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How to define the level of expertise of your teacher?

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Many of us are biased against people who can teach us or coach us to grow in a particular field. We know what to pay attention to the resume, CV or track record. Big names of the universities, well-known companies, positions held and career advancements

Once an expert fits the description, we are sure he(she) is a master at what he(she) does and has the right to charge a premium. Are our expectations always met when we start the process of acquiring knowledge? Not necessarily, because previous achievements are a matter of past not present. It’s of utmost importance that you understand what the person is doing at the moment and how far he(she) wants to go in the future. A distinguished professor with a fixed mindset with 40 years of experience can be outperformed at the expertise level by a younger one who has developed a growth mindset and is open to innovations. It came as a complete surprise to me that there exist such professors as Adam Grant, Angela Ducksworth and others who became wildly popular under 40 years old and spread their messages around the world. Despite the fact that I’ve grown up with a picture in my mind that a professor is an aged person, not very sociable and conservative, these individuals (Adam Grant and Angela Ducksworth) challenged the status quo and became walking legends forever transforming my biased view. Once you are on a path to choose the right person to work with on a high level, there are several things I’d recommend paying attention to.


First, it’s essential that you like the expert as a human being. Whether we want it or not, we are social animals, and we should find a way to get along well. Second, these days it’s easy to find a person in social networks such as Facebook or a database of professionals like LinkedIn. Not all people are public, but the majority of professionals are.


Third, a person performing at a high level never stops learning, so a good question during the first interview will be one about daily practices and achievements made in the last several years. While working with one of my students, her goal was to pass an international exam. At the same time, I was getting ready for CPE (Certificate of proficiency in English). Though I wasn’t sure I would tackle it at first attempt, I let her know about my preparation process. When I passed the exam, she was so proud that she would tell her friends about the fact. It was risky for me because I might have failed it, but I kept working and reached the desired result. She aced her exam too.


Fourth, a person who can take you to the next level sets wildly ambitious goals for his students. I had a student, who initially needed to pass IELTS (International English Language Testing System) at a certain level to get accepted to the foreign university. With the right mindset and diligent work, she impressively passed the exam. Then she wished to continue and accepted my challenge of taking CAE (Certificate in Advanced English) which is quite a high level for a person with technical background. Whatever unreachable the goal seemed at first, it was achieved 12 months later.


Fifth, one can only reach a level of mastery only if they love their work and practice deliberately. The most outstanding people in any field get to the top because they purely enjoy the process no matter the circumstances.


In summary, I’d say that no matter at what level you are now and where you want to be in one month or one year, make sure that you work assiduously under the guidance of a professional mentor.


- Pavel Gubanov