Moving From Teacher To Manager
So you see your manager sitting in the office all day and you think to yourself, “What is he/she doing all day? I could do that job and it’d sure beat the hard work of teaching, plus I’d get paid more.” Both as a teacher and a manager, I’ve seen this thought cross most of the staff’s minds. The reality is that leading a team and running a business is extremely hard work and can require a very different set of skills from what most teachers have experience doing. Many schools avoid promoting teachers from within for just this reason. Being a great teacher does not mean you’ll make a good leader and business manager. So if you do want to make that move, how do you do it? How do you prepare yourself for a role you don’t have much experience with? Well, let this article be your guide!
There’s Always More to Do
Let’s first take a look at what it takes to be a manager or Director of Studies (DoS). Most directors of studies are responsible for teacher recruitment, liaison between sales and academic staff, financial performance, teaching quality, marketing, customer relations, and record keeping to name a few of the most important. That’s quite the list already and each of these areas have hundreds of little tasks inside them! So the first step to becoming an effective DoS is to be able to wear a large number of hats. As a DoS, you will never get all your work done. Your to-do list is endless, so it becomes very important to prioritize and manage your time. This allows you to get the most important things done first and hit critical deadlines as needed.
There is also a ton of pressure on DoS’s. Here is an example of what many of my days have looked like as a DoS: Your teacher calls out sick literally 15 minutes before their class is about to start. You have a meeting scheduled with an upset student at the same time as the class. You have 3 reports due by the end of the day that you have not even started yet. Another teacher comes walking in to your office crying that their husband is cheating on them. On top of all that, you have a new class with 15 students starting Monday that you have as yet been unable to recruit a teacher for.
The above is a real day I’ve had and many are like this. Think about what you would do in that situation and how you would deal with similar situations on a regular basis. The life of a DoS is not an easy one and you have to become very good at managing stress and dealing with tough situations. Don’t be surprised if you put in 60-hour weeks once a month or more. Planning well will help you deal with a lot of the above. When you have a good plan done in advance, you are able to not only stay on top of your tasks, but also prepare for the many unscheduled issues that pop up.
Moving Relationships from Personal to Professional
Another issue that many newly minted managers have are friendships they’ve developed with their co-teachers. Remember that friend of yours that is always encouraging you to stay out late at the bar and who often calls into work the next day? The 15 angry students and the school owner who is upset this teacher didn’t show yet again is now your problem. You now need to move from his friend to the person writing him up and terminating him for absenteeism. This is a transition that many teachers really struggle with. What about that other teacher that really gets on your nerves and who you regularly complain about at lunch with your friend? Well, your opinion will definitely get back to them and don’t be surprised when they start calling in or underperforming on the job. Your responsibility as a true leader is to support your entire team, not just the ones you get along with.
How to Make the Move
So now you have an idea that it certainly is a lot of work, but you’d still like to make that move. To prepare for the move from teacher to manager, you want to be aware of all the above and seek out opportunities to practice and build those skills. That can be requesting extra work from your current DoS to help learn things like the systems and paperwork. Or it can be taking on larger responsibilities like arranging coverage for classes when teachers call out. These experiences will give you insights into what it truly takes. For teachers who I knew were interested in making a move up the ladder, I would promote them into a senior teacher position first and then start delegating more and more tasks to them. After reading the above, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that it was not uncommon for them to change their minds and decide to stay in a teaching role.
At the end of the day, the many tasks you are responsible for as a DoS can be learned by anyone. But prioritization, strategic planning, leadership, and communication skills are not so easily learned, especially as the many fires that crop up on a daily basis can consume your time and attention. School will often end for the day and you’ll realize you didn’t even touch a single task on your to-do list, including the ones you labeled as urgent.
I can tell you that, if you do stay committed to making the move, it is worth it. Ultimately, leadership is just another form of teaching. You goal is to develop your team in order to deliver the best possible learning outcomes for your students each and every day. The greatest part is that your impact moves from just students in your class to the entire school. It can be very rewarding. The increased challenge of the role will also truly help you grow as a person, which is something many teachers crave if they’ve been teaching the same thing for many, many years. The journey from teacher to manager is not an easy one, but it’s one that is worth the effort if you are committed to the goal of helping others.