Leave me alone…I’m Batman.

July 21, 2011

Of course the best thing about being a Director of Studies is that you get to sit – mostly undisturbed – at the top of a majestic tower (mine is made of ivory). Occasionally a faceless teacher will scratch pathetically at the heavy wooden door- Ha! The fools! My manservant quickly escorts them away and I am left alone to contemplate ideas worthy of the loftiness of my office. Yes, indeed. It’s tough at the top.

Anyway… back to the real world. When I became DoS I realised one thing about teachers – there’s just no escaping them. I’ve tried many a cunning ruse to avoid them. For example, coming in before dawn and sitting in my office with the lights out  – but there’s always someone who pops their head round the door – “Morning, Mike! have you got a minute?” One week I dressed up as Batman and any time anyone came into my office asking me where I’d hidden the workbook for Headway Intermediate, I’d reply ‘I’m not Mike. I’m Batman.” –  “Yes, Mike. And I’m Robin. Now – where’s the workbook?” – Tunnels; secret passageways; time machines. I’ve tried them all – but the teachers still manage to find me.

Of course that’s the point, isn’t it? For even as I want to yell out ‘I don’t have time!’ whenever a teacher asks me something, the key thing I’ve forgotten is –

It’s all about them.

At the moment I’m reading The Little Big Things by Tom Peters. I can’t help picturing Tom frothing at the mouth and waving his hammer round in the wilderness of management (in a good way, Tom!). The thing is he has an uncanny knack of hitting the nail on the head. Not far into the book’s introduction he underlines the importance of spending time with your team…and the importance of listening attentively to what they say.

Oh My God, Tom! Do you really want me to listen attentively to my team? Isn’t that a bit nutty? I have forms to file and reports to write, dammit!

But – of course -he’s right. And he’s not being soft. Think about it. I might speak to a new student for 10 minutes. The teacher, however, is going to spend 60 hours with that student – that client. That’s 360 times the amount of time I will spend with the client. All that time to make an impact. Who do you think is more important to the student?

The teachers are the talent. It’s vital that we listen to them. Attentively. It makes good business sense if nothing else.

‘I don’t have time’ is a thought we often have – but remember that figure – 360! – We’d better find the time to listen to that teacher. We can’t afford not too.

So now I leave the Batman costume to the weekends.

For more on Tom Peters check out tompeters! website

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