Building a Strong Team at Your Language School

Sunday, August 30, 2020 Blog post author: Lauren Lauren
Building a Strong Team at Your Language School

How to build a positive school culture at your language school

Putting the Tea in Teaching

In a multilingual city like Montreal, there is no shortage of people looking for language teaching opportunities. You go through CV’s and interviews to find the best language teachers possible. Your school may have the best course structure, evaluation methods, and graduate success stories, but your reputation will always be dependent on the value of your team of teachers. How do you ensure you are getting the most out of your team of teachers?

This year, with so many schools making the shift to online teaching, there are additional challenges to keeping a sense of teamwork in your language institution.

In this article, we’ll take a look at a few ways to make sure your language school is creating a fun, safe, and motivational environment for your educational staff - online and off!

Can’t Buy Me Love

Of course, if you can afford to pay your teachers an exceptionally great teaching salary, it’s a good way into their good books. But as we all know, the many costs of running a school sometimes make it hard to pay your teachers like NHL stars. It is absolutely essential to provide fair and competitive salaries so that your staff is happy and secure in their financial situation and also to prevent them from being seduced away by other institutions. But the dollar isn’t all that drives an educator, so we won't spend too much time on this. 

A happy team is one where the members trust the coach. What I mean here, is right from the beginning, be clear and honest about the salary. Give your employees clear expectations for their payment - both in terms of schedule and amount.

I have been to job interviews where the school advertised one salary on the job posting and then when I arrived at the interview, they proposed a much lower hourly rate ($7 less an hour, to be exact). When I asked about the discrepancy between the advertised rate and this new one, the school manager told me the advertised rate was only for staff who had been with the school for “a while.” They dodged my questions when I asked if they offered raises at particular benchmarks and left me with the distinct impression that the advertised rate was nothing but a way of enticing people to come for an interview. Another school where I worked would systematically raise the cost of classes for students (for invented reasons), but the teachers’ wages remained fixed. In both cases, I felt I couldn’t trust these employers. I was careful to track my hours and double check all of my pay stubs because I knew that my wages and my financial security were of zero concern to them. 

Your teachers need to trust the administration to feel like a part of the team. When hiring new teachers, be up front with them about their salary or hourly wages. If you do annual or biennial wage reviews, tell them so they know what to expect. 

Let's Talk About Us

A good teaching staff is one that feels comfortable bringing questions, concerns, and best practices to the head office. You always want to be sure that you are in the loop of what is going on in your school. Show your teachers that you are listening and available.

Regular communication with your team is essential. You don't need to be spamming them with daily newsletters, but if your team is working remotely, consider a weekly email to replace your weekly meeting. Give them the highlights of new registrations, new courses that have started, and maybe share an interesting article about teaching or languages. The idea here is to create a common conversation between your staff. If they know about the school's growth and success, they feel like they are part of that success. If they know who is teaching what, they have lines of communication opened between one another. If they are reading the same thing, they are all part of a shared discussion. As the administrator or school manager, make it your job to set the standard for frequent communication with your staff so that they know you are part of the team as well, and not separate.

With a Little Help from My Friends

The reason I'm hanging onto this team metaphor is because a team is not just a relationship between coach (employer) and players (staff), it is also the relationships between teammates. Language schools are often smaller than elementary or high schools, and may not have the space or overlapping schedules for large faculty rooms. If your team is working remotely, then being in the same break room is even more difficult. Now more than ever, it is important to keep your teachers in contact with one another. Using chat applications like the one available through the Demiks school management software is a great way to keep a casual conversation going between your faculty. You can ask staff to take turns starting conversations each week so that everyone is sure to participate. You want your staff to know that they are not alone in their experiences as a teacher in your institution. You want them to be resources to one another. You want them to create a community that they don't want to leave.

Create Opportunities for Feedback

As I mentioned above, you want your teachers to feel like they can come to you with any comments or concerns, but you also want them to help make your school the very best. You never know what kind of insight they may have from the other side of table, and not everyone feels bold enough to step up with their ideas without a prompt. Why not give them the prompt? It can be as simple as inviting them into decision making ("Hey team! We're looking to add a new class to attract students in their teens! We're thinking a weekly English conversation class on Saturday afternoons. Any thoughts?") or every few courses asking them to do a debrief ('What's working in our IELTS prep course? What could we be doing differently?"). Your teachers have the most face time with the clients, so maybe they can help with ideas for school management and school programming if you give them a chance!

Again, teachers who feel like they are not just an employee of a school but a part of its structure and community, are teachers who are ready to thrive! Get the most out of your teaching staff by joining in the conversation, and letting their strengths multiply!

If some of these suggestions sounds like a lot more work for you, have you considered switching to an online school management CRM? Our free school management software can save you tons of time in administrative tasks, allowing you to foster a happy and healthy school culture and community!

Contact us or head over to our article to learn more about the free school management software we provide. At the end of the day, happy staff equals happy class! Constant turnover and regular hiring periods mean time lost for you and inconsistency for your students. Create the language learning and language loving community your school needs to thrive!

Blog post author: Lauren
Lauren
Lauren Clinton is an English language instructor, PR consultant, translator, and editor based in Montreal. She has lived, learned, and played music all around Canada and beyond.

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