Saturday, 19 January 2013


DIRECTOR OF STUDIES. A sweet little number.

Oh yeah, I heard you’ve been promoted to Director of Studies. Congratulations. Now you’ll no longer have to drag your protesting body into a succession of classes and switch on your lively, energetic, A-plus personality for two hours at an end, on time, on cue, on demand. Now all you have to do is sit in your DoS’s office, sharpen pencils, doodle, and have the occasional word with a teacher. Easy street at last!

 Well, sorry to disappoint, but I think that pretty soon you’ll find the position carries with it quite a number of problems you hadn’t thought about before. To illustrate, let’s take a little peek into A Day in the Life.

Problem number one. Not one of the classroom air conditioners is working today. The school handyman informs you it’s because a circuit breaker has melted, and finding a replacement will take a week at the soonest.

Problem number two. The parent of little Jimmy in Kids’ Class TK46 says that last Tuesday his teacher slapped her kid so hard on the bum that the teacher’s handprint was visible for two days.

Problem number three. Someone has stolen the CD player from Room Four. It’s the second CD player to go missing in two months.

Problem number four. Class P32 informs you that they want a change of teacher, because their current teacher doesn’t know his grammar.

Problem number five. The teacher of Class P32 informs you that he’s particularly pleased at how well the class is coping with their grammar lessons.

Problem number six. The new teacher you hired last week seems to have an alcohol problem. In spite of the breath-mints he continually chews, there’s an unmistakable odor of beer fumes from meters away. (And, to top that off, his personal hygiene is suspect too.)

Problem number seven. Every teacher, including the drinker, has refused to ever set foot in Teenage class DG14 again. They claim the students are undisciplined, unruly, and unteachable.

Problem number eight. You’ve just been handed a petition by the teachers in which they refuse to do any more back-to-back classes at the weekends. They’re demanding a 15-minute break between classes. A move which would throw the school’s scheduling into complete disarray.

Now, dealing with this little lot of headaches seriously detracts from the pencil-sharpening time you’d scheduled for this week. It is around this stage that you start wishing you’d stuck with teaching, and turned down the promotion. But it’s too late to back out now; you’re committed. So, Mr/Ms new DoS, here’s a few pointers to help you handle the job.

 Make sure teachers know what’s expected of them. Their contracts give the broad outlines, but they need to be put in the picture in far more detail. The ideal way is with a teachers’ handbook. If your school doesn’t have one, make writing one your first task on the job. (Uh oh, there goes your doodling time.) You needn’t write the whole shebang in one sitting. Just write about the topics that are the most urgent. Report writing probably, and children’s class discipline, and perhaps timekeeping and absenteeism. Thus you can issue the teachers with a handbook in a loose-leaf binder, with more pages to be added at a later date.

Another tip. Make time to listen to teacher complaints. An individual complaint is far easier to deal with before it grows into a staff-wide mutiny. Ditto for student complaints.

Tip number three. Keep teachers and staff informed about any procedural changes that affect them. Do it on the staffroom notice board.

Tip four. If the teacher is doing a good job, tell him or her so. Teachers who feel their contribution is valued work harder, more willingly, and more enthusiastically.

Tip five. Forget the pencil sharpening and doodling. You aren’t going to have the time. Sorry.

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