Tutoring scam targets teachers

March 12, 2014

This morning I received an e-mail from a man calling himself “Michael”. The man claimed to want to hire me to tutor his son.

I haven’t done tutoring for about 20 years, so I was both skeptical and fascinated. As I read the e-mail, I realized that it was a new twist on an old scam.

The e-mail promises to pay me whatever rate I want for 12 tutoring sessions. It also says that I can choose the dates, time and location of the session.

Well, that raises some red flags right there. Unless things have changed a whole lot in the past 20 years, most parents want to talk about the pay rate and also want a conversation about the scheduling for the tutoring. In my experience, parents want to know as much (if not more) about me, as I do about their child. They want to know if I am trustworthy and that my home is a safe place.

In my (dated) experience, more often than not, parents want the tutor to go to their home, not the other way around. Unless there’s a really good reason why you, as the tutor, can’t go to the child’s house to offer the lesson (as in, it’s tough to schlep around your piano from house to house), many parents are willing to pay a bit more to avoid the hassle of driving. Besides, they can keep an eye on their child (and you) while they have some much-needed time to do other things at home. There’s something fishy about this e-mail…

The message then goes on to say that I should send the writer the following information:

  • My full name
  • My home address
  • My home phone number
  • My mobile phone number

By now, the metaphorical red lights should be going off in your head, along with an inside voice (using a megaphone) screaming, “Scam alert!”

Here is a copy of the e-mail:

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Hello,

    I’m Michael, During my search for a lesson teacher that would help in taking my son (Kenneth). During is stay in USA. I found your advert and it is very okay to me since you specialize in the area I’m seeking for him. My son would be coming to your city before the end of this month for a period of time with his friend,

  I’ll like to know if you can help in taking him for the lesson? just to keep him busy. Kenneth is 14 years old, So kindly let me know your charges cost per hour/lesson in order for me to arrange for his payment before he travels down to your side.

 He will be staying there for one months.

Please Reply back on:

 (1). Your charges per 1 hour (3 times a week for 1 Month):starting from 17th March until 17th April 2014

 (2)  Total Cost For 12 class/12 hours lessons  in 1 month

 (3). The Day and time you will be available to teach him During the week:

  Well am very happy that i see you as my Son tutor,about your years of Experience there is no problem about the lessons,my caregiver lives very close to the Area.

 So there is no problem for the lesson OK my caregiver will be bringing him to your location for the lessons and you can teach my him Anywhere around you if that is OK by you so i will like you to teach my Son the best of you when he get to the USA for the lessons.

 I will like you to email me with your schedule for the lessons, I will like you to email me with the name on the check and Full mailing address where the check will be mailed to and including your Home and Cell phone number because my attorney that want to issue out the check is leaving the State by this week okay and also Kenneth is a beginner lessons learning, Await  your response asap.

  Also the lessons will commence by 17th March until 17th April 2014  is this okay by you?

I will be awaiting to read from you.

Best Wishes,

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Teacher scam

As with many scam e-mails, the grammar is terrible and the content is generic. There’s no mention of what subject I might tutor. The writer also talks about an attorney who would manage the transaction. That always makes things sound legit, right? Oh, and the writer assumes I live in the U.S., too.

A while ago I posted a blog about the life of a contract teacher and why it is important to feel a sense of empowerment over your career, even if it does not follow a traditional path. There are hundreds of thousands of us around the globe who work in the education field, but who don’t have a full-time job with a pension or health benefits. Personally, I am more productive when I have high levels of flexibility and variety in my work and I enjoy my work as an independent education professional. But not everyone feels that way.

In general, it’s fair to say that teachers are smart people who care deeply about their students’ well-being. But they are also human beings with mortgages other bills to pay for. There are more and more trained and qualified educators who don’t work in the sector at all because they can’t find a job of any kind. So instead they work in coffee shops, run day homes or work in retail, just to pay the bills.

The chance to work in their beloved field of education by tutoring the child of a rich foreigner right in your own home sounds seductive. When you add to that the almost unbelievable terms that you set the time, location and rate of pay, it makes it seem almost irresistible.

Most would do anything to work in their chosen profession. 

Well… almost anything.

Don’t be fooled, folks. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Sadly, this is the second such financial scam I’ve seen directed towards educators in the past year. I wrote about the first one, here.

These financial scams are a sign of the times, as more qualified educators become part of the unemployed and (largely hidden) under-employed categories of workers.

Stay smart, teachers.

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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


Investment club for teachers: Circle or Dead End?

August 29, 2013

The first time I heard about Gifting Cirlces, I was sitting in the dentist’s chair getting my teeth cleaned. My dental hygienist was telling me about the one she was in.

I was her captive audience, as I sat wide-mouthed in the chair. She told me that the circles started during the Second World War, as a way for women to help each other when their husbands were off fighting overseas.

The concept sounds simple:

  • One woman in the middle.
  • Two women in the next outer circle.
  • Four women in a third circle.
  • Eight women in the outer circle.

Here’s a visual:

When you join a circle, you “gift” $5000 in cash to the woman in the centre. Upon receiving her gift, the woman leaves the circle. Then the group splits in half. Each of the other two then becomes the centre of her own circle. When eight more women are added, she accepts a cash gift of $5000 from each of them, for a total gift of $40,000. She then leaves the group and the circle splits again.

The idea is that everyone who joins the circle, ultimately leaves the circle with a cash gift of $40,000.

You can buy in again after you have left, but you have to move to the outer circle and contribute another $5000 each time you re-join.

I listened to the dental hygienist for almost a solid hour as she performed regular maintenance on my pearly whites. As she was finishing up, she said that if I was ever interested in investing,  I could let her know and she’d get me an invitation.

I was intrigued. (I questioned whether the dentist knew that her hygienist was informally recruiting patients to this gifting circle. I suspect she didn’t, as she was busy in another area, filling teeth…)

Nevertheless, I was very, very curious. I loved the idea of women helping women. Having been raised by a single mother, I know how hard it can be for women to make ends meet from month to month.

There were elements of this that didn’t sit quite right with me…

  •  We were not supposed to tell the men closest to us about the circle. It is just for women.
  • It had an element of mystery that I found as captivating as I did suspicious… No last names, no cheques. Cash only.
  • There was an almost cult-like feeling… You must be “chosen” to take part in a gifting circle. This seemed to be a blatant appeal to my ego… I was suddenly special. I was “chosen”.

I didn’t join… but remained curious.

I’ve recently been invited to another “Gifting Circle”. They are also called “investment circles”, “gift clouds” or “gifting clouds”. This one is primarily targeted towards teachers.

“We are under paid, you know…” The person inviting me said. “The system won’t really help us get ahead… not financially, anyway. We have to help each other. This helps us build our financial literacy and become empowered as women. We teach our students how to shine their brightest, but we don’t always do the same for ourselves. The Gifting Circle helps us do just that… be the very best you can be.”

For me, these words are seductive. Phrases such as “build our financial literacy” and “become empowered” speak to my heart. They invoke a deep and visceral response of wanting to help my fellow woman, as much as myself.

But at heart, I am a skeptic. Before I put my $5000 in an unmarked envelope and headed to a meeting, my head took over and I began doing some research. Sadly, all I found was bad news:

The article from the Calgary Herald was particularly poignant, as it talked about how these Gifting Circles can ruin friendships and professional relationships.

I am all about women building their financial literacy and learning how to develop personal leadership for themselves and their money. I am no longer convinced that joining a Gifting Circle is a way to help my fellow teachers… or that it will build my financial literacy.

Besides… who would want to risk losing a friend over an investment that might just constitute illegal activity? My teacher-friends are among those nearest and dearest to my heart. We often have lots in common when it comes not only to work, but also to our values, ethics and who we are as people. We are almost compulsively supportive of one another… in a really great way.

I wont’ be joining a gifting club or investment circle (or pyramid) any time soon. I will find other ways to support my fellow teachers this year.

What do you think? Have you ever heard of a “gifting circle”? Or an investment club for teachers? What was your experience?

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Share or Tweet this: Investment club for teachers: Circle or Dead End? http://wp.me/pNAh3-1DY

If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


Twitter for Teachers at the Central Alberta Teachers’ Convention (CATCA) 2013

February 22, 2013

Twitter for Teachers (cover - jpg)I am super excited to be presenting my workshop, Twitter for Teachers, today at the Central Alberta Teachers’ Convention at Red Deer College.

Here’s what I’ll be sharing:

  1. Twitter overview. We will briefly review what Twitter is and how it is used in business. This course is designed for people who already have had some exposure to Twitter and want to learn how to use Twitter in a meaningful and strategic way. There is no point in having a Twitter account “just because”.
  2. Develop your personal Twitter strategy. You will learn how to develop your own personal vision about what Twitter means to you and why.
  3. Twitter time management. You will learn how to manage your time on Twitter effectively. There is no question that social media can be time consuming. In this session, we will talk about ways to minimize the time you spend on Twitter,  while still using it to its fullest potential.
  4. Twitter followers.  We will bust the myth that you need more followers. What you really need is more engaged followers. You will learn what it means to have an engaged following and how to develop one.

If you can’t attend the conference, but you are interested in the content, you can download my free .pdf guide with step-by-step, “how to” instructions. Click here to get your copy of the guide.

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If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or leave a comment. Thanks!

Share or Tweet this: Twitter for Teachers at the Central Alberta Teachers’ Convention (CATCA) 2013 http://wp.me/pNAh3-1yM

If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


5 Easy Christmas Blogging Ideas for Literacy and Language Teachers

December 5, 2012

With Christmas right around the corner, teachers are scrambling to finish up the semester before the holidays. If you are a blogger, you probably do not have much time for your blog at the moment. Here are five easy ideas to keep you blogging through this busy time of year:

1. A guide to Christmas away from home

Do you have students from other countries who are missing their family and friends back home? Write a post with your top suggestions on how to survive the holidays away from home.

2. Local Christmas traditions and events

Many areas have special events such as craft fairs, light displays or free ice skating to celebrate the holidays. Tap into your local community to find out what is going on. Write a post that highlights some free or low-cost options for your students and their families.

3. Christmas crafts for young and old

Believe it or not, doing crafts can be an excellent way to build literacy and language skills. You must read instructions, follow directions and use a step-by-step method to complete a task.

Create a post with links to simple crafts that are appropriate for the ages and language proficiency of the group you teach. A link to a YouTube video is always a great idea.

4. Christmas carols for language learning

Sarah Eaton blog photoAs children we learn Christmas carols without really thinking about the words. What does it mean to “deck the halls with boughs of holly”, anyway? If you live in an area where holly does not grow then you may have never seen real holly.

Write a blog post that de-mystifies some of the language and phrases in common Christmas songs.

5. Multicultural Christmas traditions

When I was a teenager my Mom befriended a lady from El Salvador. That first Christmas we exchanged stories about our different Christmas traditions. Marta told us that setting off fireworks after their turkey dinner was part of their tradition. We had a wonderful conversation as we learned about what the similarities and differences were between our two cultures.

Write a blog post that highlights some of the traditions of your students, friends or family members.

Christmas time is one of the busiest times of the year for many people. Keep your blog posts simple and light during this time of year. Focus on joy and sharing and you’ll continue to enjoy your own blogging through the holiday season.

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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


How to tell if your child is being cyber-bullied

November 19, 2012

Last month, in British Columbia, Canada, a 15-year old girl named Amanda Todd killed herself. The reason: cyberbullying.

The case has brought to light the devastating effects that cyberbullying can have on a person. Todd’s death has affected Canadians immediately and deeply. Parents are suddenly asking themselves: Is my child being cyber-bullied? How would I know?

Sarah Eaton's education blogStopBullying.gov (a U.S. website) says warning signs that your child may be the victim of face-to-face or any type bullying include:

  • Unexplainable injuries
  • Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry.
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness.
  • Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.
  • Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares.
  • Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school.
  • Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations.
  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem.
  • Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide.

The Cyberbulling Research Centre says that 1o% to 40% of youth may be the victim of cyberbulling. They add to the list of warning signs by zooming in on key indicators that make cyberbulling different from other kinds of bullying:

Signs your child is the victim of cyberbullying

Your child may be the victim of cyberbullying if he or she:

  • unexpectedly stops using their computer or cell phone.
  • appears nervous or jumpy when an instant message or email appears.
  • appears uneasy about going to school or outside in general.
  • appears to be angry, depressed, or frustrated after using the computer or cell phone.
  • avoids discussions about what they are doing on he computer or cell phone.
  • or becomes abnormally withdrawn from usual friends and family members.

The Cyberbullying Research Centre offers numerous free resources for parents, children and teachers to help you stay safe online, including this awesome cyberbullying prevention tip sheet for teens.

Cyberbulling is a real phenomenon that affects tens of thousands of children (and adults) around the world on a daily basis. I am not an expert in this area, but I firmly believe that every person deserves love, respect and safety. Deepest condolences to the family of Amanda Todd.

References

Amercian Humane Association. (n.d.). Cyber Bullying Prevention and Intervention.   Retrieved November 19, 2012, from http://www.americanhumane.org/children/stop-child-abuse/fact-sheets/cyber-bullying-prevention-and-intervention.html

Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. W. (n.d.). Cyberbulling: Indentification, prevention and response. Retrieved from http://www.cyberbullying.us/Cyberbullying_Identification_Prevention_Response_Fact_Sheet.pdf

StopBullying.gov. (n.d.). Warning signs.   Retrieved 2012, 2012, from http://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/warning-signs/index.html#bullying

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This is the first in a series of posts on cyberbulling. Check out these related posts:

5 Signs your child is a cyberbully http://wp.me/pNAh3-1AM

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Share or Tweet this: How to tell if your child is being cyber-bullied http://wp.me/pNAh3-1w4

If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


Free webinar: Learning the 21st century way: Making sense of how to use social media for learning

August 16, 2012

Over the past decade social media has changed how individuals connect online and share information and how organizations interact with stakeholders and customers. Did you know that social media is now being incorporated into learning programs from Kindergarten right on up through adult education? Does it really add any value to the learning process?

In this one-hour webinar, I’ll share exactly how I incorporated social media (and in particular, Twitter) into one of my classes. I’ll share what worked, what didn’t and what you can do in your own teaching or training practice to effectively integrate social media ‐ and why you might want to.

By the end of the webinar you will:
• Have a basic understanding of how social media can add value to your learning programs
• Gain insight into how to incorporate social media into a lesson plan
• Get ideas on how to assess activities using social media
• Get ideas on how to incorporate social media into your own learning programs

There will be time for questions at the end of the webinar.

This free webinar is sponsored by Essential Skills Ontario. Here are the details:

Date: Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Time:

10:00 a.m. Pacific Time (Vancouver, BC)

11:00 a.m. Mountain Time (Calgary, AB)

1:00 p.m.  Eastern Time (Toronto, ON)

2:00 p.m. – Atlantic Time (Halifax, NS)

6:00 p.m. – British Summer Time (London U.K.)

7:00 p.m. – Eastern European Time (Cairo, Egypt)

It’s free for you to join in, but you must register, since there are only 100 spots available.  Click here to register.

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Share or Tweet this post:  Free webinar: Learning the 21st century way: Making sense of how to use social media for learning http://wp.me/pNAh3-1tB

If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too


Six truths I wish I had been told when I started teaching

May 1, 2012

Here are six truths I have learned over the past eighteen years as a teacher. These are things I wish someone had sat me down and told me about when I started.

But then again, I may not have understood. These are truths about teaching that you learn by going to work every day and living a teacher’s life:

Truth #1: What we teach matters

When I first started teaching, we would teach our students to learn vocabulary by repeating new words in a given context. For example:

  • There are three pieces of chalk in the classroom.
  • There are two maps in the classroom.
  • There is one teacher in the classroom.
  • There are no bad students in the classroom.

That was boring eighteen years ago. Not only did it get more boring to teach over time, it also became less relevant for the students’ lives. Fifteen years later, the textbooks still contained the same darned examples, and by then not one piece of chalk could be found anywhere, in any of our classrooms.

Because I taught college students, I learned to change the examples. They still followed the same basic structure, but taught my 18 to 25 year old students words that they might actually use in their travels abroad:

  • There are three pickpockets in the subway station.
  • There are two drug dealers in the subway station.
  • There is one passenger in the subway station.
  • There are no police officers in the subway station.

This is the same example structurally. The location remains constant. The verbs change from plural to singular when appropriate. The nouns, however, were vocabulary words that resonated with my students. The examples also reflected a cultural reality of travelling in a large, European city… except that there may never be only one passenger on a subway station platform.  But the poetic license created an example that captured my students’ imagination. They imagined that they were that one passenger in the subway station, alone in a potentially dangerous situation, as they were travelling in a new place. They went from being disengaged to intensely interested. Best of all, they learned the content.

 Truth #2: What we teach does not matter

No matter how engaging our examples, I have learned that our students will not remember most of what we teach them. They will forget the vocabulary. They will forget the structures. They will forget the majority of the content.

This used to stress me out. Then I reflected on my own experience as a student and realized that most of what I had learned in school, I had not retained. And I turned out OK.

The content provides a means for students to make their own meaning, to allow their mental synapses to learn to work in new ways, to stretch their thinking and to show them they can learn more than they ever dreamed possible. It is important not to teach hatred, bigotry or facts that are just plain wrong. Apart from that, I’m not convinced that it really matters what we teach. They’ll forget most of it anyway.

Truth #3: Some students just need a hug

Sometimes a teacher’s job means reaching out to a student and letting them know it is going to be O.K. They are going to get through this… and much more than this. They are stronger than they think.

Sometimes, that lesson is more important than any content contained within the covers of a textbook.

 Truth #4: Some students just need a kick in the rear end

Sometimes being a teacher means giving some very tough love, not taking the crap that a student may lay down and letting them know that there are boundaries and rules that you expect them to follow. Collaboration be darned. This is your classroom and they are there to learn. A good, swift (metaphorical) kick in the pants is what some students need to kickstart their motivation.

Truth #5: It is important to treat students equally

We do not delay the start of class because Johnny is late. If class starts at 9:00 a.m., then it is disrespectful to those who made an effort to be there on time if we delay the start. The rules apply to all students equally.

The real world has rules that people need to follow. If you break the rules, there are consequences. If you speed when you drive, the consequence may be that a police officer writes you a ticket. That’s just the way life is.

Laws impose rules on members of society. Schools and teachers can impose rules on students. It is part of the job. Teachers can prepare students for the real world by teaching them that certain rules apply to everyone. Period.

Truth #6: It is important to treat students equitably

You can treat all students exactly the same or you can treat students in a manner that is appropriate for their situation. That is treating them equitably, not equally.

This involves some wise judgement on the part of the teacher who makes the decision about what constitutes “equitable” treatment. That also reflects the real world. The police officer who stops the speeder may, at the officer’s own discretion, decide not to give the driver a ticket but instead choose to get back in the police car, turn on their lights and siren and escort the offending car to the hospital so the driver can get his wife, who is in labour, to the delivery room. In such a case, the police officer may choose not to write a ticket due to the circumstances.

If I have a student who is an absolute superstar, I will ask more of that student. It is my job to keep my students engaged and challenged. If some students need more challenge, I will give them what they need to stay interested and motivated. Not all students are created equal. My teaching needs to be flexible enough to accept that, and wise enough to know what to do about it.

Using the power of discretion wisely and sensibly is part of the job. Sometimes, treating students equitably is more important than treating them equally.

A paradox is a statement that “seems self-contradictory or absurd, but in reality expresses a possible truth”. Teaching is a complex profession that is full of paradoxes. Being a teacher requires us to think in complex ways, accept that much of what we do requires us to be rigid and follow rules set out for us by an administration or system that is much larger than us… and at the same time, to be flexible and choose our own actions wisely, based on a given situation at a given moment in time. That requires a great deal more skill than teaching from a book.

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Share or Tweet this post: Six truths I wish I had been told when I started teaching http://wp.me/pNAh3-1nI

If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


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