Headmaster/director

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Xander2024, Nov 7, 2010.

  1. Xander2024 Senior Member

    Southern Russia
    Russian
    Hello again!

    Another question I've just remebered is: can the word "director" ever be used with reference to a headmaster/principal? As far as I know it can't but then there are several types of schools (private and public ones) in Britain and the US and maybe some of them are run by directors?:confused:

    P.S. It's from a textbook, too.:D
     
  2. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    England
    English (England)
    Not that I've come across in the UK - they are headmaster/headmistress/headteacher or, less often, principal.

    If someone said "school director" I wouldn't be quite sure of what was meant, but might assume that this is some non-teaching business role - particularly if the school were private.
     
  3. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    What is from a text book?
    Is there something you should have quoted?
     
  4. Xander2024 Senior Member

    Southern Russia
    Russian
    There's nothing to quote, really. There is a text about an English school and the headmaster is referred to as "Director". I know it is wrong but have decided to address the native speakers here so they can dispel my doubts:). I believe such things happen when a text-book is written by someone who is NOT a native speaker.

    Thank you so much.
     
  5. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Is there some reason for your reluctance to share with us the context and the sentence in question?
    You seriously handicap our ability to help you by keeping this secret.
     
  6. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima

    Singapore
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I went to a Christian Brothers (not the Irish order, but the order founded by Frenchman Jean-Baptiste de La Salle) in Kuala Lumpur. The headmaster was known as 'Brother Director', and the deputy headmaster was known as 'Brother Supervisor'. (Both were in the order; and they would always have white cassocks on.) I'm sure these titles can't have been peculiar to just my old school.
     
  7. Xander2024 Senior Member

    Southern Russia
    Russian
    I wouldn't even think of handicapping you. I'm only saying that in one of my English textbooks there is a text about an English school. But as the author of the book is Russian, she keeps referring to the school head as "a director". (I think because Russian schools are run by "directors"). I know this word is inappropriate here, but I needed to be a 100% sure so I have decided to ask a native speaker.
    As you see, I'm not keeping any secrets.

    Thanks a lot.
     
  8. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    In my experience, in the US, public schools (that means, unlike a UK public school, open to the public and typically free) have principals and private schools have headmasters or headmistresses. (We are speaking, here, about schools below the college/university level, where there are different titles.)

    It has just occurred to me that this must be one of the very few areas that have not moved to using unisex titles. I suppose the title for all may soon be "head". Or perhaps we'll switch to "director".
     
  9. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    England
    English (England)
    As I say above, they have in the UK at least - headteacher.
     
  10. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    I wrote, earlier: 'It has just occurred to me that this [US "headmaster and "headmistress"] must be one of the very few areas that have not moved to using unisex titles. I suppose the title for all may soon be "head". Or perhaps we'll switch to "director".'

    Normally, here, the head of the school doesn't teach but is solely an administrator--so that won't be the word chosen.
     
  11. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima

    Singapore
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    In some schools you might have a head of school and a deputy head of school, and also heads of years (eg head of Year 8) and heads of departments (eg head of science). Not used in the US?
     
  12. Hermione Golightly Senior Member

    SW London
    British English
    It is true in the UK that headteachers rarely teach but the titles Headmaster, Headmistress and Headteacher remain in use.

    Hermione
     
  13. Xander2024 Senior Member

    Southern Russia
    Russian
    Thank you Parla, Timpeac, Natkretep and Hermione.:)
     
  14. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    "Head of department" might be used here, but it would usually be "chairman" or "chair" (e.g., "Science Department Chair"). The others, to my knowledge, no.
     
  15. linguos

    linguos Senior Member

    I've just seen the 3rd episode of the first series of Skins. At one point in this episode, Doug, the biology teacher comes to the room where Jal is practising for a music competition with her music teacher, and he says:

    "Yes, the director wants to see Jal here. Straightaway, please."

    Later, he takes the girl to the room, where a lady, who seems to be in charge of the whole school resides. She has the look and the manners of a typical headteacher. However, the use of the word "director" completely confused me, as I always thought this term was limited to the film industry.

    So, if anyone on the forum here has ever seen the episode could he or she confirm that "director" can be title for a headteacher in the UK? The school from the series is supposed to be a technical college in Bristol, if it helps. :)

    << Please read the forum rules about links. >>
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2011
  16. eni8ma

    eni8ma Senior Member

    Australia
    English - Australia
    At a technical college (or TAFE in Australia - Techinical and Further Education) the person who runs the college may be called a director.

    Technical colleges are for people who have left school. They are like mini-universities, offering a great variety of courses, and are much larger and more complex to run than a school, yet still often referred to as "school" (at least, here in Melbourne it is).

    Whatever they are called, it certainly isn't headmaster or principal, because it is more like a business, really, that happens to run many courses.
     
  17. linguos

    linguos Senior Member

    No, I don't think this is that sort of technical college.

    The school in the series is called "Roundview College" and it's a sixth form college (so it prepares for the A-levels).

    I know that one teacher from different school in this series called it a "technical college", apparently in Britain some secondary schools are referred to as "technical colleges" when they offer pre-university courses focused on maths, science and technology, which lead to taking A-levels in these subjects.

    So, we're taking about a normal school for teenagers here. That's why the use of "director" for the headteacher is so strange to me.
     
  18. ribran

    ribran Senior Member

    Austin, Texas
    English - American
    Oh, sure, we heads of school here, at least in Texas, but only at certain private schools. I happen to know that Hockaday, the ultra-exclusive all-girls school in Dallas, has a head of school. Some college prep schools in Austin have directors.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2011
  19. Fabulist Senior Member

    Annandale, Virginia, USA
    American English
    Note that in the US, "colleges" are hardly ever* secondary schools, they are almost always* institutions of "higher," that is, post-secondary, education. Colleges in the US have presidents, deans, occasionally directors. An institution of secondary education for children aged 12–18, if not called a "high school," is often called simply a "school": National Cathedral School, St. Paul's School. These are almost always expensive private institutions. Some of these institutions call their director "headmaster" or "headmistress" instead of the usual "principal," especially if they are trying to imitate English "public [US: "private"] schools" like Eton and Harrow.

    The use of "college" for one level of education in the US and a different level in some other English-speaking countries can lead to confusion. I know that in Great Britain, post-secondary institutions—universities—have "colleges" as components, so that "college" there can refer to either a secondary or a post-secondary institution.

    A US term with similar ambiguity to "college" in Great Britain is "academy." Most institutions with the word "academy" in their names are private secondary or primary and secondary schools (such as Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., and Exeter, N.H.) but "academy" is the formal term for the post-secondary officer-training institutions of the U.S. armed forces and merchant marine, and for merchant-marine officer training institutions maintained by a few states (e.g., Maine Maritime Academy). Since an "academy" in the U.S. is usually a private secondary school, it would usually have a "principal" but might have a "headmaster" or "headmistress" instead. The title of the top official in each of the U.S. armed forces service academies is superintendent. However, in public secondary schools, the "superintendent" is the chief executive of an entire school district or county school system that usually includes more than one school.

    The terminology of expensive private schools has been adopted by some "charter schools," publicly-supported but privately-managed elementary and secondary schools in some U.S. cities. They often call themselves "academies" and I would not be surprised to find that some have "headmasters" or "headmistresses" instead of "principals." But the usual term for the director of a secondary school in the U.S. is "principal." That might be used as a general descriptor even if for a person whose formal title is "Director" or "Headmaster," i.e., "Headmaster John Bradford" might be described as "John Bradford, the school's principal."

    *I originally wrote "never" and "always" but Washington, D.C., has "Gonzaga College High School." But this is illustrative: once known as "Gonzaga College," it was always a pre-university institution, and added "High School" to its name to make that clear.
     
  20. Hermione Golightly Senior Member

    SW London
    British English
    In the UK, those in charge of a school's musical activities might be called "Director of Music". I have always wondered about this title. We do not talk about 'Director of Science' when we mean Head of ( the) Science (department). I conclude that 'director' is used because the musical activities of any school involve productions of one sort or another. Some schools, especially boarding schools, have so many musical activities, for example with several types of band, that an overall director is very necessary. Some productions might involve the school's drama department.

    We could easily drown in all the particularities and details. "Director of School" would be a very unusual term for the Head Teacher/ Principal of any sort of school at any level in the UK. There is a title Director of Studies but I don't know what that means.

    The learner only needs to know what the generally accepted, readily comprehensible broad terms are.

    Hermione
     
  21. Ceremoniar Senior Member

    USA
    American English
    I realize that this is an old thread, but it has already been resurrected. In the US, heads of private schools can call themselves anything they wish. While principal and headmaster are most common, a smaller number do use director, such as this school.
     
  22. Xander2024 Senior Member

    Southern Russia
    Russian
    DO they really??
     
  23. Ceremoniar Senior Member

    USA
    American English
    I worked at that school 25+ years ago--same director is still there.
     
  24. linguos

    linguos Senior Member

    Thank you very much Fabullist. This is all hugely interesting to me, as I generally like to study such curiosities. I'm keen on pretty everything regarding the Anglosphere and the culture, the politics, the education systems, etc. of the countries belonging to it. :)

    I really hope that more people from the UK will soon join the discussion. Especially that some users here, like timpeac, who lives in England, said earlier in this thread that they've never heard of a "school director".

    Yet, Skins is a popular British TV series and it seems that there the term "director" is used to describe the school's principal. The person in question really didn't look like someone who is employed solely for the purpose of supervising school's musical activities. I doubt a biology teacher would feel insecure in front of such person, while everybody might feel this way in front of the headteacher, I suppose. :D
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2011
  25. Xander2024 Senior Member

    Southern Russia
    Russian
    But "director" is NOT what is used everywhere in the UK or US, is it?
     
  26. linguos

    linguos Senior Member

    I think not. I'm very keen on the British culture and I read a lot of articles on education in the UK, yet this episode of the Skins is my first encounter of this word being used in a school environment. Have a look at Hermione's insightful comment, which states clearly, that it must be a very rare case. Of course, I'm speaking only about the UK here, not the USA.

    However, it's interesting as other European languages use equivalent terms to describe the person who's first in command at school (German Direktor, French directeur, Polish dyrektor, etc).
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2011
  27. Ceremoniar Senior Member

    USA
    American English

     
  28. ribran

    ribran Senior Member

    Austin, Texas
    English - American
    Yes. :)

    Off the top of my head, I can think of three or four private schools in Austin that have directors. There's also at least one school that has a superintendent.

    In general, these titles are not common in the United States.
     
  29. linguos

    linguos Senior Member

    So far in this thread we have established that for most of the native speakers using the term "director" to describe a headteacher of a secondary school is rather odd, apart from maybe some private schools which would use this term in their official documents but probably not within the school corridors, where the person managing the school would still be referred to as the "principal" or "headmaster/-teacher".

    However, this link: http://scr.hu/screenshooter/6903270/myuorbn shows that nowadays, even school textbooks written by native speakers for the learners of English at elementary level teach this word to beginners as if it was a standard word for a person running a school (the excerpt comes from the New English File: Elementary, Oxford University Press 2002).

    Does it mean that there is a growing tendency in the UK to replace the more traditional terms with this relatively new one?

    If not, I think it's not a good idea to use it in the book for beginner ESL students, especially as even some native speakers - as this thread showed - wouldn't be sure what "school director" is supposed to mean. :thumbsdown:
     
  30. Xander2024 Senior Member

    Southern Russia
    Russian
    Thanks a lot for the good post, linguos. :)
     
  31. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    England
    English (England)
    No, I don't think so.
    I'm not sure what it means. However, I notice that this is about the "Winterbourne School of English". So this is not a school in the sense that many of us use that word (British English) meaning the place we go to as children to learn (or indeed in the American sense of university) but rather a school of English for foreign learners - this is a business. As such, I'm not surprised that it doesn't have a "headteacher" because, although headteachers rarely teach, they have normally come through the teaching ranks to head up a school. Here we have a relatively small business of a few teachers exclusively teaching English.
     
  32. linguos

    linguos Senior Member

    You're right here, timpeac, however, in the example I gave earlier in this thread, we were talking about a normal British state sixth-form college, not a private specialized school run like a business as in this example. For some reason the scriptwriters of the TV series titled "The Skins" decided that it's OK to call a secondary school headmistress a "director".

    Also, what I was referring to in my comment (the one you quoted) was that in my opinion textbooks for beginners should use simple, common and standard words and when they make some exceptions then they should clearly state that this or that word is an exception and in what contexts it can be used.

    It's the same with "have got" - when I was at primary school, we were taught that "Have you got any sisters?" was the standard British way to ask such a question, while "Do you have any sisters?" was supposed to be predominantly American but gaining some popularity in the UK nowadays due to the americanization of the British TV...

    Had I not found this wonderful forum, I would still think that "have got" is acceptable even in official English and all because none of those ESL textbooks mentioned otherwise. I would just like the publishers to be a bit more careful. :rolleyes:
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2012

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