their timetables — deep enough, perhaps, to be able to teach it to others. That means asking the difficult question “why” a whole lot more. Students will be expected to understand the big picture, and the little picture too.


4. Understand and prepare

An awful lot of people have some awfully strong feelings about Common Core. But like it or loathe it, Common Core is sticking around for the time being. As a parent, therefore, you should try to understand all the standards being set by Common Core, and how they apply to your child’s schooling. After that, work with your youngster to make sure they understand what’s expected of them. Check in regularly to make sure he/she is on track. And keep your eyes peeled for mistakes in those tests and assignments! Teachers have to adjust to Common Core as well, and errors will pop up from time to time.


There are loads of resources online that will help you better understand Common Core. Indeed there are even apps on the subject. Don’t be afraid to talk to your child’s teachers if you have any questions or concerns.

The other learning exceptionality: Poverty

Parents, students and educators are well aware of a great many learning exceptionalities nowadays. We’ve all heard of ADD, ADHD, dyslexia and so many more issues that affect academic performance. But often overlooked is one with a source that’s outside the student: poverty. It’s a phenomenon that can, with 100% certainty, have a powerful impact on young learners. Addressing it, however, can be very problematic. It’s a bit puzzling, really, when so much attention is given to other factors that can affect student excellence. Why is this?

There are different kinds of poverty

When we talk about poverty, we generally refer to economic hardship. But some kids also have to deal with emotional poverty, growing up in unhealthy homes; poverty of affection, where they feel unloved or unwanted; poverty of safety, where violence, either at home or in their community (or even both) are all too familiar. In other words, it’s not just about money, it’s about the absence of the kinds of conditions that increase the odds of growing up to be happy, healthy and to test the limits of one’s potential. Being poor in economic terms drastically increases the risks of being poor in other regards as well.

Poverty is political

No political debate includes candidates arguing about the causes of, say, ADHD; nor would it result in powerfully opposing arguments about how the government should (or should not) deal with it. Learning exceptionalities are generally not political, but it’s very hard to separate contemporary political debate from the needs of an individual child living in poverty. In truth, though, no child chooses their environment or upbringing, and should be seen like any other child with special needs: a young person in need of help. It takes a bit of extra work to accomplish this perspective.


Kids in poverty can be difficult to help

Children who grow up poor are at a far greater risk of behavioral issues, cognitive issues, and unhealthy socialization. This can often make it much more difficult to connect with kids in poverty — there can be a ton of unpleasant behavior to get through. This requires an extra degree of patience and a willingness to persevere, sometimes against the apparent lack of interest on the part of the child.


Poverty can cause a great deal of stress

It’s not easy being a child in poverty. The pressures of economic uncertainty and living physical conditions that can sometimes be harsh, not to mention the simple fact that it can be much harder to have hope for the future, all add up to a child living with a great deal of stress. This stress can express itself in many ways, and even cause health problems. It can’t be denied that a child in the grips of stress will have many struggles in school, and if the stress comes out in disruptive ways, that child is more likely to be ejected from class then approached with patience and gentleness (particularly when there are a dozen or two other students in need of attention).

There’s no approach to helping students in poverty that’s magically easy and straightforward. But then again, that can be said for all learning exceptionalities. All exceptionalities require patience, empathy and tons of hard work — poverty among them. After all, a child is an individual human being in need of support, not simply the sum of their problems. Perhaps most importantly, providing a stable, trustworthy, compassionate presence could have a tremendously positive impact on a young life.

Getting ready for a new school year

Is it back to school time already? Yes it is! But while a lot of people tend to focus on things like school clothes and school supplies, there are some other steps you can take to help ensure a happy and productive school year.


1. Set up a calendar

Really, get organized. Your school will probably have a schedule online that’s full of important dates ranging from days off to assemblies. And your teachers will almost certainly have calendars for your courses, listing assignments, tests and more. It will take some work, but try to put all of it onto a single calendar. Doing it on paper, maybe on a whiteboard, offers the advantage of letting you see an entire semester, or even a whole year, at a single glance; a digital version, such as Google Calendars, would let you access it remotely and on your phone (and you’ll be able to share it with parents and tutors). It can be intimidating to see all that work stretching out ahead of you, but if you make it, then pay attention and make the most of it, you’ll be able to stay on top of your schoolwork, and thereby reduce your stress.


2. Think about your health

If you don’t look after your health, your grades will suffer. So try putting together a simple list of things to do that will keep you as fit as possible. It can be as simple as a daily or weekly checklist that includes things like a bit of exercise, eating some fruit, having a smoothie once a week, going for a walk or run — healthy stuff like that. Don’t make it too intense or it will add to your stress levels. Just make sure you don’t let yourself slide into an unhealthy lifestyle.


3. Get a hobby

Yes, school will keep you plenty busy, but you should still try to find time for something you love, something that’s 100% your choice. There are so many activities out there! From filmmaking to painting to geocaching to long-distance running — not to mention old-fashioned things like reading and writing. Don’t let it get hectic and stressful, but try to find something positive you can do when things get anxious.

4. Come up with a stress management plan

Stress is a huge problem among students, especially as they approach their university applications. Fulfilling all your duties at home and at school (not to mention socially) can trigger stress and anxiety. Everyone experiences stress differently — how does it hit you? What are your personal stress reactions? It’s important to learn how you handle stress. Watch out for unhealthy behavior and physical side-effects, and be ready to give yourself the care and attention you need. Try especially to figure out what eases your stress. You might be surprised how simple it can be — even the simple act of taking a walk, or lying in bed listening to music with your eyes closed, can bring you some peace. It’s also important to talk to people about your stress. Teachers, parents, tutors, all can help you. Don’t suffer alone!

However you prepare for school, we at Tutor Doctor wish you all the success in the world. Go get ‘em!


Just what is stress, exactly?

Stress is a huge part of our lives. There’s just no escaping it. Young, old, rich, poor, it doesn’t matter — we all experience it from time to time. Sometimes it affects us very badly. But what exactly is stress? Where does it come from …

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