If I were a DOS…

I’ve always wanted to be in charge of a school. What I mean is that I think I know what would work for courses, teachers and development but I would run a mile from admin, meetings and important non-teaching things. Thus, I’d probably get fired but what the heck.

Recently, the inspiring Tyson Seburn wrote an excellent post about his Xmas wishlist for teachers which spurred me to write this. You can read it at:


So, if I were a DOS I’d…

1)Be nice, welcoming and help teachers, whatever the issue whether it be personal or business. I’d also be honest and tell everyone about pay rules and work issues. I’d invest in teachers to help them grow and develop. I’d also do little things like giving free snacks or drinks at the end of term, letting people leave early once in a while when they/we’ve worked hard, congratulate hardworking staff and just show how much I respect their work on a daily basis.

2)Start from the students up using questionnaires and focus groups to find out their feelings and thoughts about courses and the school so things can be improved.

3)Offer courses that students want and teachers are happy to teach.

4)Try to develop a ‘school atmosphere’ that everyone would be happy to be part of. Yes, enjoyable but not ‘party party’ all the time. End of term/year parties would be short and on the last day and NOT compulsory.

5)Encourage teachers to do ‘action research’ or ‘projects’ like developing materials, new courses or websites.

6)Make sure there was a balance between social and educational activities.

7)Try to get all FT contracted staff and offer more pay for extra hours.

8)If I hired PT staff I’d treat them fairly and pay for prep/travel time.

9)Want students to set their own goals and be helped to improve them.

10)Set up teacher self-evaluations leading to individual goal setting and provide assistance and support for teacher development.

11)Sponsor or half the DELTA.

12)Offer yearly pay rises and have a very clear pay scale that rewards qualifications, experience and special skills.

13)Encourage teachers to try new courses, attend conferences, present at them and write for journals.

14)Want the school to be known as a good and fair place to work and have a career as well as somewhere for research, ideas and development.

15)Apply for the school to be an exam centre and a teacher training centre.

16)Set up and develop online materials, courses and content for teachers and students to use.

Basically, I would be ‘students and teachers (people) first.’ 

Unhappy students=bad reputation and no customers=no money

Unhappy teachers=low morale and crap lessons=bad school

Everyone happy=An effective school with happy and dedicated long-term teachers, with a good reputation, higher standards and a better image=more students/money

I think Herzberg’s Motivation and Hygiene theory is quite fitting to categorize some of these ideas:

Hygiene Factors 

They include: interpersonal relations, physical working conditions and salary

They affect the level of dissatisfaction but do not create job satisfaction.

Motivation Factors 

They include: achievement, advancement, recognition and responsibility. 

They create job satisfaction.

From this perspective, my school would need to establish the basics first ie a good working environment, be a good place to work and pay a decent salary and on time. According to Herzberg, this does not make people like the job but stops them disliking it. In other words, these are things EVERY school should have in place.

The Motivation Factors are what a DOS should be working on improving but would need dedication. These are what really make people happy in their job and I think you get out what you put in but as I  said starting off with being nice and investing in teachers seems to be a good starting point.

I can honestly say that not every (being polite here) place I know has covered the hygiene factors let alone the motivation ones but why?


What do you agree/disagree with?

If you were a DOS how would you run things?

What does your DOS do you like/dislike?

Is job satisfaction important or just a salary?


7 thoughts on “If I were a DOS…

  1. Thanks again for the mention and love much of what you’d do as DoS. I’ve been one for a private language school and am one every summer at the university for 8 weeks. Just a simple point, thanks to my predecessor, I made coffee for the teachers every morning. A little task that seemed to really start everyone’s day well.

    I’ll take a stab at your last question: I think it’s obvious that a salary isn’t all that’s important. Of course, when salary isn’t sufficient in relation to effort or qualifications, nearly nothing can make up for it. Then again, as Grampa used to say “if you love your work, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

    • Made coffee?I like it, though I’d prefer a tea.

      I had a brilliant summer school DOS who brought cake and played music in the staffroom but then again summer schools and normal schools are quite different.

      Salary and contracts probably are the bare essentials and anything else is a plus, a bit like Maslow’s pyramid.If you got a decent salary, had career promotional opportunities and then worked somewhere that’s supportive and has nice staff that would be the best school in the world.

      So, how do I sign up for your summer school then?

  2. Phil, could I come and work at your school please?!!!

    I had a wonderful DOS when I was working in Bournemouth. He was amazing, inspiring, helpful, funny, clever, generally a pleasure to work with. I’ve missed having that over the last few years. I think the negative effect a DOS can have filters down through the levels until it reaches the students. Likewise, the positive effects too.

    I realise some DOSs are stuck between a rock and a hard place when it’s the director/owner/principal who decides the wages, but I think that there is a multitude of other things which can be done to improve the quality of the teaching and learning at a school which are not related to money (as you mention above).

    Loving reading your blog, Phil. Keep it up! Heading home after three weeks in the UK, so expect a post from me later today/tomorrow!


    • Great. 1 employee.

      Yes, exactly. It does filter down.

      When I first started out we had a Director, DOS, ADOS, Senior teachers, heads of All year courses, a head of short courses, a head of business courses and a head of uni prep. 5 years later most of the middle management style ones had gone. Now is some schools there aren’t even senior teachers. When I quit a co-ordinating position they asked me “do we really need someone to replace you?”. My answer was “well, I’ve designed all the courses but it would be good to have someone to manage things”.

      Oh, actually you were named in my Fantasy EFL school as teacher trainer.

      Have a good trip back.


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