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Wednesday, 25 June 2008 11:22

Making the Grade... As an Instructor

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Remember your first grade teacher and how kind and wonderful she or he was? Did they teach you how to read, write, or tie your shoe? What makes a particular teacher or instructor stand out? Maybe it wasn’t your first grade teacher that left such an impression. Maybe it was your high school math teacher, your professor in college, or maybe your aesthetics instructor? The very person that taught you the most basic skills for your career impacted you profoundly. The very foundation of your career can be traced back to that sole provider of education and the passion that they imparted into you.

I often hear aestheticians complain about their school experience. Karen Hurley, licensed aesthetician and owner of Karen Hurley Skin Care, Waldorf, Md., knows she is extremely fortunate to be trained by one of the best in the business. Her instructor, Betty Wilder of Chesapeake School of Esthetics in Arnold, Md., is without a doubt a champion in the educative world of skin care. A former massage therapist and aesthetician, she single-handedly owns and operates her school, hand selecting students every year. Her attention to detail, knowledge level, and hands-on approach is profound. She carries out every duty with superb professionalism and is an incredible role model to her students. She is very grateful to have learned her profession from Wilder. Others are not so lucky!
Amy Waldorf, licensed esthetician and massage therapist from N.J., reflects on the negative experience she had at the aesthetic school she attended. She had worked in the industry for several years (for a manufacturer) prior to becoming licensed. She felt that she had already seen the best of the spa industry and that motivated her to pursue getting her license. The class went downhill when students were required to read the textbook out loud as if in first grade reading class, and clinic hours were only pursued by students looking to get experience. Often she felt that her instructors knew less about skin care than some of the students.
This is a problem for many schools hiring instructors who do not have experience. They cannot pay them what they deserve, or they cannot find a seasoned aesthetician who is proficient in teaching. Many schools have their cosmetologist teach the aesthetic class and/or hire a recent graduate. Also, many schools do not offer health benefits or full time positions. Pay can vary from $10 to $30 an hour. Instructors also need to ask if the pay is truly by the hour or by the credit, as some aesthetic courses are offered in a college setting where the class is set up per credit, which means that you aren’t necessarily getting what you anticipated. The academy may also pay differently for hands-on time versus lecture, so it is best that the instructor ask many questions before accepting the teaching position. The instructor will also need to be informed about the budget for products and supplies. The instructor may have to fill out a requisition form and give it to the school to order, while other teachers can just order at will and turn in receipts for reimbursement.
Lynell Lynch, President of the Poway Academy, San Diego, Calif., says, “We promote our Instructor opportunities through associations like ISPA. We look for professional experienced aestheticians that have a passion for training. Most recently, we have locally recruited Spa Directors to join our team as Instructors. We receive referrals from our Advisory board of individuals that have a commitment to training, and are aligned with our Mission. Our new Instructors are very excited to be a part of the Academy that is providing advanced aesthetic training. The Poway Academy has just received approval from the California State to offer a 600 hour advanced Aesthetic course we have titled "Master Esthetics". As the aesthetic industry continues to grow and add services, our Academy will be updating our curriculum to provide spas with highly qualified employees that are trained on the current procedures.”
What does it take to become an instructor? Every state has different regulations as to who can teach. For some, you have to have a certain number of years working experience. You may also be required to do a background check through your local police department. For some it is as easy as you were the first and only one to apply and got the job as the instructor.
Teaching is like no other profession. As a teacher, you will wear many hats. You will be a communicator, a disciplinarian, a conveyor of information, an evaluator, a classroom manager, a counselor, a member of many teams and groups, a decision-maker, a role-model, and an empathetic counselor, among other things.



Are you good explaining things?
Do you like to explain how something works, or how something happened? Being comfortable with explaining content to students is an essential skill for teachers.

Do you have patience?
There will be times when you will be tempted to scream or yell at your students, administrators, and so on. Good teachers are able to successfully resist this urge. Sometimes, teaching adults can be more challenging than children.

Do you have a sense of humor?
Research has consistently shown that good teachers have a sense of humor, and that they are able to use humor as part of their teaching methods. Humor, used properly, can be a powerful addition to any lesson.

Can you be Fair?
Instructors have to be able to assess students on the basis of performance, not on the student’s personal qualities.

Do you know what you are teaching?
For many spa instructors, that means having a broad range of knowledge in sufficient depth to convey the information in meaningful ways to the students.

Are you detail oriented?
If you are a disorganized person in your private life, you will find that teaching will probably be uncomfortable for you. At the very least, teachers must be organized in their professional and teaching duties. If you're not organized and are not detail oriented, teaching may not be the best choice of a profession for you.

Are you a good manager of time?
Time is one of the most precious resources a teacher has. Good teachers have learned to use this resource wisely.
All of these qualities define some of the characteristics of good teachers. If it is not your goal to become a good teacher at the very least, perhaps thinking about the above will help you see other career alternatives. A good idea, when first making such a decision, is to talk with other instructors. Find out what they do, and what led them into teaching. Do a personal inventory of your own values, personality, preferences, and goals. Talk to other therapists about their school experience. This may also give you an idea if you want to work for that particular administration. Some schools give the teacher much freedom while others can be very corporate and structured.
Spa instructors must be proficient and have experience in all facets of our industry. By having a seasoned and gifted therapist teach, the student has an advantage of learning from the best of the best. The instructor’s role requires patience and the ability to demonstrate various treatments. If the instructor doesn’t feel confident in a particular machine or treatment, they should bring in a guest speaker to elaborate about the technique, such as, microdermabrasion. Many companies are willing to send out their educators and/or account managers to work with the school as they realize the importance of gaining the trust of the students right away. Many relationships are formed at school and the wise company will understand that the students will have buying power.
Not every person who wants to be a teacher should be a teacher. There is a huge difference between the ideal of teaching and the reality of the classroom. For those who do step up to lead our future therapists we salute you for making a difference in the spa industry.

Denise R. Fuller is a Licensed Aesthetician and Beauty Therapist Consultant, Educator, and Author for the aesthetic industry. Fuller is also the CEO of International Spa Importing Specialists. For more information please contact her at 888-566-4747.

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