I write this en route to IATEFL, leaving behind a very busy school in the midst of our ever increasing busy period. I did actually promise our ADOS, Joanne, when we hired her a year ago that while it was the start of the busy summer, in autumn/winter we have time to plan. The quiet period hasn’t happened so far!
For those of you who aren’t in the rolling enrollment business, a school such as ours doesn’t have ‘terms’. We enroll students every Monday and these students join the existing suite of classes we have on offer. We usually run only core courses in the winter, and our student numbers peak in summer. Traditionally, from March – October we are very busy, and June – September are the busiest months (we run several centres including an international summer junior camp).
As DOS (Director of Studies) and ADOS (Assistant Director of Studies), we try to divide the workload where the DOS focusses on strategic planning and the ADOS on operational issues. In reality, and especially at the moment, we both support each other making sure things run smoothly and ensuring a quality service for our students. While I’m trying to keep a broad overview of operations (every decision made affects something else, so I have to bear in mind how it’s all connected) Joanne is busy putting it all into practice. That’s not right, actually. She’s not busy. I’m searching for words that are busier than busy…Frantic? Hectic? Overwrought?
The busy periods mean we run around ‘putting out fires‘, such as sourcing teachers, matching teachers to courses, planning room logistics, booking rooms, meeting the demands of short stay group leaders, helping the homesick, giving new teachers an induction and monitoring their progress, supporting all our teachers so we can do the running around while they get on with teaching, planning regular teacher meetings so we don’t forget about clear communication, putting posters up about last minute room changes, checking attendance, modifying the timetable, answering questions from new students, answering questions from new teachers, answering questions from group leaders, answering questions from old students, answering questions from old teachers, helping support admin staff, answering emails in the evening and on weekends just in case, making support materials, fixing the photocopier, keeping a note on teacher training and who’s done what, moving students around who’ve changed levels, helping students apply for exams, making sure the internal admin system tallies with actual student in each room, showing visitors around, dashing to buy sandwiches for a meeting, putting a course spiel together for a last minute bid…that’s a small percentage of what our busy period involves anyway (I never knew any of this when I was teaching. I’ve since written to previous DOSs and ADOSs to apologise!).
As I said, we try our best to support each other and divide these tasks in any way which means they get done. How best to do this changes daily as, when you work with people (and only rarely do we comment that this job would be better were it not for having to deal with people!), there are infinite possibilities for what they want, when and how. Flexibility is a KEY quality for an ADOS. Often, I have to dash off to hold a meeting, facilitate a training or sit down to make sure the non-urgent, long term admin is up to date. And Joanne is there taking care of all the other stuff so I can do that. In fact, while there isn’t a moment to spare most days, they rarely FEEL busy. They flow and we achieve everything we need to. They flow thanks to having a great ADOS.
And this week I’ve abandoned Swan for a whole 7 days! Seven very busy days (must learn more synonyms for ‘busy’) with hundreds students arriving from around Europe. And I know it’ll all go smoothly. Thanks to the person in arguably the most significant seat in the school – first port of call for students and teachers, a link between admin and the customer. The success of the school is thanks to many factors and in part certainly having an ADOS as capable as Joanne.
So, happy one year anniversary of being with Swan. Thank you for making my job easier. Thank you for being there for the students and teachers, and for driving the success of the school. I look forward to working with you again next week.