Preparing for ELT Management

By Alex Case
15 tips that will set you well on the road to moving into English language teaching management and admin

1. Teach management
If you are teaching business English or have students who work as managers, bringing in some texts from business English textbooks on what makes a good manager etc. can make for an interesting lesson and help you think a bit about those things yourself. With higher level students, you can both read the same business book (some self-help style ones are fairly easy to read) or article on management from a business magazines or newspaper. Alternatively, you can just read them yourself, describe them to your student and get them to give their opinions on the ideas. There is also the possibility of giving them a graded reader based on a business book. Topics on HR and time management would also be useful for you and the (right) students.

2. Observe
Doing observations is one of the major duties of an EFL manager such as a Director of Studies. Observing and being observed will also help you make sure your lessons are good enough to show your future teachers as an example of what they should be doing. If your school already has a system of peer observations (teachers observing each other), try to make the most of them by trying many different observation task formats and having your own aim for how you want to improve your observational skills and post-observation feedback. You may also be able to help set up such a peer observation system (as long as that doesn’t make you appear too pushy or keen, or make the teachers feel like they are just getting extra work). Alternatively, ask your managers if you can observe them, especially if they are teaching a kind of class you are having problems with, or ask them to observe you more often, maybe using different observation forms each time. Doing a further teaching qualification should also involve observing and/ or being observed, as can getting involved in teacher training yourself, maybe by finding a teaching job in a school that trains people for a 4 week TEFL certificate such as the CELTA. The audiovisual version of all of these is watching videos of other people teaching. Many teacher training coursebook are now starting to include DVDs with bits of real lessons on, or there’s always the lectures of or youtube lessons. Giving workshops is different from teaching English, but even so watching the workshop leaders/ presenters closely when you attend is almost equivalent to doing observations.

3. Give workshops
Although neglected in some schools, training teachers should be the second big role of a DoS or ADoS. If your school already has regular workshops, volunteer to give one or part of one, or suggest a workshop topic that you know you can contribute a lot to as a participant. If it is possible and likely to be popular, you could help set up occasional or regular workshops in your school, or just give workshops outside at teaching conferences, bookfairs and teacher associations’ local chapters. If you can’t give workshops for any reason, attend as many as you can and write up what you liked and disliked about them and how you would give a similar workshop yourself. A polite and polished version of that review could be published, or you could just keep it until you are ready to start giving workshops yourself- maybe your version of the workshop you saw outside but to people in your school who didn’t attend it.

4. Suggest changes
This is yet another example of where you need to be sensitive to how much your input will be welcome, but thinking about changes and making them happen are obviously important properties of any kind of manager. Getting involved in this is also a good way of showing that you are ready for a promotion. Changes that are most likely to be popular with everyone are ones that make everyone’s life easier, e.g. cutting down on paperwork or making sure regular crises stop. Other possibilities include showing your boss and/ or the other teachers a new textbook you have discovered that you would recommend for next year and reorganising the teachers’ room. If the politics of your school, personality of your manager or lack of power of your managers to make changes themselves means you can’t contribute without stirring up trouble, thinking about what changes you would like to make and getting them down on paper is still a useful process. You could turn that into an article or blog entry (maybe even an anonymous one) but even if it is unpublished (at least until you get your next job), it is good practice in thinking about such things systematically.

5. Make changes
Another way that you can think about changes is just doing things already within your power. Things I have done in various schools without needing to talk to everyone that have been noticed, appreciated and led to promotions include adding photocopiable worksheets to the supplementary files or teacher computer desktop, getting freebie books from publishers, starting a system of giving one of my students a five minute tutorial after each class (so that all students get a one to one chat once every 3 months or so), setting up informal peer observations with a few other teachers, putting good teaching websites on the school computer favourites, and putting posters up about future teaching workshops and conferences in the area.

6. Take on responsibility
This can start with very small things (and might need to if resentment from other teachers could be an issue). In one school I got offered a (small) promotion mainly due to taking on the responsibility of making sure the stationery in the two teachers’ rooms was always stocked and clearly marked with what rooms it should be in. Other small responsibilities include being given keys to open the school because you always arrive first, being in charge of one or more supplementary files, keeping the notice board in the teachers’ room up to date or being the designated computer trouble shooter.

7. Get organised
Again, this will help you get ready for the pressures of a management role and help show people that you are ready for it. Examples include always having a to do list (maybe divided into short term and longer term things), a bigger diary, a list of things not to forget when going into the classroom, and marking your lesson plans with a highlighter pen to make the things to remember stand out. Read a book on time management (the “… for Dummies” and “Teach Yourself…” series amongst many others have slim and readable books on the topic) for more ideas on this.

8. Get a higher level/ more qualifications
For one thing, the more qualifications you have the easier it will be to get a management job and the easier it will be to get the respect of your teachers and customers once you have done so. Writing essays about teaching will also be good practice for explaining things to teachers and giving them feedback, and you will be able to recommend qualifications and books to read to your teachers with more authority. There might also be the opportunity to observe and be observed, or at least you can watch the trainers on your course carefully for how they teach you. Many of these things are also true of qualifications from outside teaching, e.g. an MBA, an MA in the same subject as your undergraduate degree, or something that could be adapted for teaching such as NLP or a foreign language. Or you might want to go the other way and do a specific qualification in EFL management.

9. Get a wide range of experience
Being an expert in something very specialised like TOEIC can be great for your own career, but the chances of every teacher who comes for your management advice asking about TOEIC is very low. Try to round out your experience by taking classes with different ages, class sizes, levels, textbooks, EFL exams etc.

10. Reading
There are a few books available specifically on EFL management. Alternatively, going through Harmer one more time is always useful and especially so for someone who might be explaining such basic things to teachers in the near future. That should then lead you on to reading that makes sure your own knowledge is one level deeper than the teachers you will be supervising. If they are CELTA or equivalent qualified that means DELTA level stuff like About Language by Scott Thornbury and Sound Foundations by Adrian Underhill, or if a couple of them have further qualifications you’ll need to really get stuck in to MA level books, perhaps starting with easier SLA titles like How Languages are Learned.

11. Make sure your paperwork is great
And has something extra (e.g. notes for the teacher covering your classes that explains the preferred learning style of the students or student reports that recommend particular self-study books for them) and is systematic (clearly paragraphed, dated, page numbers included etc).

12. Write
This one is suggested in several points above, especially when the practical things you can do are limited and that just leaves you with getting your thoughts for what you would do down on paper. Other reasons for writing include boosting your CV, learning the techniques of brainstorming etc that you will also need for coming up with other ideas, and obtaining free copies of books you review to put in the teachers’ room.

13. Make contacts
This can again both impress and be useful once you get your dream (?) Director of Studies job. People to get to know include publishers (by asking for review copies, publishing reviews of their titles and forwarding the reviews to them, chatting to them at teaching conferences, volunteering to do pre-publication reviewing etc), people in local teaching organisations such as IATEFL and TESOL, and managers of other schools (by interviewing there, chatting to them at teaching conferences and going to workshops at their schools that they also offer to outsiders).

14. Support teachers/ give advice
This is another one you have to be sensitive about, but is one of the things that can best get you noticed if you do it well. If teachers are used to going to you for advice (rather than running away as you try to tell them about yet another worksheet you recommend!), there is also likely to be less resentment if you are promoted despite being younger, less qualified or a fairly recent arrival.

15. Apply to other schools
Do this even if you have no intention of moving on. This will help you by: showing you people’s interview techniques so you are ready for when you are interviewing other people to work in your school, showing you how things are done in other schools so that you can suggest changes in your own, making you think about your teaching and other parts of your career to answer the interview questions, boosting your confidence with every job you are offered, and making your boss aware that you might be due a promotion to make sure you don’t move on elsewhere.

Written by Alex Case for Teflnet September 2008
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic and the Teaching...: Interactive Classroom Activities series of business and exam skills e-books for teachers
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