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Building Culture

April 1-2 Training Days

April 1-2 Training Days


On April 1 and 2 we at MY English School had the first of our seven yearly days of teacher and staff training.  For those seven days we close all of our schools and devote the full day to improving our school and ourselves as professionals.  Consistent and continuous improvement is a part of our school culture.


A lot is being said and written recently in the business world about corporate culture and how important it is to the success of a business.  Running a language school is an interesting hybrid in that it is both a business and educational endeavor, but luckily establishing a strong culture is beneficial for both.


One book I have read recently is Tribal Leadership by David Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright.  It highlights five different levels of culture within an organization, stating that most remain at level three while the most successful organizations move between levels four and five.  For a better explanation please read the book, but organizations with cultures operating at levels four and five have members that focus on the organization as a whole and its competition with a rival or idea, rather than themselves as individuals within the organization competing with others in the same group.  It doesn’t mean they lose themselves as individuals in any way, but instead focus on how the organization itself is unique and special.


I once spoke with a school owner who told me that all English conversation schools are essentially the same.  I couldn’t disagree more, but in order to stand out the school must have a culture that fosters a belief that their school is different—that there are aspects about it that make it better.


Some ways we have worked to make MY English School different are…


  • Hiring –
    We try to make the hiring process difficult to weed out those who don’t match our culture as well as create a feeling among those who did make it through that they are part of a special group.
  • Professionalism –
    We try to treat teachers and staff as professionals. That means focusing less on rules and more on expectations and descriptions of what success looks like.  If teachers and staff focus on what success is rather than on specific rules to follow, they become less legalistic and more focused on results—results they often find ways to achieve themselves.
  • Professional Development –
    As mentioned above, we close all of our schools seven times a year for full-day teacher and staff training. Each teacher is additionally a member of a mentorship group that helps offer support for classroom teaching and other areas.  We also encourage and often pay for other professional development opportunities.
  • Growth and Responsibility Opportunities –
    We have different teams that give teachers opportunities to grow and affect the school outside of simply teaching in the classroom. Currently we have a Leadership Team, Professional Development Team, and Curriculum Team with other teams likely possible in the future.


There are not many other English conversation schools, especially the larger ones, doing something similar.  It does make a difference and I believe carries over to the quality of the lessons themselves and the reputation of our schools in their respective communities.

Ryan Hagglund
Ryan Hagglund

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6 Responses to Building Culture

  1. Awesome. You’re school will definitely continue to grow with this kind of setup. Thanks for the book recommendation, too! Would really love to hear any other books you find really influential.

  2. “Professional development” is the main key to success no matter the size of your school and I really respect the fact that you are willing to invest in your teachers. That being said, most teachers are willing to invest time and money in their own development and usually that is the only option open to them.

    • Ryan Hagglund

      I think most serious teachers are willing to invest time and money in their own development, but I think a relatively low percentage of teachers in the English conversation school industry are that serious. By setting development as a school-wide expectations, however, we’re more likely to attract and keep those teachers who are serious as well as get some of those who aren’t as serious to become more so. That’s one reason for me that school culture is so important.

  3. Timothy Andersen

    That’s awesome Ryan, this is my first time hearing about a school that implements a professional development plan. Just curious if you know of other schools that also do some form of professional development.

    I feel it’s absolutely necessary to have professional development. I agree that schools are part business, and it would be absurd to run a business without a developmental program.

    • Ryan Hagglund

      I know many small schools (three teachers or fewer) that spend lots of time on professional development, but not many bigger ones that do. One exception is Dean Morgan Academy, which has now changed its name to Rosetta Stone Language Center. I believe they close one day a month for training, though the contents of their seminars are not always related to language teaching. Speaking with their CEO, Dean Rogers, is where we got the idea of closing several days a year. We run on monthly payments rather than a ticket system, however, which makes closing once every month more difficult.

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