I have no idea how much money you make, how many hours you work, what your boss or commute are like, or why your passion for work has dried up.
Here’s what I do know: Feeling disengaged, bored, unchallenged and complacent with your job is normal. “Normal” doesn’t necessarily mean healthy or productive, but there’s good news; if you play your hand right, these feelings can actually help find and reclaim your passion for language translation.
When Passion Dries Up: 5 Tips for Language Translators
Check your perception
Perception creates reality. When we are dissatisfied, often the first thing that needs an honest evaluation is the lens through which we see the world—and our career. So why are you unhappy? Why are you bored, restless, overworked, underpaid and so on? Is it really the job or is it the lens through which you perceive the job?
Remember the clients that make your job rewarding
I once gave a presentation at a conference. Afterwards, I received positive feedback and words of encouragement from a dozen people, but instead of reflecting on this, I chose to think about one backhanded compliment from someone I didn’t know and would probably never see again in my life. She didn’t know me. She didn’t understand where I was coming from, so why did what she say matter? It didn’t!
Like anyone, language translators encounter difficult and condescending clients. Forget them for now and think about all of the clients who pay you on time, thank you for your work and appreciate you enough to give you another assignment.
Assess your growth
There are myriad conferences and professional development opportunities for language translators. Have you sought any of them out? If you haven’t, perhaps you should. Love of the job is a lot like a relationship: it requires maintenance, patience, honesty and self-assessment. If you’re not “in love” anymore, maybe you need to work harder at it. Start by reaching out to other translators, attending conferences and meeting other language translators who know what you’re going through.
Take a vacation
When was the last time you took a vacation? And don’t say that you can’t afford one! Many language translators complain that they cannot take time off because time off means that they won’t get paid.
Here’s the solution: Let’s say that you typically gross $1,500 per week and you want to take four weeks of vacation. Then you’ll need $6,000 in savings in order to pay yourself $1,500 per week off. Divided by the 48 weeks a year that you would be working, you’ll need to save $125 a week.
Stash that amount in your paid-vacation account and enjoy your paid time off.
Use your skills in a new way
Language translators have an impressive skillset: not only can they negotiate several languages, they can write. Put these skills to good use.
- Try your hand at blogging. If you’re not sure how to break into the business, start with Zerys, an enormous online job board where agencies and private companies post freelance writing jobs. There are no monthly fees, you don’t have to purchase credits to bid on projects or submit proposals, and you can set up your account so that you are alerted whenever a job posting matches your profile.
- Tutor language learners online. There are many online language-learning communities where you can put your language skills to good use:
italki is a language-learning community that connects teachers and language learners through Skype. If you do not meet their qualifications to become a proper italki teacher, you can still become a community tutor. Tutors earn up to $16 an hour. Professional teachers earn up to $20 an hour.
Verbal Planet is a lot like italki. You decide how much you want to charge for your lessons, create your own schedule and manage it with your online work planner. You’ll need a Paypal account since you are paid directly by your students.
The “green” movement is certainly one we can get behind, but what does “going green” really mean and why should we care about it? Garbology is a fun, interactive website that asks students to consider such questions.
Most students know that they should “reuse, recycle, and compost,” but do they know how to do these things, or why it is important to reduce the waste we put in landfills?
Garbology’s lesson plans and interactive games will teach students everything from packing a “waste-less lunch” to composting and building a worm bin!
Below are a few lesson plans and activities you’ll find on the site. We also recommend that your students check out My Garbology, an interactive game that teaches students all about waste and how to reduce it.
Compost in a Bag – Grades 3-5 (PDF)
Compost Tag – Grades K-5 (PDF)
I Want It! I Need It! – Grades 7-12 (PDF)
It's a Wrap! – Grades 3-6 (PDF)
Let's Build a Worm Bin! – Grades K-5 (PDF)
Garbology fact sheets
Composting With the FBI (PDF)
Composting With the FBI – Spanish (PDF)
The Dirt on Composting (PDF)
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (PDF)
What Are Natural Resources? (PDF)
If you’re looking for lessons to pair with the resources you find on Garbology, you might be interested in one of our guides, How to Make Earth Day Relevant to Students.
Last week, I shared a few management misnomers from Linda Hill and Kent Lineback’s book, Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader. Like I said, I never like pointing out problems without offering solutions, so this week I’m sharing 10 things every great manager should do. These tips have been adapted from Adrienne Fox’s recent SHRM article, “Help Managers Shine.”
10 Things Every Great Manager Should Do
- Engage people and motivate them through hope instead of fear
- Collaborate with people outside your network and use the strengths of individuals to elevate the entire team
- Possess both trustworthiness and authoritativeness. Although you may technically have authority through your title, this power is merely titular. If you don’t have trust from subordinates, you may be able to coerce them into doing things, but you won’t be able to influence them. Furthermore, you may have earned trust from your subordinates by being their “friend,” but that doesn’t make you authoritative. To the point: you need both trust and authority to become a great manager
- Identify the people you need to accomplish your team’s purpose and build relationships with them before you need them. This takes time, but think of it as a future investment
- Ensure that your team is working collectively for a purpose that each individual member is committed to
- Stop and reflect before making big decisions. Give yourself at least 10 uninterrupted seconds to consider how a decision is going to help you manage yourself, your network and your team
- Know that respect is earned—not given
- Know that it’s not about you. A manager’s success is determined by how well he or she develops, how well his or her employees perform, and how well the manager prepares employees for the next opportunity
- Communicate clearly and articulate expectations from the outset
- Have fun. Management is a tough business; it requires stamina and concentration. The best leaders are those who have a great sense of humor and never let a day go by without laughing
If the job description of a principal was put into writing, it would be of War and Peace proportions. Today’s principal is pulled in hundreds of directions at a moment’s notice—so how does s/he move beyond survival mode and create a successful learning environment? This was Shelly Habegger’s guiding question when she studied principals at three high-performing schools of low socioeconomic status.
Despite the fact that these schools had fewer resources and a disproportionate number of under-qualified teachers, Habegger found that these schools continued to succeed. How and why though? Habegger attributes their success to the power of a positive school culture.
Creating a sense of belonging for students
When Habegger asked the principals about their major goals for their schools, their answers were unanimous: to develop positive relationships, not generate high test scores.
Most of us know that relationships are important to our students’ success, yet we may have underestimated them. Research suggests that when we nurture relationships with students, we actually:
- Contribute to the academic achievement and motivation of our students (Elias, 1997)
- Decrease the likelihood of a student dropping out (Thurlow, Christenson, Sinclair, Evelo, & Thornton, 1995)
- Help prevent and reduce bullying (Olweus, 1999)
- Help prevent substance abuse (Resnick et al., 1997), and violence (Dwyer, Osher, & Warger, 1998)
Creating a sense of belonging for teachers
In addition to creating a sense of belonging for students, these three principals also made it a priority to nurture relationships with teachers and support them professionally.
One way the principals achieved this was by facilitating a “common planning time.” Essentially, this was a weekly meeting where the principal and teachers:
- Viewed achievement test data
- Sought assistance for particular students
- Discussed curriculum alignment, instructional strategies, how to enhance student achievement, and other job-embedded issues.
These meetings laid the foundation for a collaborative, professional learning community, but they also benefitted teachers in number of other ways:
- Teachers began to take collective responsibility for student learning
- Increased efficacy
- There was a noticeable reduction in teacher isolation
- Teachers learned from one another and experienced higher morale and greater job satisfaction
- Retention rates increased
Creating a sense of belonging for parents and community
Relationships with parents and the community were also priorities for all three of the principals Harbegger studied. Here’s what she found:
- Each principal referred to the parent’s (and community’s) role as complementary to the school
- Each principal strove to learn parental needs and welcomed and solicited parents’ questions and concerns
- Informally, information was gathered through conversations principals had with parents as they dropped off and picked up their children from school and attended various school events, and in phone calls home.
- More formally, the principals conducted a needs assessment survey of their school’s parents to keep in tune with what and how to best communicate with them concerning their children’s social and academic growth.
- Each school displayed substantial efforts to invite, include, and demonstrate need for parents and various community members.
If you’re looking for more ways to nurture relationships and create a positive school culture, check out a few of our recent blogs: “Learning to Drive the Bus: 5 Ways to Build a Positive School Culture,” “5 simple ways to strengthen student engagement,”
and “5 More Ways to Build a Relationship-Driven Classroom.”
Like we said in our blog last week, learning to read is a lot of work, but “work” is the last thing we want our students to associate with reading! In our experience, interactives and reading animation games are some of the best tools for engaging beginning readers and turning “work” into a fun and effective activity.
If you’re looking for a few ways to engage your beginning readers, check out the five websites below.
Bitesize Literacy is a BBC resource jam-packed with interactive literacy, math and science games for Key Stage 1 students (KS1 is a phase of primary education students between the ages of five and seven in England, or six to eight in Northern Ireland). Since literacy is our business, we’re particularly fond of the phonics, rhyming, alphabet, spelling and punctuation games—and so are our students!
Leading to Reading is the largest children’s literacy nonprofit in the United States. In addition to the interactive games, LTR provides free reading resources including booklists, articles for parents and teachers, easy-to-read guides offering tips for reading with preschoolers and multi-cultural literacy resources.
ABC Fast Phonics is a free tutorial that uses cartoons and sounds with audio narration and clickable words to teach, you guessed it, phonics!
PBS Kids is a site funded by a Ready to Learn grant from the United States Department of Education. Here’s their mission: to develop television programs, exciting games, playful Web sites, and easy-to-use learning resources for kids, parents, caregivers, and teachers—all with the goal of helping children ages two to eight get ready to read.
Interactive Sites for Education is home to a wide variety of literacy games that cover ABC’s, capitalization, grammar, poetry, vocabulary, spelling and much more!
American work culture is leadership crazed; we’re always talking about it. Yet despite decades of research and thousands of New York Times best-sellers later, most managers today aren’t better leaders than they were 30 years ago—at least that’s what Linda Hill and Kent Lineback claim in their recent book, Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader. So why is this?
According to them, poor leadership is the result of several fundamental misunderstandings about what it means to lead. Below I’ve summarized a few of their “management misnomers” for you.
I never like pointing out problems without offering solutions, so in part II, which I’ll post next week, I’ll share Hill and Lineback’s three imperatives for becoming a great manager.
4 Things You’ll Wish You Knew Before Becoming a Manager
Management is different than you think it will be
Most managers—generally speaking—were pretty decent self-managers before they became the boss. They were self-motivated, did their work, and didn’t require coddling or constant praise from others to motivate them. Because of this many managers assume at first that managing others will be a lot like managing themselves. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Becoming a manager requires personal learning and change
Becoming an effective manager requires that we undergo a dramatic change—that we learn to see ourselves and our work differently than we did before we became the boss. Not only must we develop new values and acquire a deeper self-awareness, we must also mature emotionally and learn how to wisely exercise judgment.
Hill and Kent even go so far as to compare “managerial transformation” to the pivotal life changes we undergo when we first leave home, begin a career or get married. Like these “profound inflection points,” becoming a manager will, in the authors’ words, “call on you to act, think, and feel in new ways; discover new sources of satisfaction; and relinquish old, comfortable, but now outmoded roles and self-perceptions. It requires you to consider anew the questions, ‘Who am I? What do I want? What value do I add?’”
Becoming a manager is a journey—and many managers fail to complete it
If the authors are in fact right—if it is indeed true that becoming an effective manager requires us to undergo a transformation of this gravity, it’s easy to see why so many managers fail to complete this journey. As Hill and Lineback suggest, this sort of transformation can take years. Many begin the journey, but most fail to acquire the necessary skills, values, outlook, and emotional competence to complete the journey.
Management demands that we reject complacency
Starting a new position is a lot like going to a cocktail party and joining in on a conversation that started long before you arrived. Let me explain: If we want to join a conversation, most of us are prudent enough to do a lot of listening first—otherwise we risk making fools of ourselves. If we don’t listen, we have no idea what the subject matter is or the opinions of those in the group.
The same is true for new managers. Many managers start out receptive to change. They listen and learn to gauge the “conversation” that started before they arrived.
But here’s the rub: As they begin to learn the ropes and no longer fear imminent failure, they often grow complacent. As Hill and Lineback point out, every organization has rules (some spoken, others not), policies, standard practices and so on. Once managers understand this part of the “conversation,” many simply use these “standard policies and procedures” to get by.
Check back next week for part II!
Becoming a freelance translator is liberating in many ways, but before you decide to go solo, we thought we’d offer the same frank advice other freelance veterans gave to us. First, freelancing does not alleviate all of your work woes; it simply gives you a new set of challenges. Second, freelancing isn’t for everyone, particularly those who:
- Need a lot of direction
- Are disorganized
- Cannot manage their time efficiently
- Prefer being around people instead of alone
- Stress easily
- Cannot handle confrontations
- Prefer focusing their attention on one personal strength or talent
- Need praise from others to feel a sense of fulfillment
- Start things but rarely finish them
If you’re not dissuaded by what we said above, read on. The following are traits we believe every successful freelancer should have in his or her toolbox.
- Self-discipline: When you’re a freelancer, there are deadlines, but there won’t be a punch card or time clock to lure you out of bed each day. Successful freelancers are self-motivated. They also create a schedule and stick to it.
- Dependability: Successful freelance translators are dependable. It doesn’t matter how tedious the job, or how tight the deadline is. Once you accept the job, you meet the deadline and make it all look effortless—even if you are hanging on by the hair on your chinny chin chin.
- Confidence: Freelancers don’t receive slaps on the back or plaques for their office walls and they don’t need them. Successful freelance translators know that “praise” is being rewarded with another assignment.
- Tenacity: Freelancers never give up finding new clients. When there’s a lull in business, they do not wait for miracles or divine interventions.
- Assertiveness: Translators don’t always receive clear instructions from clients, but successful freelancers are never afraid to pick up the phone and call for clarification.
- Adaptability: Freelancers are open to change and always looking for opportunities to grow professionally. This means attending conferences, connecting with other language translators, reading, reading and reading more.
- Marketability: This advice comes from Steve Gordon Jr.’s book, 100 Habits of Successful Freelance Designers:
“You can’t expect clients to believe you can build their brand if you can’t build your
own. You have to create an overall identity for yourself, and express it in your own
marketing materials. To gain access to business, you have to be seen as a business.
Being a business does not mean that you have to give up the individuality, fervor, and
entrepreneurial, indie spirit that drove you to go out on your own in the first place. Just
put all those things into the expression of your logo, blog, mission statement, portfolio
and overall brand.”
- Business savvy: Successful freelancers know which taxes apply to them, which tax breaks are available, and those they can write off. And if they don’t, they find an accountant who does!
Photo Credit: masonpelt
Learning to read is a lot of work, but “work” is the last thing we want our students to associate with reading! The funny thing about interactives and reading animation games is that when students are using them, they really are working hard—they just don’t know it!
If you’re looking for a few ways to engage your beginning readers and make reading fun for them, check out the five websites below.
5 of the Best Interactives for Beginning Readers
Raz-Kids houses over 400 eBooks—many of which are in Spanish—reading quizzes and an online dashboard where teachers can track test scores and gauge their students’ reading comprehension skills.
Raz-Kids isn’t free, but at $99 a year, you won’t have to refinance the house for a subscription either. If you want to try before you buy, you’re welcome to give Raz-Kids a try for seven days at no cost.
Clifford Interactive Storybooks has taken our favorite, oversized canine and made him interactive. Choose from a free collection of stories, interactive whiteboard activities, teacher guides and lesson plans.
CBeebies has over 90 interactive stories for beginning readers. Everything on the site, including a large collection of educational games, songs, radio channels and TV shows, is completely free.
Starfall has been around since 2002 and specializes in teaching children to read with phonics. The content is free and specifically targets preschool through second grade students, English language learners (ELL) and special education students.
Literactive is an excellent resource for beginning readers, especially pre-school through first-grade students. Here you’ll find a collection of guided readers, comprehensive phonic activities and a wealth of supplemental reading materials. Everything on the site is free with registration.
Stay tuned! Next week, we’ll share five more of our favorite interactives for beginning readers.
There’s been an awful lot of ink spilled on the benefits of building a positive school culture—and just as much on the importance of nurturing positive relationships with students. All that ink leads me to the conclusion that these things are important to educators.
But if building better relationships and creating positive schools matters to us, why aren’t more schools positive places?
According to Jon Gordon, author of The Positive School Manifesto, the answer is simple: Building a culture of care is hard work. Not only that, it requires a special breed of leadership—the kind that’s determined and passionate enough to make positivity contagious.
Learning to Drive the Bus: 5 Ways to Build a Positive School Culture
Positive leaders required
Positive school cultures are created by principals who make the health of their organization a priority, lead the initiative, and are engaged in the process—even when it’s a struggle. Many of us start off with good intentions, but find it difficult to remain positive in the face of resistance and skepticism. Do not tolerate negativity! Weed it out and press on.
Build a positive leadership team
While principals can certainly be the spark for creating positive energy, they’ll need teachers and staff to fan and carry the flame. Invite your leadership team on the bus by setting up a workshop where you create a vision, a road map, an action plan, and a set of initiatives to move the school in the right direction.
Develop a fleet of bus drivers
You’ll be driving the bus at first, but you’re eventually going to need a fleet of bus drivers to join you. To recruit drivers, start talking. Share the school’s vision with everyone.
Conversations should happen between principals and teachers, teachers and staff, staff and students, students and parents. Each person needs to understand the school vision and identify how their personal vision, job and effort contribute to the overarching vision.
Tend to the roots of the tree
In a world driven by test scores, budgets and short-term results, it’s easy to be distracted by outcomes rather than the process. Don’t fall into this trap. Tend to the roots of your tree and you’ll always be pleased with the fruit it supplies. If you ignore the root, eventually the tree will dry up—and so will the fruit.
Weed out negativity
To create a positive school culture, you must deal with the cost of negativity head on. Ask yourself the following questions: How are we going to deal with negativity, challenges and energy vampires?
Dwight Cooper, the CEO of a nurse staffing company that was voted one of the best places to work by The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), asked himself this question; his answer was a company policy he called The No Complaining Rule. This rule states that “Employees are not allowed to mindlessly complain to their co-workers. If they have a complaint, they can take it to a manager or someone who can do something about the problem, BUT they must also offer one or two possible solutions.”
Give this rule a try: it may lead to new ideas, innovation and success.
Stay tuned for part II; we have five more tips to share with you next week!
Until somewhat recently workplace violence was mostly theoretical. Sure, it happened, but we didn’t think about it very often.
I’m speaking generally here, but 30 years ago most of us considered the office, like movie theatres, elementary schools and churches, to be “sacred” public spaces. It was well known that certain behavior was intolerable in these environments—and those lines were rarely crossed.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when this perception shifted. Perhaps it began with the 1986 mass shooting at an Edmond, OK post office and was only compounded by equally horrific events like the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, September 11, Sandy Hook, and the list goes on.
While we’re well aware of the fact that workplace violence exists, many of us could benefit from some advice for preventing and dealing with it. To help you create a safer workplace, we’d like to share 8 tips from “Defuse Violence,” an article in the November issue of HR Magazine.
8 Tips to Prevent and Manage Workplace Violence
Audit your processes
It never hurts to get an expert’s opinion on your internal policies and security procedures. He or she will not only help you audit your processes, but assist with violence-prevention training.
Publish good policies
All employers should have an anti-violence policy. When was the last time yours was updated? Here are some questions to consider as you review your policy:
- Is the policy clear—meaning, can someone who reads at the eighth-grade level understand it?
- Does it cover threatening and bullying behavior?
- Is it clear that the policy applies to everyone, including senior management?
Make sure everyone is aware of the policies
Your anti-violence policy may be in the employee handbook, but Hoey suggests that you post it on the company intranet, in lounges, in the cafeteria and in reception areas.
Use hiring screens
Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits pre-employment psychological testing, and many states are considering laws that will limit use of credit and background checks, keep in mind that there are many legal ways to identify employees who may have violent or troubling tendencies.
A criminal background check may disclose a history of violent crime. Pre-hire personality screening is also lawful under federal and most state laws—but keep in mind that these tests should not be used to weed out those who are mentally ill, but to screen employees with personality traits that are objectively defined and important for the job.
Never look away when you witness or receive reports about workplace violence. Tolerating or ignoring it suggests to those who violate the policies that you do not take them seriously.
There’s no need to overstate this one: Companies have a responsibility to train their managers in violence prevention.
Use safe interviewing processes
Put protocols in place for managers or HR representatives who conduct performance reviews or exit interviews with potentially dangerous employees. As an example, require that there be two people present, that the door be left open, and that any objects that can be thrown or used as a weapon be removed from the area.
Don’t ignore odd behavior
Discuss the behavior with the employee and see how he or she reacts. If appropriate, suggest that the employee take advantage of the company’s employee assistance program. If the employee agrees, wait to see what happens. If s/he disagrees, it may be reasonable to consider such refusal as a deeper issue.
If the behavior reaches a point where the workplace is affected and the employer believes it can be proved that the employee may be a “direct threat,” consider referring him for a fitness-for-duty exam with a psychiatrist. Be sure to consult legal counsel before doing this.