First off, I’ve updated a lot of my lessons and added quite a few new ones. I’ve forgotten to mention that for the last umpteen blogposts. Check ‘em out and feel free to give me feedback on them if you use them .
This is a bittersweet post. I got some bad news a couple weeks ago – the owner of my school is going through some major financial difficulties and can’t afford to keep my branch open through the summer. For this reason, my students, my teachers, and myself have been transferred over to the main branch. At best, it’ll be a year before the branch is able to reopen.
My responsibilities have been much reduced and my travel time to work has doubled, leaving me with a lot of time to reflect. Lots of successes and of course a few failures, with many lessons learned along the way.
I really miss my school already. I was DoS of it for under a year, but we sure accomplished a lot in that time. My team and I were able to take it from less than 40 students with a 10% renewal rate to almost 90 students and an over 90% renewal rate. No small feat in such a short time, especially with practically no support from the main branch.
I can quite honestly say that our little branch was fantastic. It was far and away the best private language school on the Asian side of Istanbul. Students learned English, they learned it well, and they learned it surprisingly quickly. A majority of students went from Beginner to Intermediate in an average of between 180-240 hours.
Lessons learned along the way:
- Teachers get really nervous about observations regardless of how they are done. While I think they are still useful, I’m still searching for some better ways to accomplish the same goals.
- Never fire a teacher over Christmas break when half your staff is away on holiday and you are running two schools with over 500 students and 30 staff .
- Unfortunately, students are still not convinced of the value of non-native teachers. For the most part, our students came around on this eventually, but there was many a struggle with it.
- As a DoS, keep a set schedule and try not to deviate from it too much regardless of what the owner wants. A constantly changing schedule makes it almost impossible to organize things or set up a routine for any number of programs.
- Always have a few teachers on the backbench as possible hires in case something comes up.
- If one of your teachers literally goes crazy, it’s best to get them outside help as soon as possible.
- Create more long-term projects where something concrete and meaningful is produced in classes, especially for upper levels.
- Always talk about any issues with staff or students in private.
+ Exams do more harm than good. Formative assessment is the way to go.
+ If you trust your teachers, they can do some amazing things.
+ Intrinsic motivation is much more powerful than extrinsic.
+ Students respond very well to being challenged.
+ So does your staff.
+ Emergent curriculums and a dogme approach definitely can work for an entire school and get incredible results.
+ Get students and teachers outside the classroom.
+ Hold workshops and share sessions.
+ Don’t hold a meeting if the same information can be relayed by email.
+ A school is a community and should always be treated as such.
I really got a lot out of working at my branch and have a lot of good memories:
Students coming up to me or other teachers and personally thanking me/them for helping them to learn English (and actually seeing that that was, in fact, the case)
Having a teacher get hired by another good school precisely because of the methodology at ours and the things they’d learned.
My first process drama retelling “Little Red Riding Hood” with students coming up with the most hilarious stories.
Getting pumped up before lessons even though some of my teachers thought I was more than a little strange
Students transferring to the other branch and raising hell when other teachers used the book. The main complaint was that “we can do it at home!” (I’m quite proud of that one although I can’t say the teachers in question were very happy about it).
There was a lot more that happened at the school, but these are the things that came to mind while writing this post.
What does the future hold now? I’m not quite sure. Almost at the same time that my branch closed, I’ve had a number of rather interesting new opportunities fall into my lap. I was first thinking about moving on early and going somewhere else, but at least two of the opportunities would keep me in Turkey and seem too good to pass up. The wife and I will definitely have to make some big decisions.
To all my staff and students, a big thank you for the wonderful experiences.