How to cope with red tape in ESL teaching

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As a trainee or novice ESL teacher, you are more likely than not to encounter procedures that can best be considered as unnecessary, or excessively complicated, or frustrating: this is called – red tape.

For most people, the word bureaucracy has negative connotations; however, it is not bureaucracy per se that is responsible for the stress, frustration, and anger that is experienced by many people working in various organizations – the ‘demon’ is actually red tape. In the vernacular, bureaucracy has become synonymous with red-tape: but by definition bureaucracy “is a way of administratively organizing large numbers of people who need to work together.” In other words, without a bureaucracy – organizations would not be able to function properly. For the novice ESL teacher, red tape can be an extremely depressing and stressful experience: especially red tape encountered in record keeping, so here are six tips for dealing with this aspect of red tape.

1. Prepare yourself mentally. Faced with endless record-keeping tasks in the forms of report writing and form filling, try to accept them as part of your ESL duties. Don’t get annoyed or despondent, just say to yourself: “It is part of my duties, and everyone has to do it.”

2. Allocate time. Set aside a certain amount of time each day for dealing with red-tape: don’t let it pile up. If it’s really overwhelming you, request extra time from your school’s administration department.

3. Be meticulous. Make sure that forms and reports are completed carefully and precisely, that way – they won’t be returned to you for emendation or redoing: be especially careful with your choice of vocabulary when completing students’ end of term reports, for example: don’t say a student is ‘a pain in the neck; instead, say ‘annoying’; otherwise, your report will be returned to you for emendation.

4. Expect rejections. Always expect a certain number of reports and forms to be returned to you for emendation or redoing: that way, you won’t get so frustrated when they are sent back to you. As a personal rule of thumb, you should expect about 5% of your forms and reports to be returned.

5. Make suggestions. When you attend ESL staff meetings, try to make suggestions about how red tape can be reduced. As a novice ESL teacher, you should discuss this with your head of department before you actually announce your suggestions: it may be that some of your suggestions would not be welcomed by the school’s administration.

6. Seek help. If you aren’t sure about how to complete the forms or write the reports – seek help! Don’t waste your time and energy only to see work returned for emendation or redoing. For most people, the word bureaucracy has negative connotations; however, it is not bureaucracy per se that is responsible for the stress, frustration, and anger that is experienced by many people working in various organizations – the ‘demon’ is actually red tape. In the vernacular, bureaucracy has become synonymous with red-tape: but by definition bureaucracy “is a way of administratively organizing large numbers of people who need to work together.” In other words, without a bureaucracy – organizations would not be able to function properly. For the novice ESL teacher, red tape can be an extremely depressing and stressful experience: especially red tape encountered in record keeping, so here are six tips for dealing with this aspect of red tape.

1. Prepare yourself mentally. Faced with endless record-keeping tasks in the forms of report writing and form filling, try to accept them as part of your ESL duties. Don’t get annoyed or despondent, just say to yourself: “It is part of my duties, and everyone has to do it.”

2. Allocate time. Set aside a certain amount of time each day for dealing with red-tape: don’t let it pile up. If it’s really overwhelming you, request extra time from your school’s administration department.

3. Be meticulous. Make sure that forms and reports are completed carefully and precisely, that way – they won’t be returned to you for emendation or redoing: be especially careful with your choice of vocabulary when completing students’ end of term reports, for example: don’t say a student is ‘a pain in the neck; instead, say ‘annoying’; otherwise, your report will be returned to you for emendation.

4. Expect rejections. Always expect a certain number of reports and forms to be returned to you for emendation or redoing: that way, you won’t get so frustrated when they are sent back to you. As a personal rule of thumb, you should expect about 5% of your forms and reports to be returned.

5. Make suggestions. When you attend ESL staff meetings, try to make suggestions about how red tape can be reduced. As a novice ESL teacher, you should discuss this with your head of department before you actually announce your suggestions: it may be that some of your suggestions would not be welcomed by the school’s administration.

6. Seek help. If you aren’t sure about how to complete the forms or write the reports – seek help! Don’t waste your time and energy only to see work returned for emendation or redoing.

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