Article Notes: Transforming the wheel: from teaching skills to management skills – Liz Clarkson and Pat Lodge

‘Article Notes’ is a set of blog posts in which I write down my notes about articles that I read. These notes are not meant to be ‘academic’ or ‘formal’; rather, they are my ramblings and immediate thoughts in reaction to the content I read. I’ve written them up to help me remember the article, and to share my thoughts with those who are interested. I welcome you feedback and comments!

I moved into a formal, full-time management role last year. This year I took on a full-time DoS role. It has been a whirlwind of emotions and learning experiences. Because of my role now, and my desire to stay in management, I’ll be enrolling on the NILE Management in Language Education MA module next year sometime. Before then, though, I’ve got plenty of reading to do, so I’m starting with Clarkson and Lodge’s Transforming the wheel: from teaching skills to management skills.

Summary and notes

In essence, Clarkson and Lodge (1999) write that experienced teachers can make the change to management, bringing with them many transferrable skills, although there are a few things that need to occur in this transformation from teacher to manager:

  1. We need to recognise that many teaching ‘skills’ are actually applicable to management: The authors show a list of brainstormed teaching skills (e.g., giving encouragement) and a list of skills associated with management (e.g., encouraging and developing others). They present this part of the article as a training session, and encourage participants (now us readers) to identify similarities. The authors write that there are clear links between the two lists, and we need to recognise this.
  2. Changes in confidence, attitude and training: Here the authors write that there are a number of changes that need to happen at the ‘person’ level – changes in attitude (e.g., “becoming more “mature” and sensitive to others” (Clarkson and Lodge, 1999, p.25)), confidence (e.g., “become perceived as “harder”” (1999, p.25)), and training (e.g., “acquiring more formal skills through coaching/on-the-job training” (1999, p.25)). Many of the points mentioned here are not necessarily ‘do-a-course-and-learn’ things; in fact, many of them, especially those under the “changes needed in attitude and confidence” section focus on others’ perceptions and our own awareness of management factors.

One part of the article that I found really interesting was when they were talking about the areas/components of management. The authors included a diagram (see below) of a management ‘wheel’ of sorts, and said that “if one of the components is given too little or too much attention, the wheel is unbalanced”, which I thought was a great way to think about things.

Clarkson and Lodge, 1999, p.24

All in all, a nice short article that highlights how teachers can actually make the transformation to management without necessarily having formal management training (although it is mentioned that this can help!).

Points from article My thoughts
Section: Where ELT managers come from Section: Where ELT managers come from
Some in the face of all odds, take pride (and sometimes refuge) in teaching one class a week. (p.23)Looking at my situation now, I teach about 4-5 hours a week, and I have found that this is a good balance. I don’t think it would be good to take on more simply because of the management processes that go on behind the scenes AND because covering teachers when they are sick/away would become almost impossible if I took on more hours.
Managers without these classroom roots and connections often find they need to understand what at times can be an almost alien culture in which their ELT colleagues operate, and which is the source of their idea and attitudes to management issues. The reverse is equally true – teachers find it difficult to see the relevance of ares which may preoccupy managers. (p.23) Interesting to note that I only really became aware of the management side of things when I stepped into a training role. Oh, I knew they had ‘stuff’ going on, but I never knew the ins and outs of it. I feel that this is a reason perhaps for more transparency as well as clearer job descriptions. Although I’ve found it difficult to label ALL the tasks I need to do as a manager.
Section: Which skills and what for? Section: Which skills and what for?
Paradoxically, the move from teaching to management has usually been made without any formal training (although this is changing rapidly) and often because teachers are good at the job they were doing; that is, teaching. (p.23) I would say that many managers still progress in this way. This being said, I think it’s quite common now to have ADoS and other ‘mid-management’ positions within institutions that effectively enable to these in those positions opportunities to ‘shadow’ and work with the more experienced manager.
The part played by marketing and the importance of student feedback in shaping future course programmes becomes more apparent. (p.23) 100% agree. Only really become fully apparent as I moved into a DoS position.
The range of skills required for general management can be a daunting array. (p.23) I feel that the sales element is especially daunting, although once you ‘get your feet wet’, it can be fun. This being said, we have recognised that our ‘sales’ skills need to be focused on, and are looking to hold a training day at the start of the next academic year – specifically for sales and marketing. I feel that this is the one area of the school that we don’t actually have training for yet – and I would guess that it is the same for most academies. That is, the ‘management’ team’s development is pushed to the side. If we are to view the school as a business (and let’s be realistic, we need to), then we need to ensure development occurs for everyone that needs it.
Section: Transforming by formalising Section: Transforming by formalising
The typically strong interpersonal skills brought from the classroom in many cases need to be complemented by more analytical skills. (p.24) 100% agree, although I would definitely say that people skills are super, super important.
If the skills and knowledge necessary for one area are non-existent or underdeveloped, the wheel is unbalanced. (p.24) I would say that marketing, whilst I am getting better and more knowledgeable, is my weak point at the moment.
It appears that not only can we transfer skills from teaching to management, but we can transform and develop them, and with that, transform our image of ourselves and our function within our working context. (p.24) You know I’ve always said that good teachers don’t always makes good managers, but perhaps I was too quick – or more detail is required. A rephrase could be: Good teachers can become good managers if they are willing to focus on the transformation and not only rely on their skills developed in the classroom.
Section: The next step in transformation Section: The next step in transformation
Discussion groups revealed the types of changes necessary in moving from teaching to management as confidence, attitude and training. (p.25) I certainly feel I have the confidence and attitude (can definitely see how a military background comes in handy), but I do feel that I lack the training aspect.
Section: Changes needed in attitude and confidenceSection: Changes needed in attitude and confidence
Awareness of the importance of money and making staff aware of financial issues. (p.25) And being realistic with what we can achieve with what we have!
Section: Changes needed in attitudeSection: Changes needed in attitude
Becoming more “mature” and sensitive to others. (p.25) I still find this difficult at times. Not so much the ‘mature’ aspect, but the sensitive to others. I feel I am getting better at working with teachers’ personal feelings and views (even when they differ from my own), but I often forget that teachers have different personal and professional goals to myself. That is, not everyone wants to become a Delta-qualified teacher, or spend their life in language teaching. Not everyone sees the value of development. Not everyone wants to ‘develop’ the school – they feel their job is to teach learners and then go home. Whilst many of these go against my inner ‘teacher/trainer/manager’, I have to understand that these views are quite common, and in some cases, very valid. It is being continually sensitive to these that is important.
Recognising the need to be actively involved in team building and being part of the team. (p.25)This for me is one of the most important elements of my jobs. I need to staff to see themselves as part of a team, and to do so I need to be part of that team. I remember my first full-time training position, and working with a director who held the attitude: when you’re in management, you’re different and you need to separate yourself from the group. Now, whilst I agree that clear boundaries need to be set, I completely disagree with this idea of being separate from the ‘teachers’.


All extracts (and references within) have been taken from:

Clarkson, L. & Lodge, P. (1999). Transforming the wheel: from teaching skills to management skills. ELT Management, 28, p.23-25.

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