Becoming a DoS

My transition to the role of Director of Studies (DoS) happened quite quickly. A few weeks into the second summer school I worked in, the first in the UK, I was asked if I wished to take over from the school’s DoS, who had to leave due to personal issues. The reason my name was put forward was that I had mentioned in passing that I was interested in doing the Delta.

For those not in the know, Delta is a level 7 teaching qualification offered by Cambridge English. There are multiple reasons why someone would want to get this qualification such as for your own professional development as a teacher or because it’s a standard entry requirement for academic management. The problem is it’s hard, costs a small fortune and takes an inordinate amount of time. Most organisations worth their salt want you to have it, or at the very least be doing it. Good summer schools, accredited by bona fide organisations, require staff in certain positions of seniority to be TEFLQ (level 7 qualifications i.e. Cambridge Delta or Trinity DipTESOL), however in reality, this is easier said than done. The pool of people who have these qualifications is very small. Getting them to actually work for you is another thing. There are a lot of teachers with a CELTA but in most instances, it really doesn’t cut the mustard, or at least shouldn’t going by the rules for accreditation. Interestingly enough, diploma level qualifications don’t really give you the acumen to manage a team of teachers but it’s expected that you have it nonetheless.

So with the challenges of not having enough people to choose from and the fact that schools may get a person with the right qualifications but may struggle with the job, it’s quite likely that when push comes to shove, teachers who have shown the right behaviours, work hard but lack the necessary qualifications are given an opportunity to manage. Various rationales are written up and filed in the event of an inspection and this inexperienced manager is given support and guidance by a more senior coordinator. For me, I was one of those who was given an opportunity to do the job and had to have a rationale. This does not mean to say that it all works out. Some can hack it while others struggle with the pressure.

I had no real idea what to expect or what to do, no office skills, no nothing. What I did have was a team of teachers who rallied round and supported me to get the job done. Most of what I learnt was through trial and error, with many of those being errors. If I’m honest, there were times when I felt like I was struggling to keep my head above water. When student numbers were high, I woke up every morning to find a discordant mixture of problems both big and small that needed to be dealt before there was any thought given to the actual day’s work. Many of the problems were of my own making and probably part of the learning curve that most of us have to go through to become good at doing something. Looking back, the best approach I had was one of honesty and hard work. Even now, I feel that if staff see you roll your sleeves up, work hard and admit your own shortcomings, they are much more inclined to help you out and work with you to get the job done.

Once you have managed to get through one summer school (and survived!) the next one is never as bad. You have learnt from your own mistakes, you have more managerial nouse than you did the last time and more importantly, you can see light at the end of the tunnel.

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