Simple English ~ Nicola Prentis

Thoughts on ELT, English and whatever else comes into my head

Academic Manager Scenarios – Behind the scenes

I know I went and wrote a Serious and Professional management training post but some of the questions reminded me of the actual time the scenario happened and it’s too good a post to not write! Someone should make a fly on the wall documentary at summer school. All the below happened at a good one too. If I started telling what happened when I worked at a crap one …

Managing staff – general

  • One of the teacher’s you’ve chosen to let go doesn’t take it very well and demands to know why.

OMG. It was my first year as Centre Director and I didn’t know enough not to get sucked into this conversation in the first place and on an on it went for 45 minutes, dispelling any guilt I felt over the aspects of the job they were great at. I was being too considerate of their feelings to say: Because your feet stink and I have told you many times not to come into my office without your shoes on. Because you couldn’t see that it wasn’t professional to fart in my office. Loudly and repeatedly despite being told not to. (To be fair, it was Activities staff.) Because your manager and I think you’re the weakest in a good bunch.

The next year when letting teachers go, I knew the only way not to get into conversational quicksand was to be honest. I told a negative and attitude-y teacher that she was negative and attitude-y and gave her the example of how she’d reacted when I told her she would do an airport run on her last morning then come back, pack her stuff and help other teachers plan their lessons for the afternoon. She was huffy about it even though I was giving her an easy day with no classes and paying her to pack! I told her I could arrange for her to be paid for a half day only if that’s what she wanted. Anyway, she cried so that wasn’t a fun time either but at least it was over in less than 45 minutes. Win.

  • A teacher has done a newspaper project with their class. The resulting work features negative things about the school and a “gossip” section with a feature about the teacher’s drinking problem.

The Academic Manager hadn’t thought there was anything wrong with this, nor backed me up when I found it. I had to remove the offending pages from students’ work and look like an evil witch when the teacher or the AM should never have let it get that far. Adults have to be responsible for children and that doesn’t mean being the cool teacher with no boundaries. The students had said things that were practically libellous about the host school (and completely untrue) and that parents would have been furious about even if they weren’t that conservative. The teacher argued that it was the students’ right to free speech. I told him no-one has the right to libel! And didn’t tell him out loud “Be a hippy/rebel in your own time.”

Another time a teacher let students make a “Tower of Shit” (in Spanish if I remember rightly) as a papier mache sculpture. Actually, wait a minute!! It was the same teacher a year later!

Managing staff – gross misconduct

  • Nothing could be proved but you’re sure one of the teachers is the owner of marijuana/alcohol found onsite. The Centre Director has let it go officially.

I knew they were lying the buggers but couldn’t prove anything and had to sit there like a mug while they lied to my face! And then they drank alcohol at the airport in front of their manager who also couldn’t prove anything as it was her word against theirs later on. I had to sit there and let them lie to my face like a mug again.

  • You and some of the teachers go out to the pub one night and one teacher gets really drunk and behaves offensively/aggressively towards you or someone else. It’s their day off the next day so they don’t return to school drunk. Do you need to do anything?

Honestly, the list of these I heard about over the years. How come summer school brings out the Big Brother contestant in people? People came on to their manager’s long term girlfriend while out with said manager; rolled down the hill on the school grounds when they got back; had a fight and the police were called and one of them was a law student so that was that scuppered; started their shift stinking of alcohol or weed; had sex in broad daylight in a nearby farmer’s field — sober — if that makes it worse or better? It’s a few weeks of your life – just be cool. Sex, drugs and alcohol are all still going to be there when you get out.

  • A teacher leaves in the middle of the night and you realise at breakfast.

This happened at one of the other centres in my first year. Then 4 years later I was chatting to this guy I met in Madrid through someone I was flat-sharing with and saying I worked at Bede’s and it came out that he was the one. How random is that?! So, the moral of the story is, your sins will follow you everywhere – especially if you’re an EFL teacher in Spain as, sooner or later, everyone crosses paths here.

  • The Activities Manager has told you on more than one occasion that the Art Room is not being left tidy enough after project lessons which means Activities staff have to clean up before they can use it in the afternoon.

Then when they did start tidying up, as well as not being able to manage it consistently or well, they poured PVA glue down the sink. ‘Cos that works.

Teacher support

  • A teacher does a terrible observation lesson. It’s not down to nerves, it’s down to having no variety of activities and the students looking visibly bored. How do you deal with it?

The first year this happened I was Centre Director and, as he insisted his AM was picking on him, I offered to sign off his lesson plans instead. I tried to get him to at least introduce games like backs to the boards or running dictation or something to liven up his lessons. He looked like a rabbit in headlights, shaking his head and saying “I’m not changing. Why should I change?” Because it’s summer and the kids are on holiday. Bore them to tears in your year round school if you must.

After two weeks he came and said he was finding the job stressful and a friend had offered him a job, presumably teaching in a morgue, and could he be let go at the end of the minimum contract (a week later). I told him I could arrange for him to go earlier and take the job up sooner and do him a favour if he wanted (and us but I didn’t say that as it was that first year when I was too weedy to tell people they were crap – in more PC terms obvs). So he left and went to the new job. Success all round I thought. Until he complained he had been constructively dismissed.

Project lessons

  • A teacher suggests a project lesson which involves making medieval style catapults out of bolsa wood. There would need to be some purchases made i.e. wood, jigsaws. He’s drawn up a lesson plan which seems like a realistic time frame as he’s prepared to do most of the sawing himself.

He went even further and spent most of the AM’s budget for the entire week on equipment without asking. Needless to say, the project was way too difficult for the students and he abandoned it partway through. He needed someone to save him from himself at the lesson plan sign off stage.

  • A teacher hates project lessons as they feel they are not the creative type and don’t know what to do in them. Ones they have tried have admittedly not gone that well.

It was the guy above.

Working in a team

  • You don’t get on well with your Centre Director but don’t find you see them very often in the day anyway.

This happened 2 out of 5 years to me. It was massively worse the second time as I had made the fatal error of getting someone the job that I was friends with in the Real World. The one where you don’t find out what a nightmare someone actually is. I’d thought I was ensuring there was no way to have a second bad DOS-relationship. But she turned the minute we arrived at the centre because I wanted staff to unpack and set up the centre before disappearing to their rooms and complaining about who got the best curtains. She refused to do anything to make her life easier or more organised despite suggestions on how to do that, never ate lunch with me because that was work and she wanted free time (fair enough but we had been friends) never even popped into say goodbye on her day off, and in her appraisal sat there slouched with her legs wide open as if she was a builder on a building site. And told me how she’d never had a problem working in teams so it must be my fault.




One comment on “Academic Manager Scenarios – Behind the scenes

  1. teachingbattleground
    June 30, 2015

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

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This entry was posted on June 25, 2015 by in Summer School and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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