Advice for Teachers New to People Management
Thrown into People Management in an Educational Environment
You probably didn't ask to get promoted and you likely haven't had any management training. You're probably still being asked to teach lessons as well as deal with this additional responsibility of looking after a team or running a department.
Firstly, don't panic. You were selected for a reason - you are more competent than others around you. However, that leads to your first problem which is dealing with people who might be less competent or less enthusiastic than yourself. Welcome to people management!
Plan with Clear Reason
Plan Carefully Who Will Teach What and Their Extra Duties
Get your plan in place. Who will teach what subjects or what levels? Don't try to put square pegs in round holes. If a teacher's personality suits younger kids, keep them there. Likewise, have in mind what their strengths and weaknesses are so that you don't push them too far out of their comfort zone. Stretching them a little into something new or different that matches their character or abilities is fine, otherwise they might not be challenged and might rest on their laurels.
Teachers usually have extra duties, for example lunch breaks or clubs, so take these into consideration when you're planning how many lessons a teacher will teach. Be fair and spread the work around again being mindful of what each person is comfortable with doing.
Put all of your plans into an Excel spreadsheet or a Word document. Back this document up on the Cloud. You don't want to lose it because your superiors will want you to present your plan and it won't look good if you lost it.
Meet Your Team and Then Meet Them Individually
To get started, meet the whole team. It doesn't need to be a long meeting. Just let them know that you've been put in place as the manager or head of the department and tell them that you're happy and looking forward to working with everyone. Be confident and enthusiastic too as these people are now looking at you for direction and encouragement.
Tell them that you will be meeting them individually to go over the plan with them. They'll appreciate you involving them and it's a chance to calm their concerns about what you have in store for them. After you close this meeting, set up these meetings. You'll need about 30 minutes with each teacher in a quiet room; make sure there are no other people in the room or that can hear your conversation.
Obviously, you'll need your plan approved before you go ahead with meeting your teachers individually. Amend your plan if your bosses find valid cause for complaint, but don't be afraid to fight your corner if you feel strongly about something important.
If you considered the strengths and weaknesses of each individual, you will have a good reason for asking each teacher to perform their specified duties. This is important because you can't just say, "You're teaching science to grade six next year, okay?" You have to build into it by firstly outlining the qualities of the person in this specific area. For example, you might start by telling them you noticed they seemed to connect well with the upper primary students and that that they were very creative when it came to preparing practical science experiments. They'll feel appreciated and then, when you tell them what you've chosen for them, tell them they are the best person for this role, and they'll understand you have clear logic and a good reason for asking them to do this task. You're less likely to get bite-back this way, but you still need to be prepared for this. Listen to them if they have objections and explain that you understand and that you will help provide solutions to their problems.
Think about what objections your teachers might have to your plans before the meeting and try to think about how you will manage these objections. At these one-to-one meetings, you don't want to be too flexible. Remember, if you change one thing for one teacher it will have a ripple effect because you will have to adjust other teacher's schedules. Not only will the other teachers think you're unfair, but you'll be starting off with a reputation of being easy to manipulate, and everyone in your team will be wanting everything their way.
Recruitment of New Staff
Teacher recruitment is a minefield that should be negotiated carefully and with patience. If you have any doubts about a person, don't hire them.
Follow Your Instincts When Deciding on New Staff Members
You might of course need to hire new teachers for your team. If you don't follow your instincts when hiring new staff, it will always come back to bite you later. If you have doubts it is because there is a reason gnawing away at you. If you don't listen to this doubt and you go ahead and hire that person because you're in a rush or desperate, you'll be in for a rough ride as a manager. That person will cause you problems for sure and it's not always easy to change these people's ways or to get them out of your team.
So, where should you start when recruiting? I start by looking at the CV (resume) of the applicant. Firstly, how they've formatted the document will give you an idea if they can use simple computer software like Microsoft Word. Are their margins all over the place? Is it presented well or is it haphazard? You're looking to take a peek into the mind of the person. Do they order things logically? Is it clear and concise? Some CVs will scroll onto multiple pages and this tells you that the person doesn't know how to summarize or pick out and highlight key information. Avoid employing these kind of people as they won't be able to get knowledge across to students because their thoughts are not concise and they don't consider how other people will view what comes out of their mind. You can tell a lot from a CV, not just by reading it, but by looking at how it was put together.
Once you have shortlisted your candidates, arrange for interviewing them. Put the ones you are most interested in first and get them in quick or they'll find work elsewhere and you'll lose out on them. If you want, you are within your right to ask for a short teaching demonstration. Limit it to 20 minutes because it's not okay to take advantage of the interviewee and ask them to teach a whole period for you.
If they do a teaching demonstration for you, look for how they connect with the students (how do the students react to them?). Look for method in their delivery. Do they follow any kind of logical plan? Did the prepare well? Are they creative? Ask them how it went for them and what they thought of the students. If you think the connection was good and the teacher had good ideas and method, no need to ask the students what they thought. If the teacher is really casual and put across really easy material the kids will think it's great, no effort required, but this type of teaching won't help them in the long run and will potentially cause harm to your school.
It's best to interview the candidate before the teaching demonstration rather than to ask to many questions after.
What are you looking for at interview and what are you going to ask. Firstly, you're looking for appearance and manner. Does this person fit in with the ethos of your school? Are they professional? I terms of asking questions, I recommend you follow the guide below and pay attention to why it is that we ask a particular question:
Tips on Interview Questions for a Prospective Teacher
What you expect to find out from their answer
Tell me about yourself
You want to hear them talk positively about their strengths. This is their chance to sell themselves to you. If they are weak on this question it means they lack self confidence or are unmotivated - you can cross them off your list. Be careful if they talk for too long; teaching is a two way street and teachers need to know when to shut up.
What do you know about this school/college?
Did they bother to look at your website? Are they planners or people that just wing it? Do they care about working for your institution?
What are your weaknesses?
A person who says they have no weaknesses is arogant. It means they've stopped learning. You want to hear a person who is honest and is trying to improve areas of their weakness. These kind of people learn and try things and are the kind of people you need. Look out for people trying to fool you by turning strengths into weaknesses.
What is your greatest achievement in teaching?
A cliched question but asked for a good reason. You want to know if the candidate has pride and passion in what they're doing.
If I told you tomorrow you had the job, what are the first five things you would do?
You're looking for logical ordering.
What questions do you have for me?
Your checking to see if this person has an interest in working for your school. Do they care what levels they're going to teach? Do they want to know specific information about your school. If they have nothing to ask, they don't care and they're just fishing, spreading their net far and wide looking for the biggest fish.
Look at the Body Language During Interview
It's not just about how a person answers your questions. Look at their body movements too. Tapping of their feet or playing with their pen or hair might suggest they're less confident or more distracted than their words suggest.
Are their arms crossed? If so, they are either hiding something from you or have some kind of negative reaction they are not telling you about.
Look at their eyes. Which way do they look when they are considering the answer to your question? If they look to their right (your left) they may well be telling lies. Excessive hand gestures may also suggest lies or someone who is over acting.
If you want to see how they react under pressure and to test how truthful they are, ask them about any gaps you've uncovered in their CV. That will also give you an idea of their work ethic. For example, if there was a gap between leaving one job and starting another job, ask them how they spent that time. Were they active, be it learning, volunteering, or perhaps looking after a family member, or were they just lazy?
After the interview, take them for a walk around your school. Show them a classroom, the general facilities, technology and anything else that might 'sell' the school to them. Remember the interviewee needs to make a decision about working for your institution so they will want to know that it's equipped with resources that will allow them to do their job. Politely introduce them to one or two members of staff as you walk around to make them feel that they won't be alone if they chose to join your school.
When you show them out tell them that you will give them a decision by a given date (not too long in the future). State that you will give them either a yes or a no on that date. A candidate wants to know clearly if it's an acceptance or not so they can move forward rather than hang around not knowing the answer.
Contract of Employment for Teachers
It's important to have contracts in place so that your teachers, newly recruited or old timers, know clearly where they stand. Many discipline or performance issues can be put in perspective through having a strong contract to refer back to. This means you need two signed copies of the contract - your copy and the employee's copy.
There are many templates you can download online, but do edit the contract to fit your institutions regulations and expectations and the general employment laws of your country.
Some of the key points that need to be included in a contract for a teaching position are:
- maximum number of periods per week
- work hours (including sign in / sign out) and break entitlement
- obtaining permission to leave school premises
- planning procedures, including curriculum development and lesson planning
- grading and putting scores into databases
- requirement to work a set number of days at weekends or evenings (think special events such as plays or field trips)
- staff-room etiquette (including proper use of computers and printers)
- attendance at staff meetings
- financial remuneration (plus any benefits or bonuses)
- teaching license requirements
- holiday entitlement
There should also be some general provisions about following the educational laws of whatever country you're in, which of course covers the outlawing of corporal punishment, and promotion of the general interests of the school, which includes keeping data securely and not revealing it to the outside world.
Include a code of ethics section to state that everyone must respect each other and that their duties should be performed adequately and in a timely manner, including arriving to school and classes on time. As alluded to earlier, these kinds of clauses will help you should you have behavioral disputes later down the line.
Sick days and personal days should have separate sections. Employment laws vary from country to country so check first to ensure the limits you set are ethical. These are important sections because if a teacher has an unwarranted habit of absenteeism, it's harmful both to the children and to the moral of your team. Set that if a teacher is absent for two or more consecutive days, they must provide a medical certificate. Also keep a record of absences in a spreadsheet throughout the year so you can check who is absent and on what days. You might be surprised to see patterns which is a sure sign someone is abusing the system.
Notice period and cancellation terms are there to protect both parties. Again, check you are within the statutes of the employment laws of your country.
Create Permission Slips and Work Order Templates
In Word make simple slips that can be used by teachers when requesting permission to go out for personal reasons. File them when teachers fill them out.
Create other documents in advance such as warning letters and cover class work order slips. When you come to need actually need them, you won't have much time to make them.
Create a Detailed Work Schedule
A delivery schedule (or work schedule) is a glorified list of things to do over the course of the school year. It details all the work throughout the year that needs to be accomplished, by whom and by when, and the status of each piece of work.
Detail all of Your Work and That of Your Teachers in an Excel File
It's easy to do by typing simple headings like these on the top row of an Excel sheet. You can see a very basic example below. Expand it to meet your needs. Think of as many of the key tasks for each teacher (and yourself) and get these in place on the spreadsheet. You can always add and delete tasks as the year goes on.
Excel is a good choice for this task because you can filter on any of the headings. For example, you could filter by subject and just look at the status of work of your math teachers and know who was responsible.
Check the Quality of the Work of Your Teachers Often
Firstly, set your own high standards. You're leading the way, so if you expect teachers to produce curricula with fine detail, make sure yours are as you would want others to be and use them as examples or templates for your team members to use.
Check all your teacher's work. Do not assume they will do what you want nor will they necessarily do it in the way that you expect. People think differently and have different approaches. For generic tasks that all members will undertake (e.g lesson plans) provide a template and show them how you want them to do it before asking them to get on with it. Give them a little margin though as they may think of good things that you hadn't, but don't give them excessive space or the results will be too wide-ranging and even surprising leading your hair to go grey very quickly.
With respect to documents, which can include such items as curricula, lesson plans, exams and grading sheets, check carefully for mistakes and oddities after they submit. Go through the revisions with them personally as it could be you've misunderstood some things on account of you thinking differently.
Any templates you use should be consistent with your institutions brand. This includes having a consistent font and using up to date logos. Some documents, for example curricula, may be distributed to parents or put online and you want to keep a consistent message presented to the outside world.
Observe all Your Teachers' Classes at Least Once Every Term
You are responsible for teaching standards. Check your teams' teaching regularly and help teachers improve their techniques. Follow up on poor performers.
What to Look Out for in a Teacher Observation
- Arrive early, at least a few minutes before the teacher is due to arrive in class.
- Sit at the back and keep interaction with the students and teacher to an absolute minimum.
- Does your teacher arrive on time and did they bring all the equipment needed with them?
- Do they set up quickly and get the class settled into the lesson fast?
- Did they have a lead in (warm-up) and are the students clear about what the lesson will be about?
- Do they look like they have a plan? If a teacher starts fumbling through the course book looking for any old page to teach then you know they haven't planned anything and the lesson will be painful (both for you and the students to endure).
- What does their body language tell you? Are they motivated? Are their hands in their pockets and are they leaning against the whiteboard? Do they sigh or yawn? Do the students look comfortable?
- Is there any method or logic to their teaching? Are they breaking down the learning into manageable chunks?
- Are the students active and inquisitive or are they stuck on their seats copying from the board? Is group work encouraged?
- Do they use visuals or other teaching technology? Are they up to date with the world as it exists today?
- Is there a production phase to the lesson where the students are using the knowledge for themselves in relation to their world?
- Is the timing of the lesson's activities realistic?
- How do they deal with interruption or behavioral problems?
- Do they tactfully accept less than correct answers? If you here teachers saying "No" often you might see students reluctant to answer questions.
You can download many teacher observation forms from the internet. Edit one to your liking and use it for each lesson you observe. Go through the observation afterward with the teacher. Ask them how they felt it went and give balanced feedback (otherwise your teacher will feel like they are being attacked). What did they do well? What could be improved? For areas that you want improvement on, coach the teachers on how to make these improvements. You can't expect them to get there on their own. Give them examples of what they could try and go back and see them teach a week or two later to check for signs of improvement.
Tell your teachers in advance before you go and observe them. That is not to say you should tell them exactly what day or what period you will be coming. Just tell them that observations will start the following week. The reason for this is that you want to see how their teaching really is. If you say you're coming to watch them on Monday during period 4 they may plan the mother of all amazing lessons and then revert back to normality for the rest of the time (and you'd never know).
How to Rate Your Teachers and Your Own Teaching
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” (William Ward)
Part of Your Role is to Motivate Your Team of Teachers
It's no good showing your teachers what you want or what you expect if they don't have the tools to do the job. Classrooms, computers, and resources must be maintained and it's part of your job to chase down and badger those responsible when something isn't as it should be.
Pressures and workloads on teachers can be immense. Give your time and advice to them and show them how they can organize and do their tasks efficiently. Be careful not to be too hands-on by doing the tasks for them as they'll never learn how to solve their own problems, they'll feel like your micro-managing them, and you'll end up doing everyone's work for them. Be sensitive during busy periods too, such as exam grading time. Don't call a meeting or introduce new initiatives when you know your team is stretched.
Praise and thank your teachers for the good things they do, even if it was only something small. Without all the small things, the larger picture would never get completed.
Every month or so treat your teachers with something small, be it a cake or a coffee. Buy it from your own pocket rather than that of the school. It shows you personally care about them and you're sacrificing something to show them.
Provide training annually at a minimum. Seminars and training courses improve you and your teachers both for the benefit of the school but also for themselves as individuals. People feel good if they learn something new.
Listen to your teachers opinions. They may have good ideas that you hadn't though of.
Involve them in some processes. It will make them feel valued and it will help them learn new skills. One day one of your team may need to be your successor.
Have a Team Meeting Every Month
Tell your teachers well in advance the due dates of work and about any upcoming school activities. Nobody likes to be told you need something from them immediately.