Like many others, I rather fell into ELT management.

Jenny Johnson - February 2009

One moment I was in the classroom, the next I was sorting out teaching materials into files for the staffroom and the next I knew I had stepped into a substitution job for the absent DoS (Director of studies). Since then it has been an upward learning curve, and I have picked up and stored away a few tips along the way, which may come in useful for any of you who find yourselves in the same boat. Here, then, are 13 top tips for teachers who become managers:

Size matters

Whether you come into your organisation from the outside or are promoted from the ranks within it, look at your organisation, observe its growth pattern. Is it small, medium sized or large? If it is small – ten teachers or so, and unless the boss is a despot, it is likely to be an organically growing affair, with a clear hierarchy, from director to director of studies to teachers, and a small admin team. Communications then will be easy, meetings small and involving everybody. There will be collaborative decision-making, and plenty of room for good people to shine and step into positions which open up through natural need. Responsibilities will be evident, and who to go to for what will be clear. Duties will be shared and if the culture is healthy, no-one will mind mucking in.
If it is a large organisation, patterns will already be set. Departments will exist and there will be a larger number of heads. Responsibilities and the chain of command may be less clear and communications tricky, making double-checking and monitoring a must, to ensure that everyone knows who does what and what they should be doing. Decision-making may be done through committee, allowing the ‘lack of consultation’ virus to fester and multiply. If you are aware of the characteristics and therefore the culture of your organisation it will be easier not to make mistakes when ordering, delegating or organising.


Get to know and understand your people! Without stereotyping too much, teachers (like all teams) fall into certain ‘types’ and if you can recognise them it will make it easier to work out how to deal with them.

  • Movers and shakers
    These are the ambitious ones. Loads of ideas and willing, mainly with their own agendas in mind rather than anything altruistic. They will be with you as long as there is something in it for them; as soon as they think there isn’t they will be off to make their mark elsewhere. Need cosseting.
  • Keen bees
    These are a delight, though often not very experienced at this stage. They will help with anything and you need to keep them busy so they don’t get disillusioned.
  • Advocates
    These love the school and everything in it, and will shout its praises wherever they go, though that is not to say they will never complain. Keep them on your side and listen to them, they may well be right.
  • Detractors, complainers and long-sufferers
    These are difficult, nothing ever seems to be right and they are a lot of work to keep on side. Don’t give in to them; even if you put things right for them, they will almost always find something else to complain about.
  • Stuck in the muds
    These are comfortable and won’t move even if you put a rocket behind them.
  • Bring it on-ers
    Nothing is too much for these guys, the more difficult an assignment the happier they are. Give them a tough job and they will relish it.


Decide which courses to run according to your target market; ask your receptionists to do the research, they know everything about your customers. Make sure there is more than enough demand, through market research, before launching a new product.


Believe in the importance and benefits of CPD (continuous professional development), emphasise the links between quality and success. Forget performance management by numbers: students leaving often has nothing to do with the teacher. Set up a useful appraisal system where the teacher sets the criteria for their development.

The annual plan

When does what happen and when do you need to start the process timeline for each part of the plan? This is cyclical and each year is as good as identical to the last: make notes on everything and when you have been there a year look back in your diary and you will see the next year’s plan emerge.


Get your head around budgeting and profit and loss. Insist on a budgeted allowance for resource replenishment, premises refurbishment and staff training, with, to a degree, staff involvement in how to spend it. This is all good investment to ensure returning students.


The DoS nightmare!
Manage student expectations; convince them of the benefits of having different teachers and combining classes, embed this in the organisational ethos: it’s good to change! But make sure there is good documentation and records to ensure seamless continuity.

Clients and customers

Who are the stake-holders in the business? The school has both external and internal customers: customer service and client care apply to both. How can you care and show you care?


The success of the school is down to the owners, so make sure every staff member is an ‘owner’, through shared responsibility, decision-making and consultation, plans and ideas. The teacher needs to be aware they are front of house staff and marketing representatives of the school.

Mission and vision

Is there one? Whose is it? Start again, involve everyone and come up with new ones. This will encourage ownership, and help everyone see why the organisation exists and why everyone counts in making it successful.

Social responsibility

What part does the organisation play in the local environment? It should be a hub of activity everyone local knows about. Reach out tentacles to neighbours and nearby businesses. Create a scholarship, offer empty spaces for community activities. Indirectly, this will lead to more business, and make the staff feel they belong and are useful members of society.

Environmental responsibility

Mounds of paper and ink are wasted and other unsustainable practices are rife in most schools. Insist on an ecological approach to the business. Invest in green matters, educate in more than languages, do all you can for the planet.

Your own training

Whether you have worked for years in the business or just a few months: you need professional development too. Workshops, modules, conferences, professional bodies, periodicals, make sure you get your hands on them, make your learning lifelong.


Submitted by iriselina on Wed, 02/04/2009 - 15:09


Thanks Jenny,

I have been recently asked to Guide/streamline  a new CEFL dept within a group of Institutions and am doing just that.

Was asked to draft material for a Prospectus as what existed was off-key and am now designing the syllabus for 6 teachers' work and a 100  students.

The  teachers are very enthusiastic but untrained and  I see overlaps and some gaps as the clientele keeps changing I'm told.

I am a retired teacher with about 40 years experience and trained at Aston, UK.

The ESP: Business Mngmt  paper I opted for there has helped me now and of course all the experience of years.

I liked your classification of types, but  where would you put the smart ones who take words out of your mouth and make them their own at once ! Between keen bees and advocates? how should one treat these I wonder!

Any resources for me? I would appreciate some help for the future.

Hello Iriselina

thank you for your comments. it seems you have quite a job on your hands! But you also appear to be dealing with it very well, and you certainly have the experience to carry it off splendidly.

You have talked about a lot of different aspects of your work: setting up a new department, dealing with teachers, teacher training, syllabus writing - as well as some marketing. There are masses of resources out there for all these areas, and I'm sure you have come across many of them in your academic work. I like Tessa Woodward's Ways of Working with Teachers for an interesting slant on teacher training, and browsing this Teaching English site I found a good article in the Think section on  syllabus writing by Lesley Dick, written in 2005, which I think would be useful for anyone interested in general principles of syllabus development.

I can see you have come across some of my typical teachers amongst the ones you are working with now! I like the addition of the ones you describe; maybe I would call them flatterers, because appropriating someone else's words is a bit like imitation, (and imitation is a form of flattery, as someone once said).  And how would I treat them? Well maybe I'd try to give them lots of wise words to keep!

What do you think?

all the best and thanks for writing!



Thanks Jenny,

Some of the teachers are not even the usual M.A.Lits but engineers and  Micro- biology graduates.But I did have a Chemistry person teach me at Aston and she was very good.

You see, in India today, ELT has become a cottage industry with English Schools for Spoken  English at every street corner, espley in Bangalore our SiliconValley, where I am !

Shall look up those sites  on Tchr Devpmt.  and syllabus design.

Thanks for the leads.Shall get back.

Yes there is an element of Flattery here but when I worked with men earlier I felt it had to do with being MCPs!! .....and it used to worry me . Shall be more generous in future!



Submitted by Rania Jabr on Sun, 02/22/2009 - 11:53


Involve everyone. This is a win-win situation. If you don't, for many reasons some of which are valid, some people will be bitter and cause problems in the workplace and spoil the professional atmosphere you are trying to create. On the other hand, if some are not involved, the whole work environment will be impeded and held back by some who are not team players. The key is to see each person's strength and make use of it in its needed area. I think of the whole workplace as a mosaic, each bit adds to the big picture and each bit needs to fit in its right place. Rania

Submitted by Neli Kukhaleishvili on Sat, 02/28/2009 - 19:27


Hi , Jenny!

Thanks a lot for management tips . It was great and I used your tips in my workshop on management.Here are some tips from me:

1. Diplomacy is an asset of good management . I would compare this process with using a screw-driver where you have to tighten or loosen the screws from time to time .
Remember : “ Diplomacy is to do and say The Nastiest thing in the nicest way “ Isaac Goldberg
2. Time and Warning
Time is crucial . Your staff should know the exact time of meetings which should be reflected in a schedule . Nevertheless, you should warn your staff before the meeting at least twice) if you want them to turn up.( I think it's cultural)

With best wishes, Neli ( Georgia  

Hi again Neli

thank you for your comments.

I am very happy to hear you used the tips in a management workshop. I would love to hear more about the workshop - who was it aimed at, why do they come, is it part of a course or a development programme?

I agree with both your points. Diplomacy is one of the essential skills for managers, it is so easy to put someone's nose out of joint with a few unthought-through words! Time and warning, yes, if they clearly know the day, time and place of the meeting and are reminded twice beforehand then there is no excuse really for not attending, is there!

thanks, Neli



Hi , Jenny!

Just  a bit of information about what I do. I am a member of ETAG ( English Teachers' Association of Georgia) and head of one of its branches - Batumi ( in one of the regions of Georgia)  I am a teacher trainer  and Director of Studies of The Centre of Teaching English (  extremely inexperienced   *I mean that of DOS and head )  These two positions   and  the conference on  teacher associations  in Cambridge  led me to the idea that teaching and management go  hand in hand .

Your article was  a great help and it headed me to the idea of holding a workshop at our branch. I felt it was a necessity both for the teachers of the centre and the association . I wanted     the teachers to see that  management is not only for commercial purposes or finances   that teacher development depends on management.

Our association has a number of training courses like, Modern English language Teaching,Developing Writing Skills and so on. But at the same time we conduct free workshops twice a month for teachers. We make up a schedule   of workshops  for one semester, our active members and teacher trainers  conduct workshops.

I wanted    to turn  the workshop  into kind of informal discussion using your tips as handouts, my experience and I asked my  friends to send  me some more tips which they did . I can't say this form of leading the workshop was successful as teachers  still don't expect management to be part of teaching   or part of themselves,  besides they are more used to somebody supervising , asking questions and leading all the time. But nevertheless , it was worth it .

With best wishes and great thanks , Neli



Hi Neli

thank you for explaining a little about what you do. I am happy that my tips for managers along with contributions from other colleagues went together to inspire a workshop. I agree that teacher development does depend a lot on effective management and I hope your teachers were able to make the connections.

Something I have found useful is asking teachers who they think are the members of a school who most represent the school to the students. They realise it is the teachers. We then discuss how that representation is part of 'marketing' the school. Marketing is part of management. This helps them realise their vital role in maintaining the 'quality' of the 'product' that the 'customers' are buying. All of these functions - with this terminology - are often put down to managers. This helps them see the interconnectedness of teachers/teaching and management/managers.

Good luck with the training and with the DoS job too!

thanks again Neli

all the best


Hi, Jenny !

Yes, I agree making them see  and realize that they are the front of the educational

institution they represent is important.  At the same time this interconnection leads them to the idea of teacher development : If I am the front of my school, I should think of how to develop professionally which will make my school more popular .

It's a difficult process  but it is possible  with a good team !

Thank you very much for your help , ideas and articles .They were extremely valuable .

With  best wishes, Neli

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