Teacher Tim's TEFL International Blog July 31st, 2010

How To Get Along With Your Boss At School


Put your imagination caps on, gang, and follow me – I want you to shut your eyes and pretend you have been called into the office at your school here in Thailand, where your immediate supervisor is waiting impatiently for you. Now keep imagining as we eavesdrop in on the conversation . . .

You: Good morning, sir/madam.

Boss: Good morning! I hope to see you in good health and fine mental fettle this morning?

You: Of course! Working at your school keeps a person bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, as it were.

Boss: Glad to hear it. Tell me, how are things going for you in the classroom? Anything I can do to help?

You: Well, things are going fine . . .

Boss: Do you need new textbooks? How about some more pencils, pens, erasers, crayons, construction paper? Does the air conditioning suit you? Is that chair at your desk at all comfortable – looks rather shabby to me. Shall I get you a new, upholstered one?

You: I hardly think . . .

Boss: Tut, tut. Nothing is too good for one of our ESL teachers! I can’t begin to tell you how happy we are to have you here at our school. Why, the students talk of nothing else but your classes, and the faculty hold you in superstitious awe as some kind of a god! Surely there must be something we can do to show our appreciation?

You: It’s really not . . .

Boss: By Jove, I have it! I’ll give you a great big raise! How about that, hmmm? You could so with a few more quid in your pocket, couldn’t you?

You: If you insist, I guess I could handle a few more thousand baht a month.

Boss: That’s the spirit! Oh, by the way, why don’t you take the rest of the day off as a sort of paid holiday. We don’t want you burning yourself out too quickly, hey?

You: Of course. If you insist.

Okay. You can stop laughing now. Never gonna happen, right? Well, so what? As a dedicated, professional TEFL instructor you need to play realpolitik with your boss, no matter how he or she treats you. Remember the Golden Rule: He who has the gold, makes the rules. Your boss at school is probably never going to do a Scrooge-like 180-degree turn and become a smiling companion and generous benefactor. He or she will most likely always be rude, demanding, suspicious, ignorant, and capricious. Guess what, Elmer? That’s how the world of work is formatted! Not just at your school or all schools, but nearly every business enterprise. The boss, your boss, doesn’t want your love and respect – they want hard work & results. Mostly because they have a boss above them that expects the same thing, and so on and so forth. You’ll find the world a better place if you learn to accept this unpalatable fact and laugh at it from time to time.

As an ESL teacher (among many other things) over the past 35 years, I’ve come to some conclusions about getting along with the boss. Here is the fruit of my cogitating labors:

· The boss is always right. Never contradict the boss in front of others. In private, if you feel confident, express your reservations. Also, don’t ever discuss your doubts about the boss’ abilities or ideas with your other co-workers. It’s a sad fact that ninety-percent of the time when you do this your co-worker is going to go straight to the boss and tell him or her what you said about them. Don’t believe me? Okay, smarty pants, just keep blabbing away to your co-workers and see how long it takes before you’re called on the carpet.

· Document your work. Document your hours. Most teachers don’t punch a time clock (thank heavens!) but you need to account for your time at school. Keep a simple daily work diary to keep track of the hours you teach, the hours you do extracurricular activities, the hours spent grading papers and dozing in meetings, etc. Believe it or not, sooner or later you will be called on to account for your actions, for your time, by the boss – because of a rumor or just because the boss is having a bad day and wants to pull rank. If you can quickly and efficiently tell your boss where you were on July 15th, at 2:30 pm, and what you were doing, it will impress your boss and possibly prevent these kind of things from happening in the future. It’s also important to remember that where performance is measured, performance improves. Your simple little work diary will give you ideas on where and how to improve your work so you can work smarter and not harder.

· Don’t ever bring your boss a problem without also bringing a possible solution. I’ve been assistant manager at several large corporations in the past and the one person I hate the most when I see them coming to me is the complainer with a problem who says, basically, “here is the problem, you take care of it”. I can do without those kind of people. Most often I already knew of the problem and was already racking my brains to come up with a solution. On the other hand, I always loved to hear from those employees who would come up to me and say “here is a problem and here is a possible solution for it”. You gotta love those kind of helpful individuals. Maybe you can’t always use their suggestion, but it always puts a positive spin on the conversation and makes it a pleasure to work with such people. Your boss is going to appreciate you more if you come to him or her with a problem and a proposed solution.

· Don’t brown-nose, but do be considerate. The famous British Prime Minister Disraeli once said, of his dealings with Queen Victoria, “when you use flattery on royalty you must lay it on with a trowel!” Here’s a news flash; your boss is not royalty. Bosses quickly gain a sixth-sense about lickspittles. They don’t like ‘em. On the other hand, is there any law that says you can’t remember your boss’ birthday with a little present, or offer to pick him or her up something at the 7-ll since you’re on the way there? Treat you boss as a normal human being and you’ll be surprised at the results.

And if I happen to be wrong, well then . . . I hope you’ve got a good job placement service looking out for you! I do!