Meaningful meetings

May 31, 2009

Hello again,

I have never met anyone who thinks meetings are useful. Everyone seems to think that they waste precious time that could be used better on other activities. Okay, perhaps I exaggerate. But generally ...

Work/life balance

February 08, 2009

Hello again,

Demanding employers, cultural variations and teachers anxious to earn the maximum can be a bad combination. I have heard some disturbing...

The role of the welfare officer

August 30, 2008

Hello again,

Schools that arrange homestays or local accommodation for their students need the services of a welfare and accommodation officer to coordinate that aspect of the student’s experience. The role is a challenging one and the welfare ...

Tricky decisions

August 25, 2008

Hello again,

A question I was asked recently concerned the issue of firing an inefficient teacher. To be honest this is always a tricky situation. It is not an open...

Effective staff meetings

August 10, 2008

Hello again,

The key to making staff meetings really useful is to keep them to a minimum. In other words, don’t hold weekly meetings for the sake...

Why students complain

April 04, 2008

Hello again,

People complain mainly when they perceive a gap in their expectations and reality. When it comes to language schools there are two kinds of expectation. First there are basic ...

Handling complaints

December 05, 2007

Hello again,

Lots of teachers I speak to resent the way their schools handle student complaints. Very often teachers are made scapegoats because...

Management basics

May 02, 2007

Hello again,

Given that language schools are dispersed all over the world, it is not easy to identify core management practices that both teachers and students should be able to expect no matter where they are. Each country has its...

The economics of ELT

November 26, 2006

What minimum wage?

Hello again,

A disillusioned English language teacher asked me recently if anyone ever got rich from ELT. Certainly teachers don’t. In all too many cases they are shamefully underpaid and undervalued ( There are complex...

What rules should a school have?

October 20, 2006

How does a school decide on its rules?

Hello again,

I have to confess that I hate rules. I like to feel that I am well enough behaved that I don’t need a rule book to tell me what to do. I also have basic a instinctive reaction to being told I mustn’t do something…

Recruiting for the new academic year

October 03, 2006

Hello again,

As I return from a week of walking in the Pyrenees (just wonderful), I am thinking about the new acaemic year that is just beginning. Many of you will now be gearing up for recruitment. It's a key process that will shape the school environment for new and returning students, and staff. It really is...

From Teacher to Manager

March 02, 2006

Is it possible for teachers to make the transition from the classroom to management?

Hello again,

In answer to that question I would say of course it is; many of those currently in management positions have teaching backgrounds. By recruiting managers from the teaching team, the school has the advantage of already having a working relationship with the appointee and benefiting from that person’s existing knowledge of how the school is run. In addition it helps establish a career progression for teachers. However, it is not necessarily a straightforward process . . .

Welcome Brenda to ESL School!

February 24, 2006

Greetings ESL experts,

Allow me to say thanks to Jake for his introduction of me and for giving me the honor or presenting to you the newest member of the ESLemployment team, Brenda Townsend Hall, PhD.

For those of you who might be unfamiliar with her work, Dr. Townsend Hall is a communications consultant trainer and course designer. Now, she’ll be blogging for ESL School and writing for the ESL Expert newsletter. She offers face-to-face and distance training in the fields of interpersonal communications, business English, written communications and cross-cultural awareness. She also has runs a distance-learning training course, Teach Business English, for teachers wishing to enter the field of business English . . .

The Responsibilities of ESL School Owners

February 09, 2006

Hello again.

Concerns raised here and in other blogs about cultural differences and issues such as freedom of speech set me thinking about the responsibilities schools have towards their teachers.

Many teachers, newly qualified and eager to see the world, are young and quite vulnerable. They are unlikely to be prepared for the challenges of living and working in a culture very different from their own. The various issues they face differ in their level of seriousness and complexity but I feel that employing schools have a responsibility to guide their new recruits through the most difficult areas . . .

ESL Management Tools

October 25, 2005

Many English language schools are relatively small businesses, often started by academics rather than entrepreneurs.

The Precarious Finances of ESL Schools

September 29, 2005

I have seldom met an ESL teacher who believed his or her pay was adequate.

Quality assurance

August 30, 2005

Hello again. As the summer comes to an end in the northern hemisphere, schools are preparing for the start of the new academic year. One of the management aspects that should be on our minds is the way we assure quality for students. For seamless delivery of quality all departments of the school need to work in harmony. All too often I've seen organizations that have pockets of excellence but overall the standard is patchy because the different parts of the school don't know how to work together.

It is not enough to have efficient adminstrators, well qualified teachers and dynamic social organizers if these people don't work within an over-arching system of mutual cooperation. Let me give an example. The administrative staff will gather personal information about students. Some of this will be relevant to the classroom. Say, for example, a student is a diabetic or epileptic: teachers need to know because the student could have a problem in class. But if this information doesn't leave the admin office, then the teacher could be faced with a problem she is not prepared for. A simple system whereby the teacher automatically receives a summary sheet about each student can ensure that key details are passed on.

It is also important to inform students about the schools provisions for quality assurance: tell them in you brochure about accreditation, teachers' qualifications, standards of the facilities, systems for gathering feedback, the complaints' procedure. In today's competitive world, quality assurance is a vital aspect of the school's success strategy. What do you think?

Bye for now. Patricia.

The importance of accreditation

August 25, 2005

Hello again. It's always a controversial topic. Schools that have invested considerable effort in obtaining official accreditation regard those that have not as 'cowboys'. The unaccredited school will often cite its excellent record and student feedback as being sufficient testimony to its quality. So where do I stand on this issue?

Frankly I think that accreditation is only as valuable as the status and credibility of the accrediting body. If an august and respected external body exists and offers a really thorough and rigorous inspection process, then I think any 'serious' school should go for it. It is a form of quality assurance for students and allows prospective students to be confident of key standards for teaching, facilities, welfare and so forth.

How well do you communicate?

August 22, 2005

Hello again. I've noticed how many schools have difficulties that, when analyzed, are essentially communication problems. All organizations have to communicate externally and internally. As external communications affect enrolments, more effort is often put into external communications: PR, advertising, attendance at fairs and conferences, etc. than internal communications. A typical picture I receive is of a school where the administration exerts much effort in relating to its potential clients but often negelects communications with teachers.

Materials on a limited budget

July 12, 2005

Hello again. This is my first entry since the London bomb attacks. I have been thinking a lot about the courageous people there who have to go about their daily business despite the threat. I worked in the capital during the years of the IRA bombings and my greatest fear was of just such an event, as I used the transport system daily. Will people ever learn that violence is not a solution?

Quality assurance

July 07, 2005

I was talking to a DOS recently who told me how she hated having to do lesson observations. It wasn't that she had any objections to the idea of a quality check but she found that teachers were very defensive and clearly didn't welcome her presence.

It's a difficult issue, isn't it, because the school needs to ensure that students are getting top-quality teaching but teachers, understandably, feel reluctant to open themselves to possible criticism.

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?

How Long is an ESL Working Week?

June 09, 2005

I've been hearing some problems from ESL teachers about working hours.

Choosing timetabling software

May 12, 2005

Hello again. A recent comment on this blog asked for information about timetabling software. I don't feel I can recommend a particular product as each school will have different requirements, but I thought it would be worth discussing some of the isssues involved in choosing software appropriate to your needs.

I think the first consideration is ease of use for those who need to operate the system. The onscreen information should be user friendly with clear instructions. You also need something that is easy to correct. If you select the wrong action, is it easy to stop and amend it? If several people will be using it are there safeguards to lock key decisions that you do want to have changed?