Good management is essential if your language school is to be successful in the long-term
“I need more hours”. “I need a better rate”. “I don’t want to teach groups any more”. “I don’t want to use these materials, I have my own stuff. “I’m ill and can’t come to teach today. Or tomorrow. And I quit.” “I’ll be here for a season and then I’m off travelling.” “I just need this job before I find something better”.
If you run a language school, I can imagine that you’ve seen some of these things being said by your teachers. It can be exasperating.
Yet teachers provide the core service of a language school. An unhappy teacher is a danger to the quality of this service. He or she cannot only affect the satisfaction rates of students, but their unhappiness can infiltrate into the moral of other staff too. High teacher turnover is an ever-present problem. Teachers can come and go very quickly, and sometimes this is more due to bad management more than anything else.
So how do you manage language teachers properly? What methods can you use to keep turnover down? Here are some ideas on how to improve teacher turnover through better management.
1. Manage through personality
Teachers are all people and as such have different personalities. You cannot manage them all the same way. Some need for you to hear their opinions, some need more reassurance, some need challenges, some need a smile and a joke. The better you understand them, the more they’ll respond to your needs. So manage in different styles according to who they are and don’t lump them all in one basket.
2. Set up some performance indicators
Satisfaction is obviously the main indicator that you can use to follow performance. There are others too. Have you thought about recommendation rates, hours lost (through cancellations by the teacher), exam/certification success rates? Depending on what you want your school to do, there are plenty of quantifiable ways of getting data that can help you and your teachers improve together.
3. Create incentives
If indicators are showing increased performance, and quality is rising, and more courses are being sold, then it makes sense that in a win-win scenario the teacher should also benefit, shouldn’t it? If margins are tight, then you can be creative with your incentives: through profit-sharing, bonus on objectives, fun day out, extra paid holiday, etc.
4. Learn how to motivate properly
Motivation is more important than money. This may seem paradoxical compared to the last tip, but studies have shown that that people don’t perform well due to money alone. So it is your duty as a manager to know how to motivate. One of the prerequisites for motivation is trust. Do your teachers trust you? Have you spent enough time with them for that to happen? If they trust you, they are more likely to listen to you and be more motivated to do what you ask. Furthermore, it is very important that you know both how to congratulate and reprimand properly. Done badly and the consequences can be quite severe.
5. Let them be creative (on your terms)
Any experienced language teacher usually has a toolbox of skills, techniques and material to teach his way. This can be counterproductive and difficult to manage if the method in your school is it’s main selling point. Teachers are asked to perform, they’re artists. This mean they are creative, and have to be allowed to be so. So why not spend 1 day a year running a session on creativity? Get a consultant in and find out ways to improve your school together. It’s a lot of fun, it’s energising and will show you to be a school manager who makes a real effort to hear their views without compromising on your needs.
6. Train, train and train them some more
Teachers love to learn. They understand training and the principles of learning effectively, and so they have huge passion for learning themselves. There are so many benefits to personal development and technical training that it is surprising how rare it is to find teachers that are cared for in this way. Subjects such as interpersonal communication, learning and teaching techniques, use of materials (off and online) are all good ideas.
7. Give them specific projects to work on
If there is regular downtime during a slow season then this is the perfect opportunity to give your teachers some projects that might turn out to be of huge profit to your school. For example, you could ask them to test different online platforms, work on a student welcome package, or research for better materials. Giving them responsibility doesn’t mean you have to pay them more money but it does show your faith in their abilities.
8. Take a management and communication course
The tips given so far are often related to best practices in management and communication. If you have not yet taken a course I strongly recommend you do so. You can take one at any age and at any level of experience. Studies linking neuroscience, motivation, intelligence, use of emotions and more mean that the courses are becoming better and better. Management and leadership now make up 35% of the United States professional training market – a proof of how important it has become!
9. Be available
I’ve worked in several language schools. In virtually every one the director tried to hide himself in his office and only dealt with teachers reluctantly when he really had to. Some decisions, especially when it came to salaries, were just not for the director of studies to make, and it is amazing how hard feelings and rancour can develop when people think that the director is not available. I don’t mean literally take the door of it’s hinges and announce proudly that “my door is always open” but it is also very important to be sincere and pay attention when you do give them time.
10. Sit in on their classes
Like I said earlier, teachers are your core service. You should be paying attention to what they are doing. How can you actually manage them if you have no idea what they’re doing? Yes, you can get feedback from other staff, but think of the benefits of sitting in on a couple of classes a year and see how they get on. The teachers will feel like you’re really interested and hopefully more well-meaning towards you when it comes to talking about tricky subjects. Obviously you can’t scowl the whole time when you see things you don’t like. Use it as an opportunity to give genuine, useful feedback and really find out what’s happening.
And to conclude. Please share!
Well, I hope that you have enjoyed this article. Even if you don’t manage teachers, or if you are a teacher yourself, I hope that you can see the benefits in understanding how much a good manager can make a difference.
I’d love to hear some comments. Perhaps you think that some of these ideas aren’t practical. Perhaps you have others that you’d like to share. It would be good to get your feedback. It would be great for you to share this article to with your networks by clicking on one of the buttons below. Thank you!