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Teacher to Manager

Updated: Jan 10, 2023

Teacher competencies that carry over into a management role, and what is still needed. (Steve Heap)

In the book From Teacher to Manager by White et al (2008, CUP), the authors refer to the 'Knowledge, Attitudes, Skills and Awareness (KASA) framework (Freeman, 1989) to help us recognise and understand those management competencies a teacher transitioning to management already has, as well as those that need to be developed.

The first is Knowledge, 'knowing about'. The teacher, unless they are very new to the school, will likely know about the school's academic and organisational structure, the institution's culture, and perhaps its history and its values and programs that make it stand out from other schools. The teacher will also of course know about the students: their places of origin, their educational backgrounds and goals, and the teaching and learning resources available to them - at least for their own courses and classes.

But there will be areas of more limited knowledge, perhaps no knowledge at all: financial information related to the school, the marketing processes that bring the students in, the administrative aspects of school management and its relation to, perhaps, a parent institution or the wider community.

The teacher going into management will have to look at the school from a quite different perspective, a much wider perspective, and needs to develop a knowledge of management theories (and a new language to articulate the varied aspects of school management) in order to fully understand and successfully adapt to their new role.

The second is Attitudes, or 'knowing why'. A perceptive teacher will quickly become aware of the motivations of their students: their reason(s) for attending the EL course, how each individual learns best, and the activities that keep their attention. However, the values, attitudes and motivations of staff may not be so readily discerned, as will some of the back story of the organisation, a story which will have had ramifications for how the organisation functions today. As White et al ask: "What makes us tick, organisationally and from a human resource perspective?" (p22).

To answer that question, it is not enough to rely on abilities gained from teaching experience. However, familiarisation with concepts in organisational behaviour and the practicalities of human resource management gained through study, reading, discussion with colleagues and observation of co-workers including senior managers will go a long way to understanding what it is that makes the organisation and its people tick.

Devoting time to professional conversations with individual staff is a necessary activity in order to really discover what motivates them, what discourages them, and what the new manager can do to help them develop professionally. In one organisation (not an educational one, but still very relevant), staff were asked to complete the following four statements: 1. "You get the best of me when...."; 2. "You get the worst of me when..."; 3."You can count on me to..."; 4. "This is what I need from you...". From such an exercise the manager gains insights into a staff member's motivation, their attitudes to their job/role and to their manager(s), and how the staff member's skills could be better utilised and their job performance enhanced. Without such an exercise or conversation it is likely that our perception of an individual staff member's attitudes will not be entirely accurate.

Third is the area of Skills, or 'knowing how'. The teacher moving into an academic management position will have a number of years behind them of developing classroom related skills - at least we would hope so! A skill such as the ability to manage one's time both in the classroom itself, and outside the classroom in lesson preparation and marking and in administrative work is a necessary prerequisite for a manager to demonstrate efficiency in an environment that may be frenetic at times and require the juggling of varied demands on their time.

The "general management cycle" (outlined by White et al on page 11) too shares some similarities with a teacher's work: setting learning objectives, establishing expectations of student performance, measuring that performance, providing feedback and making changes as required.

The skill of communicating effectively, including the important sub-skill of active listening, is crucial, particularly in the cross-cultural environments in which LTO staff operate. However, in my experience, being a a good communicator in the classroom, well versed in the specific areas of grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, discourse, etc, does not necessarily lead to being a good communicator with colleagues or with management!

White et al mention financial management and marketing as being two areas of management that are usually beyond the skill set of the teacher moving into management. Thankfully, for the new academic manager, most schools will have dedicated staff responsible for those areas. Nevertheless, the new academic manager needs to be able to understand budgets and financial statements, and the elements of marketing research and so on in order to have input into decisions that are made that affect the day to day work of the teachers.

In this area of skills development colleagues from different schools sharing experiences together may be the best way to develop those skills. The IDLTM course provides such an opportunity!

Finally, Awareness, or 'knowing oneself'. The notion of 'reflective practice' in education has been around since the 1970s, and for the teacher this may involve observing and being observed (preferably by a more experienced colleague), receiving and acting upon student feedback, keeping a teaching journal, etc. It involves the teacher thinking about what they do/have done, why they do/did it, and whether it was effective - viewing their experience objectively and making changes to their pedagogy as necessary.

A similar practice can be applied (no, should be applied) in a management role, the new manager starting their reflective practice by asking what personal values, skills, and attitudes they bring to the role. However, the academic manager probably has greater constraints of time, pressure of multiple deadlines, and multiple people from different departments (not to mention possibly ALL the students) in the organisation to contend with. And as the manager/leader takes on their new role they need to be aware of and prepared for the change in relationship with the teachers, the administration staff and with students. The academic manager needs to be prepared to see teachers especially in a new light, and prepared for occasional confrontations with people previously seen as workplace friends!

So, all four areas are necessary for the new academic manager to take account of when moving into this area of different and wider responsibility.

Images from Shantou University, China

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Thank you Steve for this insight. I’m exploring the idea of taking this course and your post was very helpful- and has whet my appetite! Renee

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