Shay Coyne completed our Leadership in ELT course in December 2016 and as part of this course participants are given to opportunity to write a blog post. In this post Shay gives her top reasons for studying leadership before moving into management.
When I started working in ELT 17 years ago, it was my passion for teaching that kept me going. As time passed, I took on other roles: Co-ordinator, ADOS, YL DOS, Teacher Trainer. Upon completion of Oxford House’s Leadership in ELT course, I now realise I was missing vital tools and knowledge needed to make the transition from teacher to manager. Working with other people and teams is not easy, teaching skills are not the same as leadership skills, and acquiring good leadership skills takes time. I know this because I have been there, encountering many difficulties, especially as a manager. If I could go back in time and do this course before accepting a management position, I feel that myself, my teams, and our students would have greatly benefited from me doing this course for 3 simple reasons.
1. You gain a better insight of who you are
Most of us have a superficial knowledge of our personality traits. To be an effective leader, you need to go beyond the superficial. The first module presented participants with material that would go beyond typical traits such as introvert and extrovert. The Jungian Typology test gave in-depth descriptions of personality traits resulting in 16 different 4-letter combinations, which we then had to reflect on and provide concrete examples of these personality traits. Real insight came with the “What Colour Are You?” activity, which not only looked at personality, but combined it with leadership so that we started to make connections between theory and prac, gaining insight into how our personalities influence our leadership style. Finally, the first module ended with us reflecting on management versus leadership, providing strong evidence that leadership is the preferred style in the 21st Century.
2. You may be a good communicator but that doesn’t mean you communicate effectively
As teachers, we are trained to give instructions and to set up tasks in class. It is logical, therefore, to think that teachers are naturally good communicators. While this may be true, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can communicate effectively. The most important point I got from the second module was that effective communication really stems from active listening. Specifically, it is empathic listening that helps us build trust and open our ears to the content of the message, and it is this combination of attending to the emotional as well as the verbal communication that allows us to better plan and interact with our interlocutor. Further considerations to effective communication are where and how these exchanges take place. Grabbing a teacher as they are rushing off to another class will ensure ineffective communication, not because of what was said, but because the place of the exchange was inappropriate. This final point leads us to the practical part of the second module: effective communication needs to be planned, rehearsed and well-thought out. By role playing different scenarios, you get practice in dealing with problems and difficult situations which an ELT manager will encounter at some point in their career. Learning to take the time to step back and plan objectively is a skill that requires a lot of practice. This course gives participants the opportunity to practise these skills in a low stakes environment before putting this all into practice when dealing with their teams.
3. It is really hard to put yourself out there and get feedback
Another point that was addressed in the second module was asking for feedback. I must admit I was initially terrified when I had to complete a task which required me to ask for feedback, probably because it is generally associated with the terms good or bad. Of course, no one likes receiving bad feedback. However, I recently experienced the two types of feedback and I must say that the “bad” feedback pushed me further along in terms of improving my teaching standard. My “good” feedback was a formal observation and the only comment I got was “It was great.” This gave me an immediate boost in confidence, but there was nothing concrete that I could focus my attention on.
The “bad” feedback came about by doing the task for this course. I asked my teenaged students for feedback, using the prompts from the material so that the wording and information generated from the questions would give me something to work with. As I mentioned, I was terrified about doing this task, especially as I had chosen what I considered to be a weakness in my teaching: that of teaching teens. Admittedly, my first reaction was defensive, but the course helped me to control that reaction and to work with the evidence. Exploring my personality in detail in the first module, put me in a better place to be able to deal with receiving “bad” feedback. The lesson I learnt was that negative criticism is the most constructive feedback I could have received. It triggered an alarm in me to reflect on why the students were saying what they were, and then it allowed me to adopt a collaborative approach with them to negotiate a syllabus that they felt would better suit them for term 2. If I hadn’t put myself out there, I would have created a syllabus based on what I think they needed and liked- but this is hardly putting students at the centre of their learning. With the feedback I received, I now know what student-centred learning looks like.
The main reason I signed up for this course was to build my leadership skills. What I found out was that it did much more than that. I come away from this course with a better understanding of who I am as a person, techniques to help me communicate in a variety of situations, as well as improving the overall quality of my teaching and how I approach my lessons. My only regret was not having done this course before I took my first management position.
If you have an interest in moving into management, learn more about our Leadership in ELT course and how it can help you achieve your goals or contact us below.