In this episode, we will chat with Claire Law, who is an expert Independent Educational Consultant with her company Educational Avenues. You can learn more about her company by visiting: EduAve.com
In this episode, Claire humorously shares that she is a self-proclaimed Remote Dinosaur – which many can relate to! We will learn more about how a traditionally non-remote field evolved over the last few years and is thriving in the remote modality. We will also explore the importance of preparing oneself for the online work environment by improving skills in presenting and connecting with others through organizations such as Toastmasters. Join us for this lively discussion!
WorkForceRemote.org (Traci): Hello and welcome to today’s episode in our How Do You Remote? Series. Joining me today is Claire Law, who is an independent educational consultant with her company Educational Avenues. You can find more about her company on the EduAve.com site. With her experience working remote for over a decade, Claire is what some would call a remote dinosaur, because she feels like she’s running on all 4 cylinders to meet the times, and many of us can relate to that. Welcome to the show, Claire.
Claire Law: Thank you so much, Traci. It’s a pleasure to be here. Good to see you again, and wonderful to hear about your business in working remotely. I’m very, very intrigued.
WorkForceRemote.org: Well, thank you. It’s great to connect with you again too. We’ll just dive right into the discussion, and to start things off, Claire was sharing before we started about how the rules have changed a little bit in the field of independent educational consulting and I’ll let her tell you a little bit about that.
Claire Law: Yes, well, I will start with the fact that as a member of the Independent Educational Consultant Association, we have a long list of principles of good practice and ethical practice. And one of them is that well, when I started in 2,000 the one of the cardinal rules was that you never place a student in college or boarding school or therapeutic boarding school without meeting the student in person and the parents. Now the parents hire us and engage us to figure out what the student needs are.
They come to us and they say, “Make my child successful.” Our job is to get to know the child intimately well, one-on-one, and understand what the learning needs are, sometimes they marry with mental health needs.
The cardinal rule was you never place them without meeting them one-on-one in person. Now, the association has seen a lot of changes, and the industry has seen a lot of changes because of technology. And the newer consultants were the trailblazers where they went online and they did everything online on Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
What Covid did, it established the profession as a legitimate way of rendering services on zoom or online so that most consultants have gone to the online platform. By that, I mean, where before consultants were hesitant to go online, but with Covid, they had to. And once they had to, they realized what a wonderful way it was to render services. For example, even if they had an office outside the home, they didn’t have to clean it up or present it. So, every time I have a client coming to my office at home, I must make sure that the bathroom is clean, there is a place for them to sit, and the office is pretty well picked up. Now with remote, you just have to worry about the screen behind you when you were on Zoom, so that the profession has changed enormously.
That cardinal rule has gone out the window and you would be amazed at the astonishing number of educational consultants who have given up their office moved to the location where they wanted to be and are successful at rendering educational consulting services totally and entirely online.
WorkForceRemote.org: Did you think that that would be possible 10 years ago?
Claire Law: No, no, you know, I had an office which, you know, I paid extra for then eventually I moved the office to my house but I bought the house for the purpose of having the office in the house. So, I bought a try level home where I had the offices in the bottom. On the first floor with, you know, a long hallway in the restroom and all that.Even if my student lives around the corner in my neighborhood, often times they’re not available when I am, so we might Zoom.
I might see that person a few times, but I can also see them on Zoom, and so many consultants are more than comfortable to render their services on Zoom. For example, I had a student in boarding school in England from Nigeria. The parents were in Nigeria.
He was in boarding school in England and he wanted to come to a US college/university. So, I figured out the time difference, and we met on Zoom regularly for many, once a week for about 8 weeks. Until the student was sure of where you wanted to go. I gave him many options. Help the family with financial aid, scholarships. And that was all online. I never would have had that kind of interesting student if it hadn’t been for Zoom.
WorkForceRemote.org: That really expands your borders for the clients that you can take on. Tell us what you do in those meetings, and then those remote organizations can see that it can be done with their remote workers.
Claire Law: My process starts with listening, active listening, listening to the family. I listen to the parents when burdened themselves and sometimes I think it’s easier for them to unburden themselves online even before they’ve hired me than after or in person. They call me and sometimes they’re like really desperate because their kid is going down a negative spiral.
Sometimes they may say, “You know, I thought it was going to call you to send my kid to college, but I noticed he’s engaged in drugs and alcohol and now I want to put them in a program.” Other times they say, “You know, I’m considering boarding school because she really likes going to camp, and loves it when she can be independent and make friends, and she would be an ideal candidate for boarding school.”
We brainstorm ideas, and one of the initial assessments are the personality assessments like the Meyers Briggs type indicator or the Murphy-Meisgeier if the student is younger than 15 years of age, and then I have a battery of questionnaires to find out what type of learner the student is, not just cognitively if the student has ADHD or is on the spectrum, then there would be psycho-educational evaluations which would pinpoint the issue. Otherwise, I have a assessments that basically ask the student, “How are you in the class? Are you one who raises their hand and participates or are you the last one to talk?” That sort of thing.
Once I have a good profile with the student, I really establish report through these assessments, once we have that understanding of who they are and what they could benefit from, then I present the college list store the boarding school list and help them with everything from the application to the interview to the essay to helping them visit schools and that sort of thing.
It’s pretty easy because I always give the family an understanding of what we’re going to talk about. Then we have the meeting and then I wrap up the meeting with, okay, “Today we talked about…” How to write an essay for college, which is totally different from writing an essay about an author or, you know, something that they’ve written for school.
So the medium is…gosh, do you remember Marshall McLuhan in the 1960s who wrote The Medium is the Message?
WorkForceRemote.org: Yes, actually teach him. I teach him in a marketing class right now. McLuhan’s yes, The Medium is the Message, yes.
Claire Law: So ,the medium in this case is Zoom. No matter where you are, I can reach you, and I can find out who you are, what your needs are. And there are so many colleges in the US, of course, it depends on what the needs of the student are and where the student is developmentally. It’s understanding the place where the student is. Sometimes you try to reconcile the students needs with what the parents want, but it’s all possible. I mean look at you and me, catching up after many years.
WorkForceRemote.org: Yes, because we both, and I don’t know if I mentioned this, we did a fault start when I didn’t hit record, so we’re doing this podcast again. We met at the University in California, Irvine. And then we found out, as we were collaborating on Zoom, that I lived in Alabama and she lived in South Carolina, so we were both on the east-southeast part of the country both working in California. Yeah, and that was before remote became cool. It was pre-covid.
Claire Law: Yes, yes it was!
WorkForceRemote.org: So ,that’s really fascinating that you can take a client, that you need to really be able to connect with on that personal level, and you can do that in a remote environment. And so what that can do is give hope to organizations that might be struggling with the decision, “Do we need to bring people back on premise even though they want to stay remote or they want to go hybrid?”
Seeing that in your field, which was traditionally only done, face to face, that you guys have benefited from this remote modality. That’s really encouraging.
Claire Law: We certainly have. We certainly have, and we are able to – even within the organization, we are able to share information with one another. I remember when I lived, in Rhode Island in 2000-2001, driving down to New York City to meet other educational consultants, because we were going to wrap up the year. We’re going to talk about trends in the industry, which college was admitting who and when and how and what was a GPA and all that.
Well now we’re meeting every month, sometimes every week, and discuss what the colleges are doing, you know, which major is easier to get into than another and what is this college doing to students from out of state. We’re much more at the leading edge of what’s happening, and we are much more effective in helping our clients because we have that knowledge at our fingertips and it’s recent, it’s you in real time.
WorkForceRemote.org: So this (working in a remote modality) is giving you an edge to be able to connect with one another and share more often than just once a year.
Claire Law: Yes, yeah, yeah.
WorkForceRemote.org: That’s really interesting. You shared some really good stories and interesting strategies. Do you have any words of advice for someone that’s either going into your field or someone that’s going into remote for the first time, maybe they are not comfortable, or even an organization that is trying to make that decision to stay remote? What advice would you give to someone about remote work?
Claire Law: Yes, I would say if they’re my age, they, you know, the Baby Boomers (generation) are most reluctant to use online platforms, I would say don’t hesitate. You just be yourself which is usually most effective, but if you’re a little scared of technology, you always second guess yourself, and my advice is don’t be scared, you learn through trial and error. I was very fortunate to have you as my trainer, when I was teaching at UC Irvine, to facilitate my learning on Canvas (LMS). And I was getting frustrated, because, like I told you, I was in introduced to Wimba and Moodle with no coaching or training and then Canvas came along. All of a sudden it was like they had caught on that the instructors needed some teachers and you were there, because I had already struggled with it for a year and then the second year they added more stuff, but what they added was very helpful, and they added you to help me, so even a dinosaur can learn new ways.
I would just say to people who are scared of technology, don’t hesitate. Yet, young people are not scared of technology, but they are perhaps needing training in person-to-person skills. When they’re online they need to learn to be online with the video turned on, and they also need to know how to express themselves.
I would encourage them to join Toastmasters, because I am a lifelong Toastmaster, and I have learned so much about building self-confidence when you’re teaching anything or presenting yourself. I think you still need to be able to connect. And it’s probably going to be online if you’re shopping for a job, you’re probably not going to be asked to show up in person, so you do need to be able to speak concisely, clearly, and modulate your voice and express your enthusiasm online, and that can be even more challenging.
WorkForceRemote.org: That’s a really good point. So yeah, for some listeners who may not be aware of what Toastmasters is. Do you want to share a little bit about, because you’re very active in the organization. We’ll just do a plug for Toastmasters, because just hearing what you’ve done I want to go join my local chapter. Tell us about your experience with it, and we’ll let our listeners make that choice.
Claire Law: Well, I used to work in college at missions, so I used to go out and talk about my college and make presentations in front of a lot of people and I thought I was doing pretty well until I realized, one day I was supposed to introduce a president of a university. I was going to be speaking for about 5 minutes, and I was seized by anxiety. I thought, “Wait a minute, I know what I’m going to say. I know this president. I like him a lot.” But I was just seized by fear even before I got to the day when I was going to do this.
I went to a Toastmasters meeting, and I was very fortunate because one of the people at the meeting had me practice my introduction and gave me some pointers. For example, when you are introducing someone in person, you never leave the lectern, which I notice happens a lot. We have a lot of lecterns left unattended because people are afraid. But (this person) essentially said, “You go to the lectern, you introduce the person, you stay there until the person comes, you shake hands, then he takes over the lectern.
WorkForceRemote.org: I never noticed that, but it does happen.
Claire Law: It would be like being online on Zoom, and then you have technical difficulties, “oh, you know, so and so is supposed to be on, but where is he? Oh my gosh, hold on
WorkForceRemote.org: So it’s like you introduced them, you turn your camera off, and you go mute. You’re right, that’s a great comparison!
Claire Law: Yeah. how often do we go, “You’re on mute. You’re on mute.” And it’s the same thing online.
I have gained a lot of camaraderie from Toastmasters, and in fact, I could invite you to my club because it’s virtual you don’t even have to walk over to your local club I can invite you to my club. The club meetings have a certain format, which every club has. There’s an introduction, there’s a joke or inspiration of the day, there are three prepared speeches, there’s table topics which means you’re asked the question and you have to answer extemporaneously, so you have to be good off the cuff.
It teaches you to think on your feet. Then you have the evaluations of the speeches, which are essential for you to improve: what was your content, did you develop your topic, most of all did you make icon contact, did you have vocal variety, were you clear and concise? The feedback is very important for you to improve, and your brain is always moving, thinking about, “Okay, I’m going to give the next speech, prepare it, and deliver it.
The Toastmasters International Pathways Program is completely online, so you can be following the paths at your own pace. One is presentation mastery, two is engaging speaking. I am right now in effective coaching and every path has 5 levels, so you cover many areas, which are important for your development, not only for Toastmasters, but it really teaches you skills that apply outside of those masters. So, I would recommend it for anyone who is just wanting to be in a course.
If you were to take a public speaking class at a university, you’d pay far more than joining Toastmasters, which is like $65 every 6 months, but you would getting..
WorkForceRemote.org: And you guys talk about the practical application, not the theory and yeah, so you guys are like right now trying.
Claire Law: In real time, we are giving you feedback as opposed to you taking a speech class at college, and maybe you get to speak once or twice, but everyone gets to speak and take leadership at a meeting every single time. Not one person leaves without having spoken.
WorkForceRemote.org: That is really interesting. And I love that they’ve kept up with the times and the shift in remote and they’ve gone online, that’s fantastic.
Claire Law: Yeah, I’ll invite you to our meeting for next Saturday.
WorkForceRemote.org: Yeah, and it’s made the world smaller, instead of being the divided chapters it’s like, “Oh, we have someone who’s literally remote from across the country.” That’s fantastic.
Claire Law: Yeah, I mean, I could. I could attend a club meeting in India or in Europe, and we have had people from China attend our meetings.
WorkForceRemote.org: Oh wow, that’s really cool. We’re going to definitely have to have you back because there’s so much to talk about. You have given us some really great advice, some practical strategies and solutions from your field that I know is going to be applied across other industries where people are grappling with that decision, “Do we bring them back on site?” Even though the people are like, “No, we don’t want to come back on site or make us hybrid.” There are ways to bridge that connection that we thought we lost, when post pandemic when we all went remote, but we’re learning that, no, it can be better.
Claire Law: Yeah, I mean, think of the job of a sales person how has to drive hither and tither, and instead they can actually meet their client and relate to them on video, one on one. It’s probably less onerous on both sides because the client is busy and meeting with the salesperson can happen more easily because you’re not taking up a person’s time.
If you are online, the customer can be with you and then go on and do something else, as opposed to you driving over there and maybe he’s busy or maybe he’s not there. Connecting with people is so much easier now because of the internet, which we knew was going to revolutionize the world. But then Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and all kinds of platforms are opening up every day and you can connect with just about everybody.
WorkForceRemote.org: Well, I appreciate all that you’ve shared today. I know a lot of people are going to just glean so many words of wisdom, I know a lot of people are going to glean so many words of wisdom from your experiences from it. And thank you to those who are tuning in to WorkForceRemote.org’s podcast, where our goal is to help you continue to go remote and work on.