Philosophy of EFL management - a personal view
by Piotr Jednaszewski

There is nothing more than the heart and the mind involved in the continuous development of ourselves and the environment surroundings us.

My philosophy of EFL management presented in this short article aims not only to show the way of managing the EFL colleges in the micro world where English becomes a Lingua Franca, but also to help my teacher colleagues and managers to find the right balance between the mind and the heart in making decisions and through that also develop as managers. There are two perspectives analysed within my research: macro and micro. Macro from the global EFL perspective based on the EFL institutions which I could personally approach, hence considered micro from the individual teacher, trainer, manager and student perspective.

Here one could ask a couple of questions:

1. What is EFL management?’

2. What are the essentials of EFL management?

Whereas managers in the commercial world receive their training at institutions for management, most EFL managers are teachers of English and all their knowledge and experience is based on academic and practical “tools” of teaching and managing the groups during their linguistic studies. Teachers of English have to become language institution architects who are knowledgeable not only about the methodology of teaching but about all other aspects consolidating the whole system.

The analogy of an architect can be used here. The architect designing a house puts his logical and mathematical intelligence into creating a project. That type of intelligence enables individuals to use and appreciate abstract relations, including facility in the use of numbers and logical thinking. This intelligence is not only about numerical reasoning but, as the name implies, includes logical reasoning abilities that might not involve numbers at all and that can be called ‘the mind’. The symbolic architect uses also his spatial intelligence to recreate visual images from memory that could be called ‘the heart’. ‘The heart’ because the visual images from memory carry their emotional load deeply coded in the individual’s subconscious mind. Therefore, if he makes a mistake in both cases the whole structure of the building can collapse and many would suffer or the overall image of the building may destroy the unity of the natural surrounding of the considered place and cause harm to people’s esthetical perception of the world.

The same situation can be observed in the following situation: the EFL manager’s decisions influence his school directors, teachers, secretarial work and all publicity. So, harm can be done not only in terms of the syllabus, teaching methods and placement of students on the right level (what is represented here by the mind) but also the college atmosphere like relation between teachers and students, teachers and directors, all staff members, new comers and so on, here called the heart. And even the most idyllic system, unless cared for, can be destroyed in the course of time by the nature of ongoing change within.

In other words, the observed domino effect can be either positive or negative depending on the appropriateness of the decisions made. Someone decided to build a nice house perfect for a few generations but at the same time forgot about the maintenance; finally a place seemingly perfectly adapted to the surrounding environment became a useless shelter. The above mentioned domino effect can be illustrated here as a positive side of the EFL management ‘story’ by a conversation with one of my teacher colleagues who was once asked why he had decided to sign the long contract for the company if he could have been offered a higher salary with the competitors college. He said: ‘the atmosphere at that company is much better than anywhere else’ So the person was asked for the explanation of the words ‘much better’ and ‘anywhere else’ And he said ‘people can depend on each other, if we want to have money paid in advance we can have it, I do not need to explain if I need a replacement…but from the very beginning we were made aware of being fully responsible for the students and their progress, so I have to be fully conscious of every step I take….” So, the situation of that teacher was clearly similar to the chain reaction. Teachers’ satisfaction is followed by students’ intellectual fulfilment, which means that this is the teacher’s task to ensure through the individualised approach in teaching that an individual student feels and is aware of his foreign language development. When the student is satisfied with services provided then the principal should have no reasons to complain as teachers’ expectations of students learning motivation are achieved. Thus, not only the students` satisfaction makes the language institution functioning well on the market. Coming back to teacher’s satisfaction with the language school, it was reflected in students’ opinions about him:

‘He is always cheerful and seems to like his job’

‘At the beginning I did not like staying longer during the classes but he infected me with his passion for teaching. I think about studying linguistics’

That simple interaction between student and teacher on the managerial level becomes part of the system involving not only organisational work or structure but also the decision making process which is reflected in the pyramid scheme. Thus, at the bottom of that pyramid we have such issues like:

  • students’ and teachers’ satisfaction,
  • manager’s planning and involvement in the whole process,
  • meeting new students,
  • listening to the regular college students,
  • other factors.

If we tried to consider the ELT Institution for achieving ideal organisation structures, we would have to be aware of the fact that ideal organizational structures nearly always have to be modified – simply because ideal people are seldom available. It is better to accept compromises in an ideal plan than not to have an ideal plan to start from.(1) (1) Bower, M. (1970). The Arts of Top Management . London: McGRAW-HILL, 15-40.

If we perceive every educational institution as a unique individual organism, then it would be impossible to distract every element of that organism and analyse it separately, for example, in terms of management, psychology, multiplied intelligence and many other different factors which in fact influence the overall existence of the whole teaching system – organism. There are no good schools without good teachers, teachers with so-called charisma as well as the academic knowledge, and what is more, good teachers could not work if students did not know about their existence. Also teachers can become better or worse, depending on many psycho-sociological aspects which they have to face in their everyday professional life.

Here comes the question which has always been buzzing in my head: what makes a good EFL manager?

Before becoming an EFL manager every manager has to possess some qualities which make him the manager. Those qualities can be associated with education, personal charisma, family background or any other factors which made the considered individual a manager. ‘While running some social services like the office providing birth or marriage certificate, it seems there is no need for PR services or strong marketing policies. The clients are always welcome and there is no doubt that the market demand shall drastically drop ruining the social service comprehended as the company. Sarcastically and on the contrary, especially the EFL Institution much depends on the market demand and the clients satisfaction is expressed by their loyalty to the chosen institution, which could not be said in the first business example. Teachers who are considered as the ones with charisma and strong educational background, having hordes of their loyal students on the courses and friends of those students and so on, might not always be able to become EFL managers. This transformation process requires those skills which go beyond class tutorials and are strictly connected with the position held and the responsibilities. In 15 EFL institutions including:

University of St Andrews ELT
Norwich Institution for Language Education
Sells College London
YMCA College Poland

and others the directors of EFL departments came from a teaching background. All of them proved to be excellent managers despite their previous outstanding teaching career. Here I would like to mention Yunus Raiss, head of Sels College London. When I studied at his college in 1992 I observed that he was not only excellent in dealing with us students as a former teacher but there was an atmosphere of teacher trust and understanding towards him. There was no manager among those ELT directors who would finish management or economics as his first studies and then become a director of the language institution. This however does not determine the situation that managers with other background than EFL would not be suitable for becoming the EFL directors. Therefore, I would like to focus on teachers who are to become the managers or already are. The situation can be illustrated by the transformation wheel where the teachers are transformed into the managers or teaching skills and class management abilities are transformed into management skills.

The step from teaching to managing has usually been made without any formal training, sometimes even more rapidly than expected by the teacher himself and often because a teacher was good at the job he was doing, that is, at teaching. The first management steps often lead into taking on recognizably academic areas of responsibility such as monitoring students recruitment, placement testing, examination co-ordination, resources management, and so on. Teachers who are willing to take on these extra tasks tend to be key figures among staff, usually more active, open, wise and perceiving the language institution and himself as one united system. Some of them may also be involved in giving conference presentations, TT sessions, present the company in Educational fairs and conduct classroom observation. Those teachers gradually develop their managerial skills through the practical experience obtained in time. These teachers are much more than the others aware of such management issues as language institution policy, teaching programme development and implementing changes, overall quality assurance, necessity of staff training and criteria for taking new teachers on board. These teachers already have the intrinsic drive for change and development through associating their personal involvement with the language institution development.

Responsibility acceptance

The gradual movement from teaching into management is a result of increased readiness and willingness to recognize and accept the consequences of responsibility as a manager. This acceptance entails developing a greater awareness of systems and knowledge of managing them, and with a little courage, adapting them and even creating new ones. The ability to exploit systems is a reflection of the facility to analyse the skills required to fulfil the type of responsibility taken on. The typically strong interpersonal skills brought from the classroom in many cases need to be complemented by more analytical skills.

Teachers entering management may also need time to assimilate and become aware of the underlying company structure, roles and functions that support the classroom activity in a language institution. It might be surprising for new manager-teachers that the management activities are also external and the teacher – classroom picture is a part of a greater but united system. The qualities of the language institution manager should then be well balanced and developed, since otherwise the system would become unstable and it may basically lead to different type of loses. This is not to say that general managers need to be like an accountant or a marketing expert as none of his teacher colleagues would agree with it. They need to know the relevance of different teaching and managerial areas and be able to address them with the experts they employ or ask for support and to deal with them with the open heart. And again the understanding of the relevance of areas, their coherence and comprehensiveness starts from the individual intrinsic drive to ameliorate the system which can be closely linked with the transformation awareness which is clearly the balance between the mind and the heart.

Transformation awareness

Teacher becoming a manager can be compared to the person who changes from the builder to the developer. From the one responsible for building the house – educating a group of students to the developer – a person responsible for building not only a group of houses or even a city district but also having contacts with banks and other external companies. The awareness of the transformation process is crucial to realization of the new approaches, challenges, systems, structures, responsibilities. Therefore, teachers having a great potential of class management skills, facing different students` problems and solving them, working under stress, easily adapting to change through having the experience of teaching different language groups, individualised teaching approach, and possessing interpersonal abilities, can endeavour to gradually transform those skills into managerial skills.

Here is a list of skills typically associated with teaching, provided by EFL teachers - managers:

  • giving clear instructions
  • conveying ideas effectively
  • listening attentively to students 
  • persuading 
  • consulting 
  • encouraging students
  • being more than a teacher
  • establishing good rapport with the group
  • dealing with students’ problems and emotions 
  • good lesson planning
  • good syllabus planning
  • TTT – teacher talking time 
  • variety of materials used
  • keeping record of students progress and material 
  • teaching style appropriate to class learning abilities
  • individualized teaching approach 
  • assessing performance, monitoring 
  • providing feedback
  • monitoring progress
  • cooperating with other teachers
Then the same group was asked to list the qualities needed and expected from the EFL managers:
  • establishing clear aims
  • setting company objectives
  • transforming plans into action
  • being able to face the change and adapt the company into it
  • assessing company strategies efficiency 
  • teacher training
  • providing feedback regularly
  • encouraging teachers
  • dealing with stress
  • uniting the company approach with teachers expectations and market demand
  • representing the company
  • having the company vision
  • budgeting
  • marketing
  • Public Relation
Then the group was asked to compare these two lists and make one which could illustrate the change from teacher to manager, writing down with colour those qualities which are in both professions, and need to be developed by managers from the perspective of organisation. The final list was as follows:
  • having clear instructions
  • conveying ideas effectively – the manager should know that his plans are clear, understandable and will be carried out properly.
  • listening attentively to students  - here employees, company partners and also students
  • consulting  teacher colleagues – not only listening attentively but also providing help if needed.
  • encouraging staff and students. As it happens, that staff has better contact with the manager than the students, which does not determine the situation that the school director should feel or be separated from his students. Occasional meeting with the students and little talks on their progress can become much more stimulating and awarding for them then ‘long talks’ with their teachers, and that director meeting should always have the flavour of exclusivity or nobility.
  • being more than a manager
  • dealing with students’ problems and emotions from the manager’s perspective
  • monitoring lesson planning
  • good syllabus planning
  • TTT – teacher talking time  - transferred into manager’s talking time. Manager should provide the ideas which are of interest to the group. Talks should be concise and up to the point with the time left for some points for discussion.
  • individualized teaching approach transferred into manager’s individualized approach to employees. Teachers learn to observe their students, having a good eye contact with them, discussing their problems and talking about possible solutions. Managers remain in the same position but instead of students only they have their teacher colleagues and sometimes students as well. Now teachers are not only colleagues and partners but also the ones who need some time, attention and guidance. The attitude of the teacher who becomes a manager ‘changes’: now he becomes also responsible for his teacher colleagues development and work performance and that needs looking at his teacher colleagues from the perspective of system but not necessarily changing the informality of communication. The change happens on the intrinsic level and is gradually adopted into the manager’s individualized approach towards employees.  
  • assessing teachers’ performance
  • providing feedback – on company activities
  • monitoring company progress
  • cooperating with other teachers – as if “nothing” changed in the life of the institution. Teachers still teach and students still come. Therefore teachers have their own experience, ideas and data which should on no account be neglected. They are on the front line. They meet the students, see their problems and learn about their needs. Teachers can be the best source of information about the students and such data must not be abandoned. Also their experience of teaching can play a vital role in preparing all kind of company materials. Starting from the curriculum and finishing on the advertising materials. Moreover, they are to be used within the system as the role of the director is to direct the company and that means managing the intellectual potential of teachers. Co-operating with teacher is vital for success.

Changes needed in confidence

Confidence in undertaking decisions which can influence the company’s prosperity, growth and expansion with the ability to face the failure and stress resistance. Teacher’s confidence in a class differs from the manager’s confidence. Teacher can change the methods of teaching, the syllabus and implement the changes during tutorials, whereas the manager cannot change some of his decisions without having an effect on the whole functioning of the language institution. Such a skill needs intrinsic maturity of the manager. The future success clearly seen in the initial stage of the language institution plan and all kind of analyses may not be achieved for different economic, market and even teaching obstacles. The manager having no confidence in the decisions undertaken and actions will not be able to face the failure and will have more doubts after debacle. This, however, does not mean that the educational manager should blindly believe that all decisions taken are good and make allowance for their imperfection as Rudolph Kipling says:

“If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing their trust and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired of waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated don’t giving way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise”

Those few lines written by one of the most outstanding English writers can illustrate the changes needed in the confidence. Analogically:

If you can keep your head when all about you

Managers will be more observed and assessed for their steps not only by their supervisors but also by potential business partners who may at time show their superiority, which does not mean that in any circumstances they should lose their confidence in actions which only reflect or should reflect the benefits which are brought through the educational system offered by them.

Are losing their trust and blaming it on you;

As not always supervisors or teachers are to be pleased with the changes even if they were clearly presented through the comprehensive reasoning of actions for the benefit of the language institution.

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you ,

As above confidence in undertaken actions can predominate the doubts weakening the possibility for change.

But make allowance for their doubting too;

So confidence “yes” but not “overconfidence”, i.e. the ability to have their eyes open and to listen constructively.

If you can wait and not be tired of waiting,

As one decision involves the others, it happens that the chosen programme or strategy needs to be adopted to the changing language market environment and waiting for the results may take time and should not undermine the confidence quality.

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Nobody said that the rightness is the dominating part of managers contacts. And especially linguistic teachers because of their academic background are more sensitive and fragile to injustice and inexcusable unfair business play. Hence on no account should they doubt in their confidence and they should keep to their values and approaches.

Or being hated don’t giving way to hating,

There could be many different analyses of that phrase. Therefore, in the light of EFL manager confidence it may represent more emotional part of the individuals work. Meeting with different people involves emotions and interactions. Thus, manager should be a bit more above those feelings but still remain one of the teachers. And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise” In other words the moral is to be on the same wave-length as those we wish to communicate with.

I would like to conclude that the pedagogical skills of the teacher, including his or her general knowledge and varied experience, constitutes the basis for acquiring and developing managerial skills. This observation can only apply to those teachers who are willing and able to change themselves and adapt to new circumstances and responsibilities. The transformation process is precious not only for the new teacher-managers but also for the experienced managers who can help new managers become professionals.

Especially for those teachers who are open to change and can adapt to new circumstances and responsibilities. The transformation process is precious not only for the new managers-teachers but also for the experienced managers who can enable those new managers to become better professionals. The formal training sometimes may seem to be the most appropriate to cover the management areas which are absolutely absent from the teaching skills, they need additional skills such as budgeting, marketing public relations. Following our belief that the mind and the heart are essential for success in any human enterprise, we need constantly to critically observe ourselves and seek to strengthen those areas of our everyday work which are essential for institutional and personal development in the EFL field.

The good manager is born of a good teacher. But not all good teachers can become effective administrators, as managerial skills impact on the whole work environment, while teaching is confined to the individual and the classroom world. As Professor Bernard said fifty years ago when he retired from the University of Birmingham’s School of Education, “A school-master is a man among boys, but he is a boy among men.” The manager has to deal with sometimes difficult men and situations and indeed the whole wider world outside the educational institution. It has often been said that where there is, for instance, a good headmaster or principal, the school is usually a success educationally. The teacher and the manager are the same enigma as the chicken and the egg.


Piotr Jednaszewski is a methodologist, graduated with degrees: Doctor of Philosophy, TEFL, American University of London Master of Art in Education and Professional Development (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), University of East Anglia Master in Science in Engineering, Post Graduate Diploma in Management and Marketing, Post Graduate Diploma in Education and Professional Development. For 10 years he has been language counselor, proofreader and has been preparing managerial staff for international talks. English teacher: - preparing for negotiations, business plans and projects presentations - English for Banking - English for Lawyers - General English - preparing for University of Cambridge exams From 1992 Director of Diplomat Colleges in Poland

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