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Can you get teachers to love admin?

June 22, 2005

Hello again.

I recently discussed a recurring issue folowing this question from an employer:

My teachers do an excellent job in the classroom and feedback from students is positive. But when it comes to administrative duties, I find they are lax. Registers are sometimes forgotten, lesson records are sketchy, and reports on students are late and not very full. How can I make teachers understand that these duties are as much a part of their job as teaching?

Oh dear, I've heard this so often and I can understand why teachers prefer to concentrate on the business of teaching rather than fill in forms! Anyway, the advice I came up with was this:

You have taken the first step by acknowledging the problem! It's a fact of life that teachers usually hate admin. But you could ease the situation by building admin time into the timetable. The reluctance often stems from teachers being obliged to complete admin tasks in their own time. Since classroom pressures are usually stronger, they not surprisingly prefer to spend additional time planning lessons and organizing materials. If you build in fifteen minutes a day, or twice a week, when teachers meet in a designated admin room to complete their tasks, they will find it easier to accept that this is part of their normal responsibility.

For this to succeed though, you will need to involve them in the planning. If they see this as extra time tacked on to the working day, it will probably be met with resistance but if you can devise a plan whereby it fits into the existing work hours, it will have a greater chance of success. This may mean scheduling time when students work alone—using self-access materials, interviewing each other or doing other interactive projects. Alternatively you could shave five minutes off lessons to accumulate the time needed. Let the staff work out a system acceptable to all so that they feel they own it. Once admin features as a regular and obligatory slot on the teachers' timetable you should find the situation improves.

Do you think this was helpful advice? Do you have any tips to share?

Back soon,

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  1. Carol Says:

    This is an age-old problem that will not disappear easily.

    It is especially difficult for managers to get teachers to do admin work when you work in a city like Beijing, where there are more jobs available than teachers. If a teacher knows that they can get the same pay for less work at another school, why stay?

    I find that you can prevent part of this problem from the very beginning- when you hire teachers. Look for teachers who show that they care about what they do. If they have a passion for teaching and respect the field, then they will respect you for caring about education. If the teachers can see that the admin work will help the students in some way, they will be more likely to get it done.

    I think your idea about setting time aside for the teachers to do this work together is a great idea. Another easy way to build up their enthusiasm about the extra work is free food and drinks! It works on young students and it works on older adults as well. Order pizza, lattes, or something that you know your staff would enjoy.

    What do you do if that still doesn't work? At some point, you need to lay down the law. Tell your teachers that this is what they need to do- and praise the teachers who do it well. Give those that are doing a good job more responsibilities (and more respect), and others will follow. You can even think about adding a title, like Senior Teacher, for those teachers who are doing their work well.

    Getting teachers to do admin work is always difficult, but with the right attitude (and the right food), it can be done.

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