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Running an English School: Keeping Teachers and Staff Happy

When staff leave we always do exit interviews. I’m sure we never get a 100% accurate picture, as people may be reluctant to give their true feelings face-to-face, but we learn a lot.

 

I always begin interviews by telling people I want their honest opinion, whether I like it or not. What they say, of course, is up to them.

 

One teacher went back to the UK at the end of December 2018. He was happy in his work, but we couldn’t compete for his affections with his Italian girlfriend. He said they wished to marry, and of course we wished them well.

 

The exit interview went very well. When I told him about the survey below and asked how well we applied the theory, he gave us a resounding 10 out of 10. This was music to my ears.

 

There was a famous survey of professional musicians in the 1990s by Richard Hackman, a psychology professor at Harvard. Those with the lowest job satisfaction rate were classical orchestral musicians. (In fact, their job satisfaction was lower than that of prison guards, though not as low as that of professional hockey players, the lowest of all.) Those with the highest job satisfaction were players in string quartets.

 

Both set of musicians are highly trained professionals at the top of their game. These are not easy positions to have. Those in an orchestra are micromanaged by the conductor. He will stop practice, point at the bassoon player and tell him he’s flat, out of time, not doing something right. All his colleagues get to witness this.

 

The string quartet, on the other hand, are given the music and left to get on with it. They are a self-organised working group.

 

Over the years I’ve learned this is the best way to keep teachers happy. We have a rigorous recruiting and training program. We have fixed curricula and, for some of the courses, week-by-week lesson plans with targets and activities. We train all our teachers, show them the learning objectives, and then we leave them to it. It’s up to the teachers to interpret the lesson plans, in the same way the quarter do the manuscripts.

 

Far from being a micromanager, I seek to be as hands-off as possible. Of course, this means finding the right people, and having great systems.

 

The advice works both ways, for both owners and teachers. Owners shouldn’t be control freaks or micro-managers. If you insist on experienced, qualified teachers, let them get on with it.

 

If you’re a teacher looking for a job, ask about the level of independence you will have.

 

Our longest-serving franchisee has been with us for over 16 years; our longest-serving currently employed teacher has been with us for seven years, the longest ever for eight.

 

There is a lot of advice on this site, and we’ve also had luck recruiting from there: https://jobsinjapan.com/

 

Next time: Money can’t buy me love.

 

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