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Career Structure in an ESL School

September 08, 2005

As newly qualified teachers travel around the globe to take up teaching positions, there's an air of excitement for them, the schools and the students.

Hello all.

It's a familiar pattern, isn't it? You recruit dynamic young teachers, then you watch their enthusiasm and energy motivate the students, and the result is a positive learning experience. But that's the honeymoon period. As the teachers sense that work is becoming routine, that the opportunities to progress in their career are few, they lose their spark and you know that it won't be long before they are off to seek pastures new. This is a shame because staff continuity in the school helps maintain standards, create corporate identity and foster team spirit. So what would persuade teachers to stay on and retain their enthusiasm? One solution is to offer them a visible career progression within your organization.

But let me digress for a moment. I can already hear the counter arguments: "my school is quite small"; "I can't see how I can create senior posts"; "I don't want too many chiefs." Or, "well the teachers I recruit are not career-minded; they like to hop from place to place to see more of the world." In reply to these points I would say, even a small school can create special responsibilities to help teachers develop without creating a team of prima donnas. And if you are mainly recruiting teachers whose main aim is to travel, perhaps you need to rethink your recruitment policy to try to achieve a more balanced staff.

So, how can you help a teacher find career opportunities within your school? It's all about matching the school's needs with the talents and aspirations of your staff. At the selection process you need to discuss with the interviewees how they see their career developing over the next five years. This will help you identify teachers whose talent you can help develop. Anything they can add to their resume to show that they have been moving in the right direction will be valuable to them.

Beginning with your school, try listing special duties that would add value to your core teaching activities: library, sports afternoon, hobbies afternoon, self-access materials, IT, ESP, excursions, social events, external examinations, special needs teaching, reading groups, writing groups, conversation groups . The possibilities will depend on your specific type of school. Once teachers have proved to be an asset, you can then offer them a special responsibility post taking charge of one of these areas. And the beauty of it is that in many cases this could be a self-funding project. Naturally the teacher will expect to be rewarded for the extra responsibility, but since many of these are additions to the main program, you can charge students a fee to cover the additional costs.

The benefits of this strategy are two-fold. Teachers get an opportunity to show initiative and gain the experience of organizing and animating an event or service — a plus point for their resume — and the school gets to offer additional benefits to clients. None of this need interfere with the management structure of the school as these are posts of responsibility rather than hierarchical promotion.



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  1. irene Says:

    After reading the above comment I started thinking of my own School and the staff we do normally take on.
    We have a permanent staff of 4 teachers who have been working with us for about 5 years. That´s been good for both the teachers and the School. One of the main policies is to pay them a good salary, something that may sound a bit strange but teachers of English and in general are really badly paid in our country. Some schools do even hire students of English to give classes so they can pay very low salaries due to the fact that they don´t have a TESOL certificate or the like.
    On the other hand, we started working with native teachers of English about 8 years ago and the experience has lasted and worked. Students simple like it a lot. They are hired on a temporary basis (just a year) and they give conversation classes to all the students. Students really like the variety as they don´t know who´s coming the following year.
    On the other hand, in order to motivate our permanent staff we have created a serie of activities that involved teachers. One of our main concerns has been parents as they do normally send students to learn EFL but do not even pop up in the School for long periods. We have decided to hold parents workshops related to violence, sex and how to manage an adolescent child. They have worked very well. At the beginning we thought about charging nothing for the activity but in the end we changed our minds and are charging very little for each session. The workshops are held by one of our teachers who happens to be a psychologist and a teacher of English as FL with a TESOL diploma. She´s delighted and parents as well.
    I do really agree that having a permanent motivated staff is one of the key points in a School´s success.

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