Have you ever had guests outstay their welcome or realised that you’ve outstayed your welcome? It doesn’t feel good either way. And the longer the situation goes on, the more resentful and uncomfortable everybody feels.
EFL teachers can similarly outstay their welcome in the schools where they work. The result is a less than rewarding experience for both the teacher and the language school. Common symptoms of this phenomenon are managers complaining about inflexible and unenthusiastic teachers and teachers grumbling about unappreciative and disinterested managers.
So, if this is neither beneficial for the teacher nor the language school, why does this situation arise so frequently? And what can managers and schools do prevent this from happening?
The 3 Rs theory is a practice which, in my experience, is rarely implemented seriously, but if it is, can help to encourage teachers to move on when the time is right to the benefit of both teacher and language school.
This is something that all language schools do but with varying degrees of success. Good recruiting is an art which, if performed successfully, means that a school will have a team of like-minded teachers who fit into the culture of the school. These teachers will normally be more receptive to different initiatives and direction than a teacher who does not identify with the school culture so it is well worth spending time perfecting recruitment procedures.
Good recruitment practices require careful thought being given to the sort of person who will fit into the school culture, thinking beyond qualifications and experience. With this in mind, corresponding job descriptions and person specifications need to be drawn up which clearly communicate the job being offered and the type of person required. This coupled with effective interview procedures will help to select the applicant who will best integrate into the school.
Once the person has been selected and has accepted the job, managers should not underestimate the importance of a comprehensive induction programme which will help the teacher to settle into the language school quickly. The more thorough the induction programme, the sooner the teacher will become an effective part of the language school team.
When the teacher has settled into the school and knows their way around, how can we as managers, ensure that the teacher’s levels of enthusiasm remain high and benefit the school? It is important that teachers identify with the schools short and mid-term objectives and feel that they can make an important contribution to them. One way of doing this is to define and agree on a personal job plan for the teacher’s development which brings together both the teacher’s personal professional objectives and the school’s short or mid-term aims. By encouraging and supporting the teacher to work on their development in a certain direction and by finding ways of integrating what the teacher learns into school practice via workshops, training sessions etc, both the teacher and the school gain and should view these job plans positively.
Unfortunately, in my experience, it seems that relatively few language schools put into practice serious job development plans. Teacher training often takes the shape of a few token workshops which are on topics which are neither requested by the teachers or part of a larger development plan being followed by the school. If, however, teacher involvement in training programmes is encouraged, recognised and rewarded, and follows a coherent and previously agreed path which benefits both parties, the outcome should be positive for all.
There will come a time though when a teacher outgrows the establishment he or she works for and it is better for both the teacher and the school for the teacher to move on. This can happen sooner or later depending on the integration of the teacher in the school and the opportunities the school can offer the teacher. If a school realises the importance and benefits of helping teachers to leave and integrates a redeployment policy into school practice, fewer teachers will outstay their welcome. What’s more, if the school has carried out a successful retention policy, the investment in this teacher’s development will have been repaid manifold. A happy teacher leaving and being replaced by new, enthusiastic blood should be celebrated as a success.
However, to have the desired effect, incorporating a redeployment policy into a school needs to be more than just sending around a list of available jobs from an international network from time to time. A redeployment policy will encourage teachers to reflect on what they want to do next, the direction they want to move in and how they are going to do this. By providing support for teachers to achieve their objectives, there should be little surprise or upset when a teacher does actually leave. A happy teacher who leaves will be much more cooperative in handing over, and will make their leaving as smooth as possible.
Of course, it is never as easy as this but managers might find it useful to reflect from time to time on their current recruitment, retention and redeployment policies and how they could be improved.