Personal and professional development is an integral process that assists one in absorbing the required set of skills in their course while at the same time ensuring that this set of skills does not become outdated. Since learning is becoming important in the current era, so is skill development (Lima & Guimarães, 2016). The probability of one being employed in a given setting largely depends on their skills. Personal and professional development is often confused with being the same thing. However, personal development denotes the skills geared towards improving one’s talent, potential, and work-life.
On the contrary, professional development refers to developing one’s role in their new job and enhancing it effectively throughout their working life (Lima & Guimarães, 2016). Subsequently, professional development may constitute formal and informal training and development programs that result in one succeeding in their career (Lima & Guimarães, 2016). As an ESL teacher and a counselor, my career path has often involved working closely with my students and clients and ensuring that I put their interests at heart. Since I have strong beliefs and sensible judgments, I strongly believe that my students and colleagues should also uphold the same principles. Apart from my scores in school, most of my other academic and professional learning has been gained while working as an ESL. This paper is a discussion of my personal and professional development.
Counselling Theories and strategies and how I have applied them in my personal and professional life.
Working as an English as a Second Language Teacher (ESL) and at the same time as a counselor is a complex process requiring that one has professional competence, dedication, and sound knowledge of different strategies and practices closed associated with ESL. ESL teachers are also required to improve the English proficiency of ESL learners and ensure that they are competent enough to converse and interact with their peers and teachers in the classroom and achieve their educational outcomes just like the first language learners (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2018). To achieve these outcomes, ESL teachers need to offer curriculum-based English language instruction and offer guided support among learners who are experiencing challenges achieving the set targets.
Incorporating counseling theories and strategies in my master’s degree has made me achieve the requirements of an ESL teacher and a counselor. Setting up a theoretical orientation is vital as a counselor since it sets the pace of how you will work and interact with your clients. I can trace my theoretical foundations in counseling to several factors, including beliefs, values, life experiences, and professional experiences I have encountered while working with students with diverse English learning needs, thus I believe that the aspects of counseling that stand out to me as I complete my master’s degree are in person-centered, behavioral theory and motivational interviewing.
According to Carl Rogers, the founder of the person-centered theory, he notes that the necessary conditions can be solely built from the therapeutic relationship itself. Rogers notes that six distinct conditions emerge from this relationship and may constitute unconditional positive regard, genuineness, and empathy (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2018). In my life, I have been able to experience and use this theory as I interacted with people and noted how people change. During my observation, I noted that people change based on how one relates to them. If they are treated with care and compassion, positive outcomes will be achieved and vice versa. I also learned my person-centered therapy modeling after my friends. My desire has always been to make friends and maintain positive social relationships with my peers. Thus, I have applied this theory in my personal life by treating people with warmth and acceptance for who they are. By doing so, people around me have always appreciated me and were willing to be close to me. I have also used the person-centered theory in my professional life in encouraging students and molding the best out of them. Students need to be shown love and approval to grasp concepts easily. English is a language that needs concentration and effort. Therefore, I have strived to ensure that I communicate with warmth to all my students, including those who may have a negative attitude on the subject. By doing so, I have developed a therapeutic relationship with my learners, which has helped me achieve the desired outcomes within a short period.
I have also used the behavioral theory of counseling in my professional life. The behavioral theory of counseling is founded on the belief that behavior is learned. The operant conditioning applies well to my case since it involves the use of rewards and punishments to increase or decrease the occurrence of a behavior. As a teacher, I have, on several occasions, rewarded my students who did well during an assessment and punished those who failed. Using this strategy has been helpful since my learners have always been motivated to work extra harder depending on the outcome. As I complete my master’s degree, I believe incorporating the set aspects of counseling in my practice will lay a foundation for polishing my skills and employability.
Psychopathology and how I have applied them in my personal and professional life.
Psychopathology relates to studying and analyzing behavior that deviates from the normal. It entails studying abnormal cognition or mental processes and experiences that are not according to the expected norms (Moradi Sheykhjan, 2017). Having an outstanding foundation in psychopathology is important as a teacher since it offers a timely response to learners’ concerns whose behaviors are understood as medicalized instead of generalizing the behavior to other factors. As a teacher, I have learners who have different learning needs. Some students may respond inappropriately or engage in activities that are not in line with the expectations. Therefore, it is important to understand the normal behavior and intervene appropriately in case of any deviation from the normal.
Some of the aspects of abnormal psychology that stand out in my personal and professional journey include having an ability to distinguish between what is normal, how to handle an abnormal behavior, and how to classify a given behavior. One of the important aspects of abnormal psychology is a statistical rarity. Statistical rarity refers to any behavior that is not common or does not occur to every person. Growing up, I was raised in a peaceful community, and every person had a high concern and regard for the neighbor. However, one of my neighbor’s sons would have a habit of pickpocketing, mugging people, and even breaking into people’s houses. When asked why he does that, he responded that he engages in these activities out of fun. Although he enjoys what he is doing, this is a statistically rare behavior since no one steals things just for fun. After several rehabilitative sessions, this boy was able to correct his way of doing things and transformed into an obedient boy.
As a teacher, I have encountered learners whose intelligence quotient is way below the required values. Most of these learners ha intellectual disabilities and struggle to grasp concepts as they are being presented in class. Using my skills of distinguishing between what is normal and abnormal, I have been able to devise strategies to help them achieve the desired outcomes, including changing my attitude and embracing them as unique and abled differently. To ensure that these learners are at par with their others, I have also used different teaching strategies, including learning aids, pictograms, and being an active listener.
Some of my learners have also been destructive and displayed many behavioral disabilities. One of the common behavioral disabilities that I have encountered in my personal and professional life is Oppositional defiant behavior. Oppositional defiant behavior is manifested through extreme noncompliance, negativity, and unwillingness to follow directions from adults or peers. Dealing with a student with oppositional defiant behavior is challenging since they fail to take in instructions that are of value to their education. This makes most of them fail or fail to achieve the desired outcomes. Having knowledge of psychopathology is vital in successfully dealing with learners presenting with abnormal behavior. I have integrated this knowledge by adopting strategies to create a conducive learning environment for my learners and me. This has constituted rules and regulations using strategies to support positive behavior, including the token economy and positive peer review.
Therapeutic Boundaries/Law and Ethics and how I have applied them in my personal and professional life.
Thoughtful and impactful teachers understand the need to maintain professional boundaries and laws while at the same time following the outlined ethics of the profession. Boundaries denote the physical and emotional limits that people set for themselves when interacting (Curran & Ryder, 2018). As a teacher, it is vital to note that being aware of therapeutic boundaries is key in maintaining a therapeutic relationship with your learners. I believe it is crucial to promote boundaries awareness at the start of a relationship to avoid crossing each other’s line when the relationship is in the advanced stages. Additionally, when interacting with people both in my personal and professional life, I believe that sometimes, you may encounter people breaching boundaries (Curran & Ryder, 2018). This should be a perfect opportunity to educate them for the reasons of boundaries and strategies that can be used to reinforce them. I believe one aspect that stands out to me with respect to therapeutic boundaries is that I have boundary awareness. This is to say, I can easily identify and avoid risky situations and conduct that may lead to conduct violations. I also set rules for my learners and students so that anyone does not violate them in whichever circumstances.
Ethics is also an integral aspect in any profession, including teaching. The main values of teaching also consist of dignity, truthfulness, fairness, and freedom. Embracing all these aspects guides how teachers should act during specific situations. I believe that a teacher’s ethical stance is also vital since it governs how they will offer instructions and assess their learners (Curran & Ryder, 2018). One of the main aspects of ethics that stand out to me as a complete master’s degree is that I treat every person, including my students, with fairness and dignity. Treating every person with dignity makes them feel appreciated and valued as humans. As a black woman, it is possible to feel discriminated against and undervalued. There was a time I was looking for a job but could not secure one because of my color and sex. Although Title 1X does not allow any form of discrimination based on sex, not hiring companies to go ahead in committing this vice (Curran & Ryder, 2018). However, knowing my legal rights as an educator helped me finally get a chance in one of the institutions.
One way through which I have applied ethics in my professional development is by treating students with dignity. Most of my students learning English as a second language come from different environments hence predisposing them to different levels of expressing and appreciating respect towards others. As a teacher of ethics, I have been a significant stimulus in working with the student’s parents, members of the extended families, and the learner’s primary relatives in teaching them the importance of treating every human being with dignity regardless of their social backgrounds. By incorporating these aspects, I have been able to assist my learners in their paths from potential to full moral agents who are aware of and understand the feelings of others. Other than students, I believe that human dignity is also an important aspect when maintaining mutual relationships between teachers and their learners and vice versa. As a result, I have always strived to provide instructions geared towards assisting learners in fully developing their human personalities and strengthening their respect for human rights.
Group Counseling Theories and how I have applied them in my personal and professional life.
Group counseling is one of the types of counseling whereby a small group of people having the same problems meets regularly to discuss, interact and explore their problems in the presence of a group leader. In the learning setup, group counseling is often used to offer students a safe and comfortable environment where they can effectively work out their challenges and emotional concerns (Logren et al., 2017). During a group counseling session, it lays a foundation for the learners to gain insights into their thoughts and behavior while at the same time providing suggestions and support to their peers. One of the most important aspects that stand out to me in group counseling theories is outstanding interpersonal skills, increased observation, and feedback skills, and enhanced emotional expressiveness. Interpersonal skills consist of the soft skills that one uses in communicating and gaining an understanding of others. Every student is unique and had their own needs (Logren et al., 2017). Apart from teaching my learners English, some come in schools with multiple needs that need to be addressed first before teaching commences. It is through outstanding interpersonal skills that will assist in making these students willing to open up and share all their problems with you. During interactions with my learners, I ensure that I listen actively to their concerns show empathy while at the same time motivating them to achieve their dreams. I also ensure that I provide feedback during our interactions and outline the areas that need improvement. Increased observation and feedback skills are applicable to my professional life and my personal life since it has helped me form outstanding social relations by either approving or disapproving the behaviors of my peers.
I have integrated and applied group counseling theories in diverse ways in my personal and professional life. I have used the concept of social interest in the Adlerian group theories to cultivate and grow my learners’ interest in grasping English. Social interest is not only limited to one’s interest but also the interest of others. According to Adler: the founder of the theory, he notes that one prefers how they live and relate to others. Every person in our society is creative enough to select from a wide range of behavior. However, one may develop behavioral disorders when they choose unwisely. As a teacher, during the counseling sessions with my learners, I always emphasize to the students the importance of being wise and adopting reading strategies that will only be beneficial and not harmful. I also work with my learners in developing personal and group goals during our interactions. I have always strived to serve as a role model to my students while working in groups. Being their role model has often encouraged them to adopt behaviors that are only beneficial to them.
I have also used the person-centered groups counseling theory by creating anan environment of acceptance and warmth. Creating an environment and feeling of warmth and acceptance is the first step towards a student’s growth. As a teacher, I have learned that constantly disapproving or discouraging students may make them develop a negative attitude, preventing them from achieving the desired outcomes. Therefore, I have often strived to be open, harmonious, warm, genuine, and show acceptance while at the same time creating an environment free of threats to my learners. I believe my skills in group counseling theories have helped me go a long way in assisting my learners to develop a positive attitude and acceptance towards their weaknesses.
Social Psychology and how I have applied them in my personal and professional life.
Social psychology is one of the branches of psychology concerned with studying how people’s thoughts, feelings, beliefs, intentions, and goals are created within a given social context through actual or imagined interactions with their peers (Rogers, 2017). Social psychology is concerned with understanding how human behavior is influenced by individuals surrounding them and the circumstances under which social conduct may arise. When analyzing the school and classroom environment, it is worth noting that learning and teaching involve important social acts (Rogers, 2017). Students grasp their knowledge by constantly interacting with their teachers. Even though students may sometimes read or engage with inanimate objects, learning may not place until social interaction ensues. Teachers’ roles in class are equally social and may include explaining concepts, engaging students on different tasks, and disseminating information to fellow faculty members.
Since learning and teaching are social, I believe the aspects that stand out to me concerning social psychology as I complete my master’s degree relate to understanding the core concepts that elucidate the complicated social dynamics and emerging behaviors among my learners. I also can apply concepts such as self-efficacy and stereotype threat in analyzing and responding to undesirable behaviors from my learners. According to Bandura (1997), self-efficacy is an integral aspect of social psychology since it is based on a person’s ability to execute vital behaviors in producing specific attainments in performance (Rogers, 2017). Self-efficacy also relates to the ability to reflect confidence and the ability to exert control over their motivation, behavior, and social environment. I have motivated my students to get out of their comfort zones and achieve what brought them to school. As a teacher, I believe that I am tasked with bringing the best out of my learners; therefore, I have strived to incorporate different strategies that will help my learners achieve the required educational attainment levels.
I have integrated and used social psychology in my professional and personal development in different settings. Growing up, I have interacted with people in different settings. At one point, it was not a surprise for some people to make mean comments, an aspect that would greatly lower my self-esteem and image. I also had problems managing my emotions and accepting negative criticism from my friends and peers. However, I later learned that emotions are part of our lives and part of our social interactions; hence I should learn how to manage my emotions effectively. I also learned that when we identify with a given emotion, we allow ourselves to feel it instead of rejecting it. The fact that I handled my emotions poorly made me have difficulties maintaining positive social relationships at some point in my life. I learned to live, accept, and enjoy the present moment through guidance and support. Additionally, I learned that self-esteem cannot be verified bothers during social interaction but starts with you. Having this idea in my mind laid a foundation for me working on my self-esteem so that even if someone made mean comments, I knew deep down in my heart that was not me.
I have integrated principles of social psychology in influencing my students to adopt positive behaviors that benefit their studies. I believe that what a student knows from interacting with their peers greatly affects their learning. Additionally, a student’s beliefs and perceptions about intelligence greatly affect their cognitive functioning and learning. During my interactions with my learners, I insist on removing all the social and emotional constructs they may have developed. Doing so plays a key role in changing how they perceive things and interact with their peers. Additionally, using principles of social psychology in my professional development has helped me change students who have rigid mindsets.
Culture and diversity in counseling and how I have applied them in my personal and professional life.
Culture and diversity are themes in counseling that have raised a lot of controversies over the past decades. Although culture and diversity are two different things, one can look at diversity through the lens of culture and ethnic diversity. Cultural diversity consists of beliefs, mores, sexuality, and religious background (France et al., 2021). As a counselor, I have interacted with different people in my personal and professional life who seek help. Most of them are often willing to receive the help accorded to them. Although counseling has numerous benefits to people, a counselor needs to develop a good relationship with their clients (France et al., 2021). A counselor who does understand their client’s culture may end up clashing or making comments that may be against their client’s culture.
As an African woman from South Africa, I am well-traveled, and I have my priorities in multiculturalism. Multiculturalism has taught me the significance of valuing and appreciating every person irrespective of their cultural background. This is to say, I believe that the aspects that stand out to me concerning culture and diversity are that I can easily recognize, appreciate, and build upon my students’ unique talents and contributions. Before engaging in any counseling interaction with my client, I first engage in self-reflection and analyze how I would want to be treated, assuming that I was interacting with someone from a different culture. Once I get an answer to my question, I am always confident enough that I can freely interact with my student while embracing their unique cultural traits.
Working with learners from diverse backgrounds has made me use culture and diverse techniques differently. First, I have used the therapeutic approach of multicultural therapy to learn about my clients’ attitudes and beliefs during the counseling process. Doing so has always been beneficial since they have assisted me in effectively choosing the appropriate interventions. As a counselor, I have often strived to avoid stereotyping or stigmatizing my clients based on their culture. People from different cultures have different communication models, and it is not a surprise to find that one in your culture may refer to a different thing in another culture (France et al., 2021). Therefore, learning about the different societal figures of speech and non-verbal communication has played a vital role in helping me develop a therapeutic relationship with my clients.
During my counseling sessions, I have considered self-awareness and flexibility are also important multicultural elements that I have considered. On most occasions, I have ensured that I am sensitive about my racial, cultural identity and privileges, ethnocentrism, and prejudice when intersecting with my students. I have also, on most occasions, been willing to acknowledge the limitations that exist in my culture when handling clients from diverse cultures. On some occasions, I have been forced to seek culture-specific guidance when working with a student whom I do not know much about their culture. Embracing all these aspects has helped me sharpen my counseling skills without compromising professionalism.
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator how I have applied them in my personal and professional life.
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) denotes an introspective self-report that indicates people’s different psychological preferences, including how they perceive the world and engage in decision-making (King & Mason, 2020). According to the developers of this theory, there exist two pairs of cognitive functions and include the rational and irrational functions. The MBTI was created to help in measuring personality preferences along with four other preferences, including where people prefer focusing their energy and attention, the way they prefer taking in information, the way they make decisions, and how they orient themselves with the external world (King & Mason, 2020). Most people are assigned four letters depending on their preference for every dimension. However, it is important to note that there are no right or wrong preferences, and every person identifies with normal behaviors valuable to humans and society at large.
When analyzing myself based on the MBRI assessment questionnaire, I fall under the ESTJs. The main aspect that stands out to me in this elective as I complete my master’s degree is that I am firmly based in the present and do not like abstract ideas. I am action-oriented and strive to get a wide knowledge base and influence on most occasions. I also prefer more frequent interactions since it offers a foundation for learning and getting new ideas from my peers. However, before acting or interacting, I like engaging in self-reflection to ascertain whether my actions will have positive or negative consequences. Taking breaks between the reflection sessions has played a vital role in assisting me to drawback my energy and direct it towards achieving a given course of action.
The Myers-Briggs typology model affirms that every person uses one of the four functions more dominantly and proficiently than the rest (King & Mason, 2020). The two main functions are two perceivings (sensing) functions and two judging actions (thinking). I have used my sensing function to understand and interpret information brought to me. Through sensing, I have also trusted information in the present. When presented information, I ensure that I look for facts and concrete details before concluding. Trusting information based only on personal is not important as a counselor; thus, although I may not be conversant with a given topic, I ensure that I do a background check to gather sufficient details before giving my verdict. As an ESTJ, I have remained assertive in my undertakings while ensuring that everything runs smoothly as per the set rules. Therefore, I have always desired that people working under me also have strong beliefs and sensible judgments in their interactions.
As a counselor and teacher of English as a second language, I am required to improve the English proficiency of ESL learners and ensure that they are competent enough to converse and interact with their peers and teachers in the classroom and achieve their educational outcomes, just like the first language learners. Personal and professional development is an integral process that assists one in absorbing the required set of skills in their course while at the same time ensuring that this set of skills does not become outdated. As I complete my master’s degree, having a robust understanding of counseling, group counseling, psychopathology, social psychology and culture, and diversity will help me execute my duties effectively without compromising professionalism. My professional ethics will also guide how I should interact with everyone both in the community and at work.
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