Last Updated: October 22, 2021
How the Job Works
Hi Ladies and Gents,
And we’re back for round two today of the new and improved Andreas Philip Gross Enterprises! As promised on Monday, today is our first Coordinate THAT! post on the refurbished blog. The title of this post is How the Job Works, but I almost renamed it A Day Late and a Dollar Short, just because I have already managed to get myself behind in my posts here - posting this Thursday post on Friday! And it's only the first week back online! But, better a day late and a dollar short than never showing up to the party at all, I figure! I will continue to hone my game!
October hurries on – and before we all know it, Halloween will be here! Do you have your costume yet? Some, like myself, will also be celebrating Reformation Sunday that day, and October 31st just so happens to fall exactly on a Sunday this year!
In case you missed the big “refurbishment and relaunch” of the website this past Monday, we’re back to our regular – new and improved! – programing here on Andreas Philip Gross Enterprises, the website formerly known as Biz Opp Empire. The website Biz Opp Empire and the Andreas Philip Gross Enterprises homepage have fused together as one to become the website you are reading right now! This website you are browsing right now is Andreas Philip Gross Enterprises – refurbished and reloaded – and hi, I’m your host, Andreas Gross! Who am I? In many regards I suppose I’m just your typical “post-1492 American White Guy mutt,” but in most other regards my wife, who is Chinese, will tell you I am one of the most internationalized Americans you will ever meet. You see, despite being born in the US (and only because my Mom flew back from Bangladesh, where she and my Dad were living and working at the time, to have me), I have actually spent most of my life outside of the US.
I was born in Eastern Washington State, USA, but grew up largely between India and Malaysia. My wife is from Shanghai, China – born and raised! We both currently hold leadership positions in Elementary Schools in the City of Kunshan, just outside of Shanghai, in the People's Republic of China. I am the Foreign Academic Coordinator at the flagship East China campus of a large private Taiwanese school, and my wife is the Deputy Director of the Elementary School English Department at another private school (not a Taiwanese school) down the street in the same city. In addition to my “day job,” which I love, I am an ICF-trained Professional Coach who works with educators, entrepreneurs, and teachers who want to start their own business, and businesspeople who want to get into the world of education. I love education and anything that has to do with making money, particularly startups, “one-person-shows” small businesses, freelancers, independent agents and contractors, and most anything “entrepreneurial” in spirit. I also run a small handful of other websites as well as have several other side gigs I operate, almost all related in some way or another to either the dissemination of information and/or education.
With that mini-introduction and little recap of last week out of the way, let’s jump in here to the meat and potatoes of today’s blog post – the first monthly post of: Coordinate THAT! From The Desk of the Elementary School Coordinator. Today’s post: How the job works
As I mentioned in last week’s post (and I also discuss elsewhere on this site), I’ve been involved in K-12 educational leadership for a number of years now. I am currently in my 14th year in the field of education at the time of this writing. I’ve been the Head of Elementary and Middle School Science Departments, a grade-level team leader for two years, I’ve even sat on the governing body of my home church as the 2-year elected Education Committee Liaison (which oversaw the church’s K-12 Sunday School and Youth Education Program).
Most recently, starting in 2018, I’ve been a Coordinator. To be precise, a Deputy Curriculum Coordinator from July of 2018 through June of 2021, and now (starting in August of 2021) an Academic Coordinator at the same school. The most frequent question I get asked is: What is a “Coordinator” and what does a Coordinator do? I shall attempt to answer these two questions here today without writing an encyclopedia, although that could be tricky! I am a man of many words!
Essentially, a coordinator, as the name implies, coordinates things. From my personal experiences in educational leadership, I would venture to throw in there that a good coordinator also leads and has vision. Confused yet? Even if you’re not confused, let’s break it down here. This is how my current school is structured:
I work at a large school. It is a private school that has been in operation for close to 20 years. My particular campus, however, is only 7 going on 8 years old at the time of this writing. Here at my particular campus, there are close to 2,000 students in our 1st-6th Grade Elementary School alone (not even including our Early Childhood Department and Middle School and High School!). My jurisdiction as coordinator lies in the Elementary School.
The leadership structure of the school works as such: the head of the school is the chairman. He is based out of our parent campus (i.e. “Headquarters”) in Taiwan. Each satellite campus under him is administered by a superintendent. Underneath our superintendent here at my particular campus, our school has two principals – one who oversees the Early Childhood School and Elementary School and one who oversees the combined Middle-High School. Underneath each principal are departmental directors. For example, the department I work in is the called the English Learning Center Department – this department (and every other department within the school) is headed by its own unique departmental director. Underneath each director there are coordinators. Underneath the coordinators are the deputy coordinators. Underneath the coordinators and deputy coordinators are the head teachers. Then you have teachers, who are the leaders of their own classrooms. That is the basic leadership structure of the school I work in. Of course, then you also have various other dedicated office specialist staff. I could also talk about the kitchen, dormitories, and logistics and maintenance departments, each of whom has some slight differences, but the “skeleton structure” of the hierarchy remains the same throughout all departments with only very minor adjustments for some specialists and specialty work.
Coordinators report directly to the departmental director and deputy coordinators report to their coordinator. Both attempt to implement the mission and vision that the director, principal, and superintendent have. The coordinator and deputy coordinator also bring issues and concerns “up from below” (i.e. from teachers) to their director. Essentially, as the coordinator and deputy coordinator, when your director says “Make X, Y, and Z happen!”, it is the coordinator’s job to first find out how X, Y, and Z can be done, and then do whatever it might take to make them happen, ideally all while keeping teachers happy, but if nothing else, at least functioning smoothly, at their posts!
You are the middleman(woman) between upper management and “the trenches,” if you will (as we often affectionately refer to the classroom). You have ONE MISSION as a coordinator: to get things done while keeping as many people happy as possible! That is basically your job description. YOU coordinator. You are the one who makes things happen in the end of the day! You director may give you some assignments to carry out: “The teachers need to start using this new textbook next semester and incorporate a Friday morning review time in to their weekly plans.” Ok, boom, this has just landed on your desk from director, now it’s your job to actually make this become a physical reality!
Your mind instantly starts racing: ok, great, there’s the mission....do we have that textbook in our storeroom? If we don’t, or if we are short, how many do we need to order? How long will the order take to come in? If the order can’t come before the start of the next semester, what is the “Plan B” for an implementation timeline on this book? How do teachers feel about using this textbook? Is it a book they have been pushing for (an easy sell)? A book they feel neutral about (also a fairly easy sell)? Do they hate the book? If they hate the book, you’ve got your work cut out for you in the hearts and minds department if your director still insists on using that book (or perhaps her hands are tied and the principal above her has told her that her department must use that particular book – no ifs, ands, or buts....even if that’s the case, you still have your work cut out for you in the hearts and minds department). How much does the book cost (how much money will need to be requested “from above” for the purchase of this book)? What will parents feel about the switch in textbooks and how can you answer their questions? That’s one of the easier, more straightforward missions a coordinator like myself might deal with.
Let’s say a request comes from “the ground up,” from a teacher on the team: “Mr. Gross, I’d like to teach a new course here at the school.” Wow! Ok, heavy! “Interesting,” I say. My mind starts racing again...I could just be a prick and tell the teacher “Sorry, I don’t do that (because I don’t ‘have to’ and it will mean extra logistical work for me),” and call it good. Or, I could look at the bigger picture and see that my job is to help my department not only run as smoothly as possible, but also expand, develop, grow wings and fly! “Cool,” I respond, “what do you have in mind?” Then the next steps include: talking the course over with the teacher – what is already planned out, what still needs to be planned out...oh, my, thank goodness! You’ve been planning this for years you say?! This is your dream class and you already have a meticulously put together curriculum for it?! Great! Perfect! You just made things a whole lot easier – and our sales pitch to the director is going to be a whole lot easier because of that! Ok, put together a 10 minute ‘sales pitch,’ I say. I organize a meeting with the director. I 'prime' her and tell her what it is about in advance. The teacher and I walk into the director’s office at the appointed time. I introduce things....then the teacher takes over....and here comes the pitch! Boom! Home run! The director loves the idea. Ok, not over yet....that was just the very first step. Will the principal approve? Since this is the addition of a class to a department, the director herself will go talk directly to the principal about this (I am not involved with that step)....
......Ok, but the principal has now APPROVED (that is good), so, Andreas, you’re up again...draft a letter to parents explaining the new course, fit the new course into our current schedule, and get a list of all necessary supplies that the teacher will need for this course – get this list ASAP in case we need to buy things that take a long time to purchase. When the new class starts, make sure everything is off to a stellar start! How are things going? Does the teacher need anything else for the class? Is the class working out logistically and schedule-wise? Do the parents have questions? All these things are on YOU, coordinator, to get answers to and find solutions for!
I could say a whole lot more about the job, but I promised I wouldn’t write and encyclopedia (but I fear I have come dangerously close to doing so already!)! I will just mention a few more things really quickly before ending this post today...
There are meetings – sometimes these are just meetings you attend as an attendee, sometimes these are meetings amongst other parties that you simply arrange for the other parties (and you may or may not be there physically present in the meeting yourself in the end), and sometimes these are meetings that you have to plan, orchestrate, and execute all by yourself. In the case of curriculum coordinators, there are formal and informal teacher observations to conduct; curriculum to write/tweak/build; project and presentation ideas to evaluate, textbooks to evaluate; extra-curricular learning experiences that tie in with your curriculum to evaluate (i.e. guest speakers, field trips, etc.). As an academic coordinator there are events to plan – Halloween, Christmas, Chinese New Year, Open Days, Parent-Teacher Conferences. For both coordinators there is scheduling to do – for classes, for testing, for special events, and more! For both coordinators there is also the ever-present question of discipline and behavior management systems to keep in mind.
The coordinator is the face! The face of more people/entities than one! As the coordinator, you are the face of your teaching team under you – and you present that face every time you meet with and deal with your director and your principal on behalf of the teachers on your team. How do you ask for what the teachers want? How to do ‘pitch it’? What language do you use? What does your body language look like? What about your timing? All these things make a difference! Likewise, when you bring ‘the news’ from the higher echelons of management down to your team of teachers, how do you present it? What kinds of words to you use? Do you present it with practiced, polished professionalism? Or casually? Flippantly? Respectfully? Disrespectfully? Same as above – how are you dressed? What does your body language look like? Do you communicate ideas as you get them? Consolidate them for a weekly or half a week and have weekly or twice-weekly “information dissemination fests,” or do you just camp out on them until everyone is pissed off at you for not telling them and it is too late to make amends? All these things matter!
Lastly, a good coordinator is not a robot! I have seen far too many otherwise respectable teachers (or at least teachers I use to have respect for) take coordinator jobs – and the same can be said for grade level leader jobs, head of department jobs, and even departmental directorship jobs, really; I’ve seen it in all of these capacities personally – who take these management jobs and then assume they will just be a “brainless middleman(woman)” who is just a “pass through” for “orders” sent from above. Nothing can ever come “from the ground up” through the coordinator in such a situation because the coordinator him or herself won’t allow it. They just “carry out the 'orders' the boss above them gives” and that is that – no questions asked! You do as I say because, well, that’s what I was told we have to do and that is that. This does not work! At least I have found that does not necessarily work well!
As a coordinator you also have a mind and voice of your own! Yes, you need to “do what your boss says,” of course, in one sense (that’s kind of how the world works!), but you can and do have the ability to question and try to make better if necessary those things which are not outstanding to begin with. You’ve heard it said: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” You could just pass lemons down from above to your team and call it good. I say “Shame on you!” As the coordinator, you are the lemonade maker!
Also, you have the ability to implement your own programs and such as they align with the school’s mission and vision (at least I do at my school). If you have an idea that will make your department better, by all means, step up to the plate and suggest it! Sure, not all suggestions are always taken, but that’s the same with anyone at any job in any position anywhere in this world! Don’t be afraid to try to get your department to shine!
As my very last bit to add to this post today, I REALLY hate to speak in terms of “bottom” and “top,” because, although it makes things easy to discuss and visualize from a management perspective (that’s why I use these terms here), it sometimes gives the wrong impression to people on the outside looking in to such a discussion. A teacher is not “at the bottom” of anything. If anything, it is the teachers who brings the true spark to the whole institution. Without teachers, a school would just be an empty building. And a principal and superintendent are no more “at the top” of anything than anyone else is. Of course, the owner (chairman, in this case) of a private school is at the “top” (in quotes) in the sense that he/she owns the organization; yet, still, it is the teachers who make the magic happen within the organization, and if the teachers aren’t happy and turn against management and the owner, then the owner is left with nothing and is at the “top” of nothing but a failed institution. I just use these terms, like I say, for ease of discussion and visualization of the flow of the chain of command. No one is inherently “superior” nor “inferior” to anyone else in my mind just because of their work position in the hierarchy of an organization or institution!
With ALL THAT said – and I realize that was a lot – I bid you farewell, dear readers, until Monday. I still feel that there is MUCH MORE I can say about being a coordinator, but that is largely the point of the monthly Coordinate THAT! post! So on that note, we’ll cover more ground here next month in the next post From The Desk Of The Elementary School Coordinator, and I’ll be back on Monday with an interview. We’ll be hearing from Zhang Fang this upcoming Monday, a model from The People’s Republic of China.
A teacher takes a hand, opens a mind, and touches a heart! Better business, better life, better tomorrow!
Ideas, inspiration, opportunity,
Andreas Philip Gross Enterprises
Washington State Certified K-8 Educator, K-12 International Education Consultant, Professional Coach, Proofreader/Editor, Affiliate Marketer, Popsicle Stick Crafter, Print-on-Demand Products Designer, and Webmaster (check out: www.cityofpullmanportal.com, www.949crafts.com)
Looking for a professional coach? I’m your man! Let’s chat.
International K-12 Educator,
CLICK HERE for most recent blog post.