Does the DOS do it for you?

5 02 2013

Stop! Right there.

This is not a post about staff-room titillation. (Sorry!)

No, this is about a different kind of pull – that of motivation and inspiration.

Because, whether you like it or not, when you become a DOS, you become a leader (don’t you?), and one of the jobs of a leader is to motivate and inspire others.



In ELT this is inevitably a pretty tricky thing to do. You’re up against it from the off.

Firstly, before becoming the DOS, you were probably ‘just’ a teacher. Used to inspiring your students on a daily basis, of course!…but your colleagues, your peers? – that’s a different matter.

And since becoming DOS, you’ve probably had little or no ‘leadership‘ training. In Jenny Johnson’s 2009 survey of ELT Managers & Management Training, it was found that in fact a majority of the 135 respondents had received some kind of pre-service training: “…36% had had a handover period, 33% had had a mentor, 17% had done a management training course and 13% had attended sessions or workshops. However, 35% had not had any training before they started [the role].” I had a 4 week handover period but spent most of that time getting to grips with the nuts and bolts of the job, like planning and timetabling, and ordering books! I don’t recall covering the bit about ‘how to become an inspirational leader’ in that time!

And secondly, what about the people you have to motivate and inspire? Many are in the game for a multitude of reasons:

  • A vocational desire to help students learn to communicate in English? – yes, probably 😉
  • Keeping the wolf from the door while other pursuits are pursued (acting, music, writing, film-making, studying)? – also a fair bet. (If our teachers’ true vocational dreams lie elsewhere, can we really motivate and inspire them?)
  • Money? In ELT? No, let’s face it – money isn’t one of them.
  • And nor is promotion – where is the career ladder in ELT I hear you scream?! (there is one by the way, it’s just not very well defined). But anyway, who has ever been inspired by money or promotion?!

So, it can be a tough one.

I thought it would be interesting to see what inspired other people, and I was chatting with some non-ELT friends the other day, and asked what it was that inspired them in their jobs and how they inspired others. The lawyer said that for him and his team, they simply had to realise they were offering a professional service which was highly paid for by their clients and that should be enough to motivate them; the PR exec said it was ‘more about do than say’; the Social Worker said the NHS was also a service but there wasn’t any boss who inspired her, it all came down to her own self-motivation to help others; the Merchandiser said it was her company’s values which inspired her (the Number One Value being the ‘happiness of the employees’!); and the Fashion designer said it was all about the character of her boss – ‘she is amazing, brilliant strategic insight and decisiveness. I want to be like her!’

My friends’ comments seem to chime with those expressed by the ELT practitioners who took part in a recent #ELTchat on Motivating Teachers, summarised here. Namely, that we can be motivated (and de-motivated) by many different things.

So, back to my role as DOS and what I can do, because I definitely have a part to play. Here are some thoughts on motivating and inspiring my team*:

Deal with what Herzberg calls the ‘hygiene factors’:

  • Pay – we’re a long way off from being on a par with the highest earners in society, but fight for competitive pay for your teachers
  • Security – keep a tight ship and make sure everyone has enough work
  • Conditions – do your best to keep the facilities comfortable and provide the right tools for the job
  • Keep the admin to a minimum, and try to ensure it can be simply and efficiently done
  • Get out of the way – avoid prescriptive measures and let the teachers get on with expressing their individual teaching flair
  • Morale – know your teachers, listen to them, build up a good rapport, go out for a drink with them, be happy to make a fool of yourself  (get on the mic at the summer karaoke party 🙂 )

And then focus on the ‘motivating factors’

  • Vary the work by giving teachers different kinds of courses to teach
  • Challenge them with new levels, new courses
  • Give teachers autonomy – create space within the syllabus for choice of materials and resources, for creativity
  • Recognise and ‘reward’ those who go the extra mile
  • And provide plenty of opportunities for growth – a framework and conditions for professional development which I have described here and here


And then the inspirational icing on the cake

  • Practice what you preach – one of my goals is to create and maintain a learning culture at the school, and one way I promote this is by regularly sharing my learning with the team
  • Create a shared vision – whatever the goals are for the school, for the team, for each individual teacher, find ways to build a sense of engagement in that vision
  • Know your stuff – read, tweet, blog, attend webinars & conferences, and keep up with the latest thinking
  • Be innovative – use the latest tech tools in your meetings, or workshops, and once again be a model for others
  • Set compelling goals – tap into the the deep seated desire of all teachers (even those whose dreams lie elsewhere) to do their best to contribute to their learners’ ongoing progress and achievement
  • Be inspired – find what it is that inspires you, and you’ll find it easier to inspire others…

So, if you are a teacher reading this, what do you think? Does your DOS do it for you? What is it about them that inspires you?

And if you are a DOS, stop for a moment; take a deep breath; shut your eyes and with your tongue firmly in your cheek, allow yourself to dream that this song is for you.

The famous song about Directors of Studies: ‘Nobody DOS it better‘ 😉

*disclaimer: this is what I attempt to achieve..but do I? – hey, you gotta try!



15 responses

5 02 2013
Sandy Millin

You’ve got a picture of a cake, and I definitely think that’s one of the things a DOS can do to motivate teachers 🙂
Seriously, this is a great post Josh, and I’m going to bookmark it for later. It seems like you’ve got everything here, and I wish every DOS could read it.


5 02 2013

Thanks for your comment Sandy! Cake is a motivator for me too!


5 02 2013
Does the DOS do it for you? | Perspectives on CPD in ELT |

[…] Stop! Right there. This is not a post about staff-room titillation. (Sorry!) No, this is about a different kind of pull – that of motivation and inspiration. Because, whether you like it or not, wh…  […]


6 02 2013
Karen Benson (DoS too!)

Love it – you hit the nail on the head.


6 02 2013

Hi Karen, thanks for your comment, especially coming from a fellow DoS!


6 02 2013
Fiona Thomas' ELT Blog

Great post, it’s an area very close to my heart. As Sandy says, it’s got everything there ….. and even if you don’t manage to do everything, being aware of the importance of these issues is a massively important step in the right direction.
I used to be a DoS and am now a DoE – E standing for Education and would strongly advise any DoS to do a management course, it can make such a difference. The IDLTM is highly recommended.
And yes, you can make a career in TEFL but it requires a serious amount of self-motivation. My motivation was despite the DoSes I worked under as a teacher (sad but true).
In my case I’m sure that lots of people DO(s) it better, but if we strive to improve, and read posts like this which inspire us, surely we’re moving in the right direction.


6 02 2013

Thank you very much for your comment Fiona! Sorry to hear that the DoSes you worked with did not add to your motivation…

I did the DELTM a couple of years in to my role, and it was a big help in giving me a better understanding of management functions as well as starting me on the process of reflecting more regularly on what I do. But you have to fight for the space within the role to do this effectively (as I’m sure you recall).

I am very aware of the areas I need to do better on, and in fact writing this post has helped me to re-focus on them.

Thanks again.


6 02 2013

Best thing O have read all week.
And I have read some great stuff this week…!
Thanks Josh.


6 02 2013

Thanks so much Rachael, glad you enjoyed it.


19 02 2013
Stephen Jones

I like your comment about fighting for the space within the role, Josh. As a fellow DoS, it feels like not only is there the pull of motivating and inspiring other teachers (and your remaining students, if you are lucky enough to have time to still teach the odd class here and there), but also the ‘pull’ of being dragged in so many directions at once in this job.


21 02 2013

Hi Stephen, thanks for your comment.
So true! (feeling a bit pulled and stretched at the moment in fact, thus my slow response…) It means we have to be really good at time management, prioritising, delegating, people management in multiple directions, stress management…
All good fun 🙂


25 05 2013
Noeline Lewis

Noeline Lewis, fellow DOS,
Haha, loved the song! Nice distraction from my DELTA essay due tomorrow!


25 05 2013

Tomorrow, nobody will do your DELTA essay better!

All the best Noeline, thanks for commenting.


30 09 2013
Does the DOS do it for you? | Be The DOS | Scoo...

[…] Stop! Right there. This is not a post about staff-room titillation. (Sorry!) No, this is about a different kind of pull – that of motivation and inspiration. Because, whether you like it or not, wh…  […]


1 10 2013
Does the DOS do it for you? | ELT Leadership an...

[…] Stop! Right there. This is not a post about staff-room titillation. (Sorry!) No, this is about a different kind of pull – that of motivation and inspiration. Because, whether you like it or not, wh…  […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: