GOING GLOBAL: It’s never too early to start planning to attend the 51st Intersteno Congress in Berlin in 2017

If competing internationally or just meeting others in a similar profession from other countries is on your bucket list, consider attending the 51st Intersteno Congress in Berlin, Germany, set to take place July 22-28, 2017.

Intersteno, the International Federation for Information and Communication Processing, is a worldwide community with members that represent all manners of information technology, including court reporters and captioners, as well as secretaries, teachers, parliamentary reporters, and others who use any technology that produces fast writing. The organization holds it Congress every two years and offers attendees a schedule full of educational sessions, presentations, and competitions in realtime, speed, audio translation, typing, and more. Other activities often include galas and tours of the host city or local area. The event offers attendees a unique view of how the written word captured throughout the world.

According to NCRA members who have attended an Intersteno Congress, it’s never too early to start making plans to an event that offers an unforgettable experience.

“I start planning for Intersteno nine to 12 months in advance,” says Karen Yates, CRR, CRC, a CART provider from Minden, Nev. Yates said that her planning includes checking other conferences to avoid conflicts in her schedule, securing flights, making sure her Intersteno membership dues are up to date, and securing lodging. She also checks to make sure her passport is current and that she has the correct electrical adaptors for the local area.

“I would also arrive a day or two early, especially if I were competing,” Yates adds. “Jet lag can be a factor, and just adapting to the new time zone can be a challenge. It’s also helpful to get comfortable with a location, local transportation, and have all the registration matters settled early.”

Laura Brewer, RDR, CRR, CRC, Los Altos, Calif., a state, national, and international realtime champion, agrees that arriving at least two days prior to the start of the competitions at Intersteno if you plan to participate is a wise idea. “Flights can always be delayed (by weather or otherwise), connections can be missed, etc. Plan for the unexpected, and you won’t be disappointed,” she said. “Planning to arrive two days in advance gives you one day of cushion. Arriving two days in advance also gives you an extra night to catch up on sleep and to adjust to the time change.”

Yates also says she usually allows for two to three months of practice time if she plans to compete during the event. “I email my dictionaries to myself before departing, just in case. I do take an iPhone or iPad with speed dictation on it and Bose noise-cancelling headphones for practice. And then I read and reread the rules and practice the right content.”

The 49th Intersteno Congress held in Ghent, Belgium, in 2013, provided attendees Debra Levinson, RMR, CRR, CRI, CRMS, a freelance reporter from White Plains, N.Y., and Dom Tursi, an official court reporter from Islip, N.Y., with an experience that was welcoming, informative, professional, and uplifting.

“It was an unforgettable experience being among an international forum of like-minded professionals coming together for the same purpose, showcasing a myriad of methods of capturing the spoken word,” Levinson said. “It was an education to experience the different technologies that other countries use to accomplish the same means.”

“The professionalism and knowledge shared by everyone I met was, in a word, awesome. And the skill demonstrated by youngsters and more mature practitioners, in varied categories and at so many skill levels, was an inspiration,” says Tursi.

“Although it’s fun to see familiar faces in foreign lands, it is even better to make new friends with fellow competitors and colleagues from other countries,” says Yates. “Join people you don’t know at the breakfast table, for a cup of coffee on a break, or for a beer at the end of the day. Take advantage of the chance to hear about work life from those making the record with voice, pen, simple keyboard, and a myriad of types of steno machines.”

In 2015, NCRA member Clay Frazier, RMR, CRR, a freelance reporter from Los Angeles, Calif., attended an Intersteno Congress for the first time and also competed in the international realtime competition. In comments made in a previous article about his experience at the Congress held in Budapest, Hungary, Frazier said: “What I left Budapest with amounts to much more. Keyboardists from other countries were not just eager to share with me their writing systems but also their friendship. The atmosphere of the Intersteno festivities was enjoyable and educational, and I found the beauty of Budapest to be nothing short of breathtaking. I am honored to have been a part of it and look forward to Berlin in 2017.”

For more information about Intersteno and the 51st Intersteno Congress being planned for 2017 in Berlin, Germany, visit Intersteno.org or Intersteno2017.org.


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TEACHING: The qualities of an exceptional instructor

By Aurora Joslyn

Teaching is hard work, and some teachers never grow to be anything better than mediocre. They do the bare minimum required and very little more. Exceptional educators, however, work tirelessly to create a challenging, nurturing environment for their students. Experience has taught me that great teaching seems to have less to do with our knowledge and skills than with our attitude toward our students, our subject, and our work. So what makes a teacher exceptional? Let’s examine the characteristics of an outstanding teacher.

Respect: A great teacher respects students and sets high expectations for all. In a great teacher’s classroom, each person’s ideas and opinions are valued. Students feel safe to express their feelings and learn to respect and listen to others. This teacher creates a welcoming learning environment for all students. Effective teachers focus on shared decision-making and teamwork as well as on community building. A great teacher maintains professionalism in all areas — from personal appearance to organizational skills and preparedness for each day. Their communication skills are exemplary, whether they are speaking with an administrator, one of their students, or a colleague. The respect that the great teacher receives because of her professional manner is obvious to those around her.

Compassion. A great teacher must care. A great teacher is warm, accessible, enthusiastic, and caring. This person is approachable, not only to students, but to everyone on campus. This is the teacher to whom students know they can go with any problems or concerns or even to share a funny story. Great teachers possess good listening skills and take time out of their way-too-busy schedules for anyone who needs them. If this teacher is having a bad day, no one ever knows — the teacher leaves personal baggage outside the school doors.

Patience. Exceptional teachers know when to stand back and allow students the time and freedom to figure something out on their own. Because it means loosening control and letting the students lead, this can be one of the most difficult plateaus for a teacher to reach. Many take years to get there. Some never do.

Flexibility. A great teacher can shift gears and is flexible when a lesson isn’t working. This teacher assesses their teaching throughout the lessons and finds new ways to present material to make sure that every student understands the key concepts. Demonstrating the flexibility to experiment with new teaching methods is integral to providing students with a well-rounded education in the 21st century.

Inspiration. A great teacher has their own love of learning and inspires students with their passion for education and for the course material. They constantly renew themselves as professionals on their quest to provide students with the highest quality of education possible. This teacher has no fear of learning new teaching strategies or incorporating new technologies into lessons, and always seems to be the one who is willing to share what they’ve learned with colleagues.

While teaching is a gift that seems to come quite naturally for some, others have to work overtime to achieve great teacher status. With the right combination of respect, compassion, patience, flexibility, and inspiration, an exceptional teacher can make a lasting impact on a student’s education. And the payoff is enormous — for both the teacher and the students.

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”

Henry B. Adams.

Aurora Joslyn is an NCRA associate member from Hollywood, Fla.  This article was written as part of the requirements for NCRA’s Certified Reporting Instructor course.


Court reporters that thrive: Building career resiliency and success through mentoring

Photo by John Lynch

By Kevin Nourse

New court reporters face a variety of obstacles that can derail their careers. These barriers range from meeting speed requirements in their training programs to getting established in their first full-time role. Psychologists have known for decades that one important factor that helps successful people overcome their challenges is resilience — an ability to bounce back from setbacks. You can enhance your resiliency and thrive in your new career by partnering with a mentor.

In this article, we explore mentoring as an essential ingredient for helping you increase your career resilience and successfully enter the court reporting profession. You will gain insights on what mentoring is, how to find one, and tips for working with your mentor.

What is mentoring?

Mentoring is a partnership you can form with an experienced professional focused on your development and career success. This partnership is a relationship between you and your mentor where you both agree to cooperate as a way of advancing your mutual interests. Mentors agree to serve in this role because they want to help advance the profession and often gain enjoyment from helping people grow. As a mentee, you are interested in successfully completing your court reporter training and getting established in your first role.

While many new court reporters rely on social media, such as Facebook, to get support and answers to their questions, some prefer an on-going trusting relationship with a mentor. Your mentor can play an instrumental role in helping you complete your training and get established in your first role.

Who needs a mentor?

While you should focus the mentoring partnership on your unique needs as a mentee, there are some common situations where mentoring can help.

Career changers considering a career as a court reporter

Making a decision to enter a profession can be an overwhelming challenge without the right information. Career changers interested in becoming a court reporter may choose a mentor to help them determine whether it’s the right profession. Activities like shadowing experienced court reporters to observe what their day is like or conducting informational interviews with seasoned court reporters to learn more about the profession are great ways to find out if the profession is for you.

Students who are training to become a court reporter

Students in court reporting programs are faced with numerous challenges as they learn to master essential concepts and skills. Mentors can play a critical role to help students identify strategies to accelerate learning including increasing their speed. Lisa Hahn, RMR, a freelance reporter in Decatur, Ill., shared how she gave her mentee “tips to combine complex multi-syllabic words in one stroke.”

Another way that mentors provide support to students is in the form of emotional support. Rachel Barkume, RPR, is an official reporter based in Oakhurst, Calif.. She explained “family members don’t understand what court reporting school is like — every day we had pop quizzes that we had to pass as we built our speed. Even when you pass a speed test, the next day you have to work toward the next milestone. It can be very discouraging.” In these situations, a mentor can provide a supportive ear and validate the emotions experienced by a new student. By doing so, students are better able to sustain their perseverance to finish their training programs.

Steve Zinone, RPR, NCRA President and official reporter in Canandaigua, N.Y., adds that experienced mentors can also provide students “a light at the end of the tunnel” to help them maintain their resiliency with a clear vision of what life will look like once they complete their training program.

Recent graduates of court reporter training programs

Newly trained court reporters often experience stress in identifying their reporting focus as well as facing the realities of their first job. With the number of specialty areas available to court reporters as well as types of organizations that provide this service, people who are new to the profession can feel overwhelmed. Mentors can also help early career court reports explore and identify career options.

Starting out in a job after school can be highly stressful as new court reporters face the day-to-day realities that their training programs may not address. Barkume explained how she started her new job after school and was expected to perform reporting for motion call cases. She noted, “I had never experienced this before, and it was overwhelming … so I called my mentor at lunch for support and felt better equipped to complete the first day.”

Getting ready to be mentored

Before you begin looking for a mentor, be sure to do some self-reflection about what you want out of the relationship and the kind of mentor that would be a good match. The following questions will help you clarify your needs and facilitate a good match with a potential mentor:

  • What are your goals or challenges for which a mentor could help?
  • How often do you want to interact with a mentor (e.g., on a regular schedule or as needed)?
  • Do you have a preference for the geographic location of your mentor?
  • How do you want to interact with your mentor (e.g., email, in-person, telephone, Skype, etc.)?
  • Are there certain qualifications or experiences that you would like your mentor to have?

Once you reflect on these questions, you can more easily communicate your needs to prospective mentors.

Finding a mentor

You have decided that a mentor could be helpful and clarified your goals. So how do you go about finding a mentor that is a good match?

There are two ways to identify potential mentors: informal and structured. Informal mentoring relationships happen when you meet an experienced colleague at a professional event and ask them to consider mentoring you to help you achieve your goals. This approach works best if you are comfortable attending professional meetings and engaging experienced court reporters one-on-one. On the other hand, structured mentoring relationships are those that are available from state court reporter associations as well as NCRA. With these mentoring relationships, you will typically submit a request via the website and be matched with a potential mentor. Formal programs, such as the NCRA Virtual Mentor Program, often try to match mentors and mentees based on criteria such as geographic location. Barkume explains “mentees can benefit from a mentor who is in the same geographic area and knows local formats … my mentor sent me the files she used, which saved me time.”

Whatever approach you use, it is useful to have an exploratory conversation with a prospective mentor to learn more about each other. During this conversation, you will also communicate your needs and goals. Ideally, the potential mentor will be a good match. However, it may be that the prospect is not a good fit. In this case, you might consider asking that prospect if he or she knows others who might be a better fit.

Interacting with your mentor

Assuming you found a good match for a mentor, how should you interact with him or her? One of the most important ways you can successfully work with a mentor is to take ownership of the interactions. Some specific strategies you can use include:

Establish an explicit contract at the beginning of a mentoring relationship

Excellent mentoring relationships begin with alignment between a mentor and mentee about the goals of the relationship and the various process associated with working together. While it is not necessary to write a formal agreement, it can be very helpful to clarify certain issues at the beginning of the relationship. For example:

  • How often will you meet and using what communication channel (e.g., email, in-person, telephone, Skype, etc.)?
  • Who will initiate the communication?
  • What is the overall agenda for each call?
  • What are the boundaries related to confidentiality of the information you share?
  • What happens if a crisis emerges and you need to cancel a meeting? How much notice do you need from each other?
  • If the mentoring relationship is not working out for you or your mentor, how will you handle it?

Follow through on your commitments

Mutual respect is a key ingredient of strong mentoring relationships. Mentors are there to support your success as a new court reporter. As part of their role, they may likely provide advice and suggestions. One way you demonstrate respect is listening to your mentor’s suggestions, maintaining a positive attitude, and taking action on the commitments you make. By taking action, you are communicating your respect for your mentor and his or her professional wisdom. By doing so, you are establishing a positive reputation for yourself in the profession.

Communicate regularly

While some court reporters create mentoring partnerships in which they communicate as needed when they face a particularly challenging issue, the best mentoring relationships incorporate regular communication. Many mentoring partnerships start off with more frequent contact then cut back once the relationship is solidly in place. Lisa Johnston, RMR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner in Melbourne, Fla., advises mentees that “communication is key, and it is important for mentees to reach out to a mentor and not be shy about asking questions.” Johnston described how she interacted through email with one of her mentees every two weeks.

Revisit the relationship if your goals change

The goals you initially identified when you began the mentoring partnership may well change as you grow and develop. If you no longer have a need for your mentor because your goals were achieved, communicate this to him or her. Avoid the temptation to drift off and abruptly stopping communication with your mentor. Again, this is another way to demonstrate respect for your mentor.

Look out for your mentor’s needs

Many experienced court reporters act as mentors because they want to give back to the profession. However, your mentor has his or her growth and development needs too. One way to build a strong relationship that could last a lifetime is to pay attention to ways you can support your mentor. Perhaps you found an article that might interest them or met someone who would be a great networking contact for your mentor?

Consider mentoring others

Despite being new to the profession and possibly still being in school, no doubt there are others following in your footsteps who you might be able to mentor. Not only will you be supporting the court reporting profession, but you will also deepen your learning as a mentor. Zinone explained how rewarding it is when one of his mentees has developed his or her professional support network, becomes more confident as a court reporter, and begins to mentor others.

Entering the court reporting profession can be a demanding and rewarding challenge. The training programs are rigorous. Once you finish your training, there are many ways to launch your career in varying types of organizations. Resiliently bouncing back from setbacks you may face is critical to your success. By establishing a well-designed mentoring partnership early in your career, you can fulfill your dreams of becoming a successful court reporter.

Dr. Kevin Nourse is an executive coach and consultant based on Washington, D.C., and Palm Springs, Calif. He works extensively with associations to develop resilient leaders. Kevin is co-authoring a soon-to-be-released book with Dr. Lynn Schmidt entitled Shift into Thrive: Six Strategies for Women to Unlock the Power of Resiliency.