« Long-term orientation: Confucian values | Main | Communication skills for the D.O.S. »

What are the qualities needed to be a D.O.S?

March 23, 2008

Hello again,

The director of studies’ post is a coveted step up the career rung for many teachers, but is promotion to this role something every teacher can handle? It’s worth...

... thinking about the demands of the post and the qualities required before deciding if it’s a desirable step for you.

In the first place, you will have to be independent, self-confident, resourceful and resilient, because the DO.S is both isolated and exposed. Belonging neither to senior management nor the teachers, you have to be able to mediate between those two levels while not necessarily having allies in either camp. Senior management might try to shield itself from the effects of unpopular decisions by asking you to implement them and teachers might ask you to convey their complains about decisions and working conditions to senior management. And, if you are promoted from among the teachers you have worked with, some may resent your newly acquired authority over them.

You need to be a person who can deal with change because it will be your task to implement change as and when needed. If you are somebody who resists change then this role is not for you. In implementing change you will need to be able persuade other of its advantages and gain their cooperation in putting it into practice.

You need to be well organised because your duties will not follow the same simple timetable you had as teacher. No day will the same so you need to be good at time management and systematic in your approach.

You will need excellent people skills because you will need to inspire confidence and trust and will have to be able to motivate others. In fact this whole area warrants a new entry all on its own so I will deal with this in more detail next time.

Needless to say you require communication skills. And don’t think that because you can communicate well to learners, it will be the same with colleagues. You will require tact and diplomacy, a clear sense of what communication styles work with your colleagues, the ability to deal with difficult people and be able to listen not just to overt messages but to what lies behind the words.

You will need to problem-solving skills: in other words, when a difficulty arises you will have to deal with it and will not be able to pass it on to others to handle. What do you do if two teachers are sick, if books that are ordered do not arrive, if students make a complaint, rooms become unusable for whatever reason?

And I think you will need to be a ‘political’ animal. By that I mean that you will have to be able understand how decisions and actions impact on all involved and work out strategies for keeping everybody happy!

An impossible challenge? Perhaps not, but almost.

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


  1. Annette Says:

    I have been teaching ESOl for 12 years and I am Head of ESOL. I would love to be able to have the opportunity for promotion and would love to hear more about it. I look forward to hearing from myou.

    Kind regards

    Annette Roff

  1. Mark Morton Glasgow Says:

    Hi Brenda,

    You've really hit the nail on the head with your analysis of what it takes to be a successful Director of Studies. You have eloquently described the diplomatic dance a DOS must be prepared to master if he or she desires more than a fleeting career in this area. It can certainly be rewarding when that position is held within an enlightened organization with ethical owners who manage to keep quality as priority number one, while constantly striving to meet and/or exceed the expectations of both their internal and external customers. On the other hand, when such enlightenment is lacking the DOS position often becomes the "whipping post," at which one more, usually excellent, ESL career professional is humiliated due to unmet expectations from all sides

    That having been said, I for one would encourage those who feel prepared to take on the responsibilities of the DOS to consider becoming owners of their own schools or private tutors instead. Often your workload will be less, your pay equal or greater and your potential headaches significantly reduced. As a private tutor or school owner you are free to emphasize quality, innovation and are free at any time to make changes without the constraints normally imposed when dealing with a typical organizational bureaucracy. I’ve found over the years that some of the most satisfied, least stressed and well-paid ESL professionals are those who took the path of private tutoring, emphasizing quality outcomes, small class sizes and whose marketing consisted primarily of the word-of-mouth advertising, promulgated by an ever-increasing pool of satisfied clients.

Post a Comment



Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)