“Pygmalion in the staff room: how the manager’s expectations affect the development of the staff’’ – Part B

(Reading time: 3 - 6 minutes)

In October’s column we attempted to examine an analogy: how the expectations a mentor (Pygmalion) has can affect the mentees (students’) performance. I called the Pygmalion Effect an analogy because what we examined was not how it works in class between teachers and learners, but in the staffroom between manager and teacher. October’s article concluded by posing more questions related with hiring which is done hastily and is not based on any solid data and the fact that more often than not school owners end up working with people they do not hold in esteem.

Staff Longevity 

Much like rebooking is precious because it guarantees the core clientele of our school, staff longevity is an equally precious form of rebooking, as it guarantees the quality standards of our school. Despite that, many school owners, misled by the plethora of the people available to teach for peanuts, feel that nobody is irreplaceable and make no secret of this attitude. Notice the working in the period before. I wrote ‘’people’’, not professionals. There are indeed plenty of people who hold a book and use an interactive whiteboard but we cannot expect any untrained individual to maintain the quality standards of our schools, be an effective educator, a skilled negotiator and a mentor who will inculcate in students the fire of language learning.

There are many reasons why the longevity of the teaching staff must be sought after. For one thing, the longer teachers remain on staff, the better they reflect the corporate identity of the school, if such a thing has been properly passed down to them. Secondly, in schools soundly run, teacher-training is not a luxury but a necessity. Therefore, it costs good money to let a well-trained member of staff go. Finally, teachers develop special bonds with learners and colleagues and these intrapersonal relationships end up defining the spirit of the school. In a school where staff changes almost every year and no care is taken to make sure that the new staff picks up from where the old staff left, there is client loss but most importantly there is lost ground and that is much harder to cover.

Staff longevity and expectations

One might wonder how we ended up discussing staff longevity by way of analysing manager expectations. The connection is a simple one: if staff members are hired hastily and seen as clones of one another, the manager does not feel the need to develop any expectations of the teachers hired. This has multiple consequences: firstly it puts forward the idea that the teachers are not important. What is regarded as important is management which makes sure the school is marketed (not always truthfully) and exam success rates are posted on every window of the school. This leads to yet another misunderstanding: the success of the school is due to the resources and the name of the school, and is thus seen as unrelated to the teachers’ skills and work, which in turn verifies the belief that teachers are replaceable pawns. The circle is a vicious and totally misleading.

When visiting schools I often feel that a growing number of school owners do not think highly of their staff. The question I usually ask is why they go on working with the people they do not respect. The answers are always related with how suddenly the (ungrateful) teachers leave and how the school has to hire somebody ASAP. What we seem to forget here is that hiring is not just about qualifications and skills but also about a special personality fit. Unless this is achieved, very little can be gained out of this professional cooperation, which seems more like cohabitation. Schools are systems, though, and within systems parts have to interact, not just coexist. Moreover, the vision one has for one’s business should not fail to take into consideration the people who work for this business. If the staff is regarded as lacking or limited it will react as such or be driven to leave. People do not maximize their potential when they are yelled at. As teachers we ought to know that very well. People produce their best work when others believe in them, support them and provide the necessary scaffolding. In such schools who stays on staff and who goes is not based on personality judgment, but on a review of their original educational work and its effect on the success of the school and progress of its learners. 

Conclusion 

Closing, I would like to suggest an easy test of management skills for those interested. When in class, notice your class management style. Do you scold students when they exhibit negative behaviour or do you provide praise for positive? What is the atmosphere in your class and how do you deal with headstrong students? Then, next time you hold a staff meeting, check how you draw and maintain your teachers’ attention, how you express your disappointment and how you praise them. Also, take notice of the amount of praise and negative comments that go around and their effect on the climate of the meeting. I am sure you will find many similarities. Great teachers are great managers and great managers are great teachers who know the pivotal importance of expectations. Therefore, if one fails to believe in one’s staff, one will not be able to inspire and coordinate that staff. When teaching, this person exhibits the same dismissive attitude and lack of expectations towards students as well. This is why school owners, apart from running their schools, should also hone their own teaching skills and perhaps have higher expectations of themselves as teachers.


Maria Sachpazian BA education / RSA dip/tefl (hons) is the Academic and Managing Director of Input on Education a company which provides academic, business support and consultancy to Foreign Language Schools. She is also an educational management specialist who has worked as a teacher trainer and materials’ developer. Maria works as an EFL teacher at the Straight Up Markoyannopoulou schools
www.input.edu.gr   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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