True teachers use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create bridges of their own.
My name is Maria. Think outside the box MED.ucation provides learning through English language COURSES to strengthen the medical communication skills of foreign trained doctors and international medical students preparing to work in Canada. I emphasize COMMUNITY participation and personal COACHING to facilitate social interactions and a sense of belonging in Canada.
I am an Ontario Certified English Language Teacher (OCELT) in Canada with a Master’s in Educational Psychology, Bachelor’s in Psychology and Diploma in Child and Youth Counselling. My courses incorporate all these elements to help you develop clear, compassionate and concise communication required for exams and getting a job in Canada.
But, it will take more than English language skills to help you become successful. You will have to THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX and BE THE ARCHITECT OF YOUR OWN JOURNEY.
Take a look at how my teaching journey evolved…
Preparing to Work in Canada
After living and working in Italy for almost a decade, I had no idea how complicated the process would be to re-enter the Canadian workforce. I needed to update my training and create a professional portfolio to demonstrate my skills, as well as join my professional association. All of this costs money and takes time. Meaning…DELAYS in making money to pay for everything!
I was born and raised in Canada. Why did I have to do this? Without RECENT recognition and documentation from federal and provincial accreditation agencies of Canada, I could not get a job. To teach English in Canada, EVIDENCE of overseas experience and VERIFICATION of my credentials was required. This was unexpected because my university degrees and English language training were from Canadian institutions.
Once my credentials were accepted, I started working. I had my materials ready. I was enthusiastic about teaching English and creating fun activities for my students. Unfortunately, work was precarious.
Meanwhile, my newcomer husband needed to PREPARE for life in Canada. Even though we discussed the cultural differences and language issues before arriving, neither one of us predicted the internal psychological conflicts we would experience with each delay.
Being AWARE of these things and actually EXPERIENCING them are two different things. When our expectations didn’t meet our predicted timeline, we felt deflated. Our motivation and enthusiasm diminished.
If you are wondering why I am telling you about my struggles, the answer is simple. If I hadn’t experienced the challenges first hand, I would not be aware of the many obstacles that interfere with my newcomer students’ learning and community integration. I learned to ask my students more effective questions about their learning problems and then I modified my lessons according to their specific needs. This insight was a turning point for me.
I decided to take control and CHANGE THE PLAN.
Thinking OUTSIDE THE BOX!
I needed to expand my professional network. Do you know the phrase It’s not WHAT you know, but WHO you know? It means getting a job is more likely based on your personal connections rather than your skills. I worked hard, but I needed to work smarter. It was time to reinvent myself and build a reputation for doing something unique. I needed to stand out from the crowd! I changed my thinking to “It’s not what or who YOU know, but WHO KNOWS YOU?”
Prior to my language training, I had obtained a psychology degree, diploma in child and youth counselling, and certificate in trauma education. I gave presentations about the effects of psychological trauma and chronic stress on learning and blogging about it. By modifying language lessons to meet the emotional and psychological needs of my students, I noticed an improvement in the quality and speed of their learning. Colleagues remembered me for my knowledge about trauma and chronic stress. I started collaborating with other professionals, too. This led to lasting relationships with both students and co-workers. Still, I felt that SOMETHING WAS MISSING.
So, I packed up and moved (AGAIN) from Ontario to Quebec!
Becoming the ARCHITECT OF MY JOURNEY
I was curious about HOW the methods I used to teach English language affected newcomer WELLNESS and INTEGRATION into Canadian society. I wondered if traditional teaching strategies and objectives limited the personal growth and learning potential for English language learners. My curiosity sparked the desire to do RESEARCH.
So, I decided to pursue graduate studies at McGill University in Montréal, Quebec. After two years, I obtained a Master’s degree in Educational and Counselling Psychology from McGill University.
Since 2011, I have taught English for Academic Purposes (EAP), Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC), and the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Regardless of the program, I have found that students become preoccupied with test scores rather than the QUALITY of their communication for “REAL LIFE” situations. For IMGs, language LIMITATIONS come to the surface during interviews for RESIDENCY and STANDARDIZED PATIENT exams where MEANINGFUL COMMUNICATION and CULTURAL APPROACHES (not grammar) are assessed.
The NEED vs. SPEED for Doctors in Canada
Once I graduated, I could not access the student medical clinic at McGill University. When I tried to get a family doctor in Montréal, I was told the WAITING LIST would be about TWO YEARS! I had read about the doctor “SHORTAGE” in Canada, but had never experienced the IMPACT until I lived in Quebec. I quickly learned that I wasn’t alone. In fact, there are many people in Canada who DO NOT HAVE ACCESS to a family doctor! Whether it is because of a doctor shortage or unbalanced distribution of healthcare professionals, (from a patient’s perspective) it is a HUGE issue for Canadians.
Coincidentally, I happened to be teaching English online during this period. I began doing more language coaching for my former (IELTS) IMG students, who were now in residency. (I couldn’t believe how long the process took to get ACCEPTED into residency!) It seemed to me that there was LIMITED SUPPORT and TIME for IMG language learners to improve their English communication skills once they started medical residency. Performing under pressure also seemed to negatively impact their ability to communicate effectively in English. I found out that it’s not uncommon for IMGs to fail licensing exams because of their communicative approach. My “AHA” MOMENT…
IMGs need HELP to pass English medical communication exams and Canadians NEED DOCTORS ASAP!
My Experience with IMGs in Canada
I saw myself in a unique position to TAKE ACTION! By creating pre-recorded lessons online, IMGs and medical residents can get the specialized training they need WHEN they need it! The sooner medical residents GET LICENSED, the sooner PATIENTS CAN FIND DOCTORS!
The majority of my private students have been IMGs. Most of my students already understand English medical terms and have an IELTS score of 7 or greater. But, effective communication involves more than words. It involves understanding of behaviour, medical and social culture, as well as context to determine WHAT needs to be said…or NOT said. IMGs generally don’t notice they have language problems until they need to MODIFY their communication to match the patient’s level of understanding.
In Canada your patients, colleagues and community members come from DIVERSE cultures, ages, and abilities. Mastering communication makes it EASIER to have CONVERSATIONS. The more you LEARN about your patients, the more EFFECTIVELY you can MANAGE THEIR CARE. Your ability to engage in meaningful conversations is assessed on licensing exams. However, the ultimate benefit of meaningful conversations is developing POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS with your patients and colleagues, so you can have a successful career in Canada.
Main Concerns for IMGs
The biggest worry my language students have is passing oral standardized patient exams like the OSCEs (Objective Structured Clinical Exams) and SOOs (Simulated Office Oral Exams) or for residency INTERVIEWS. ORGANIZING the flow of information or identifying patient problems in 15 minutes takes PRACTICE! The BETTER your COMMUNICATION skills, the FASTER you can respond in residency interviews, oral exams, and in busy clinical settings.
Sometimes preceptors or patients will give negative feedback about an IMG’s English communication skills during residency. Mastering communication will improve your ability to share information, interview, advise, influence, network and teach.
Why MED.ucation ON DEMAND?
My GOAL is to provide ENGLISH COMMUNICATION courses that are AVAILABLE and ACCESSIBLE to IMGs across Canada. Creating a platform so PEERS can CONNECT is my way of facilitating BELONGING and ACCEPTANCE for NEWCOMERS to Canada.
My courses are specifically designed for BUSY international medical graduates (IMGs) in Canada who are learning to work within the Canadian healthcare system. Mastering communication skills can benefit both NON-NATIVE ENGLISH SPEAKERS and NATIVE ENGLISH SPEAKERS who want to improve their LANGUAGE SKILLS or COMMUNICATIVE APPROACH.
Feedback & Reviews
Effective communication is about more than just passing an exam or getting a job. It’s about mastering your skills so that you can live your BEST LIFE!
Here is what my former students and colleagues have said about their experience with me…
“Maria is not a typical teacher because she doesn’t only help with speaking or writing, but she can guide people in a way to use these skills to find work and make their life better.”
Civil Drafter – Engineering Firm, Switzerland
“I am an IMG who recently completed medical residency in family medicine. Maria was always available during my professional journey as an IMG — from mastering the IELTS to preparing for the residency interviews, to completing the residency program. Maria helped me learn how to understand and be a part of the Canadian system, but at the same time to keep my identity and use my professional skills in a better manner.”
Family Physician – British Columbia, Canada
“Maria is a dedicated, organized and meticulous individual who invests herself in the success of projects she is involved with.”
Executive Director – TESL Ontario (Teachers of English as a Second Language), Canada
INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL GRADUATES
That all IMGs become happy, healthy and successful working medical professionals in Canada.
That everyone living in Canada has a family doctor and access to high quality healthcare.
What Can I Do for You?
Student engagement, success, and well-being enhance learning. That’s why I’ve created learning experiences rather than static courses.
BECAUSE HOW YOU LEARN MATTERS!
On-demand courses put you in control of how much and how fast you learn. By removing travel time, classrooms, schedule conflicts, ranking and test scores, emotional stress is reduced. With my courses you have time to focus on the content and process what you learn.
The content included in the courses is based on IMG student feedback, patient or preceptor comments, and assessment criteria for exams. Courses are designed with research-based methods for teaching and learning.
Discussion sections are included throughout the courses so that you can interact with your colleagues and me, your instructor. This is your chance to give and receive feedback on what you have learned or want to learn! Being part of our community of learning you can build your skills as a leader for your role as a medical expert. You can also submit your story in the contact page, send me an email, or post comments on blogs on this website. Find and collect resources through a community of practice. Subscribe to the newsletter to stay updated on events, new courses, news and giveaway contests.
After completing a course and contributing to the online community, you have the option of coaching. Coaching is only available for mariA.thinkoutsidethebox.ca students.
Once you have identified the problems in your performance, I can help you overcome them with targeted solutions. You will feel more empowered to solve your educational and personal barriers to learning with the resources and insights you gain from supportive coaching.
If you would like more information about my products and services, or simply want to share your story, send me a message!
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