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Teacher to Manager: Making the Move

Teacher to Manager: Making the Move

If you’re in the field of TEFL long enough, you inevitably begin to entertain the idea of becoming a Director of Studies. But, how do you do it? Many people will tell you that you need a DELTA or a Masters in TESOL, but so many teachers have those and still don’t end up in leadership roles. If you ask many a director, they’ll often say it just takes luck – being in the right place at the right time. Well, both an advanced certificate and luck certainly help, but there are definite steps that you can take to make that change happen for you.



Most Director of Studies positions posted online will have the requirement of either a DELTA or a masters in an education or language related field. At the same time, you’ll meet many directors that do not have one. My advice is that they certainly can’t hurt. A DELTA or masters will put you a far cut above the rest of the competition as so few people in the field bother to obtain one. I would also advise anyone considering the move to get the DELTA over the masters. The DELTA is much cheaper and takes 3 months to a year to complete depending on if you go full or part-time. Additionally, as a hiring manager myself, I would take someone with a DELTA over a masters any day. The DELTA course is very practical with lots of observed teaching practice. A masters is largely theoretical and I’ve always had better luck hiring teachers who have a DELTA versus those that have a masters. They far and away have a stronger ability in the classroom.


Positioning Yourself

Certification aside, putting yourself in position and seizing opportunities is the real key to transitioning from teacher to director. As I mentioned, there are a fair share of directors that don’t have an advanced certificate, so how did they get there? Well, the most common answer is that they were just at the school a long time and the position opened up. Honestly, this is one of the most common ways to get such a position. However, this isn’t just luck and being in the right place at the right time. It’s making smart choices about where you work. If you go to a school where the director has been there for 5 years, is in their mid-30s, and is married into the culture, it’s highly unlikely they’re going anywhere for a long time. You want to look for schools where director turnover is known to be high and the current director does not have deep ties to the country. Another good idea is to look for chain schools. A chain school will have multiple locations and, if you make yourself known and communicate to the higher ups that you are seeking to make a move up, it’s much more likely that a location will open up somewhere in the country. English First and Wall Street English are both good schools in this regard as they are a global chain, have numerous branches, and do encourage international transfers.


Get Yourself Noticed

The first step is to simply communicate your desire to move up. Simple, but sometimes we think people will just notice our hard work and offer us the position. This almost never happens. You have to tell them and they’ll start to watch you with a different eye.

Going above and beyond will keep your name at the top of the list. Do you come in to help cover when teachers are sick, are you supportive of changes at the school, do your students constantly request you as their teacher? These actions will help current management see you in a positive light.

One thing I strongly recommend doing is requesting to facilitate trainings. Even if your school doesn’t normally run teacher trainings, offer to do some. The experience you gain doing them is great and it will help you stand out as a strong candidate when the time comes. When I first decided to make the move to teacher training, that’s what I did. I asked if my school would like me to run a training. To my surprise, they said sure and actually rented an auditorium to have me provide a training to the entire district.


Network Hard

Get to know people in the business that are influencers both in your area and further afield. One thing that really worked for me was to set up a teaching blog and become prominent on Twitter. I started connecting with other influencers in the field both locally and abroad as well as built up my personal reputation as some passionate and knowledgeable in the field.

Another thing it did was make me aware of the many TEFL conferences that were happening in the region. As an attendee, it’s a great opportunity to see what people are doing, learn more about the field, and meet like-minded individuals that can help you in your journey.


Putting it All Together

For myself, I never got an advanced certificate. My plan was to move into a director role without investing the time and money for it. I first put myself in position by running trainings. I then started a TEFL blog and built up a network of educators on Twitter. This helped me make connections and, not only become aware of training opportunities at international conferences, but also have support in getting selected to run those trainings. Finally, I set out to find a school in need of a director, applied, and got the job.


Next Steps

Of course, getting the role is really just the first step in the journey. Becoming a great leader who can run numerous aspects of a very competitive business is far from easy. Stay tuned for my next article that will go into what differences exists between being a teacher and being a director as well as what it takes to be an inspiring leader who gets results.

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