Popular worldwide, governor and governess jobs tend to be focused on the education, behaviour, and general upbringing of the charge(s).
However, a new governess job or international governor position can come in many shapes and sizes. Here are some solid tips to keep things moving along through your trial week and beyond.
1.Be smiley and positive
A simple tip to start, but this really is essential. No parent wants their child to be educated by somebody who is grumpy or miserable. Make sure you present yourself as a positive, active individual, fun to be around for both the kids and other household staff.
If you can make the parents understand that you will bring a good energy to the house and keep their kids involved and smiling, you immediately take a huge step in the right direction. So show us those pearly whites!
2. Establish schedule and ground rules
When coming into a new job, you really need to find out what is going on. Try and establish a set time when you will be able to sit down with the family, and any nannies they might have, and have a good twenty minute or so discussion about the kids’ schedule. Explain that to do your job to the best of your ability you need to understand their timetable, when they have school, homework, extra-curricular activities and any agreed free time.
This will allow you to plan any lessons or activities you need to do as best you can. This is also a good opportunity to find out about any house rules, both for the staff and the kids, to make sure that everything goes the way the parents expect.
If the role is an international one, don’t be offended if you find any of the rules strange; people from other cultures often have their own systems that can seem strange to an educator from a different country. Explain to the family that you, although a professional, are from a different culture yourself and tell them that if there is anything they want you to do differently then just to let you know.
Tell them you will not be upset, you just want to work in a way that will ensure the parents are pleased with your work!
3. Get creative - and have something to show for yourself
One of my top tips for starting a new governor or governess job is to give the parents something tangible that they can see. Drawings or paintings that can go up on the wall; language displays if your charges are learning English; or even video or music clips if they are within your skills set (it’s really easy to make videos with music on iMovie) are usually all well received.
Check with the parents if it’s OK to send photos or videos of the kids to them on WhatsApp (make it clear that the files will not be shared with anyone else) and keep them updated on what you guys are getting up to!
4. Coordinate with other household staff and teachers
It is almost always a good idea to show the parents that you are professional and keen to integrate by suggesting a meeting with the school teachers. Perhaps you can take the teacher’s phone number or email address down and build some sort of ‘team’ with them, allowing you to focus on the areas that the child struggles with at school.
Aim to go into the school once a month and talk to any relevant teachers and look at their schoolwork to make sure everybody is on the same page. You can do the same with any household staff who are involved in the kids’ education.
5.Write reports - both for yourself and for the parents
Another great way to show your organisational skills, professionalism and seriousness about your job is to prepare reports - either short daily reports or a weekly summary. Doing this without the parents asking you to is a sure way to impress.
A weekly report can cover what you have worked on with the kids over the last week in different subjects, what their free time has consisted of and any behaviour notes or improvements. This is also a great way to note down any problems you come across or suggestions you may have.
Don’t be upset if the parents don’t always have time to read the reports - a lot of VIP families have incredibly busy schedules and you may even want to take the pressure off the parents to read them (especially if English isn’t their first language) by telling them that the reports are for you yourself, but that you would like to send them a copy just in case they have time to look. Regardless, you can be content that you are showing your own ability and professionalism, and the family will respect this.
6. Be respectful
At the start of a new governor or governess job and moving onwards it is highly advisable to present yourself well in front of the parents and any other household staff. Coming across as rude or condescending to any other house members can be highly detrimental to your work situation. Remember these people have worked in the house longer than you and almost certainly have a stronger relationship with the family.
It is very easy to be respectful - smile, help out where you can, and be smartly dressed. Do not tread mud or dirt into the house at any time. If you are likely to be spending a lot of time outside, bring in spare clothes to wear for sports or outdoor activities
Clear away your plates after eating, and try to explain to the staff (although you may need Google Translate for non-English speakers!) that you are there to help, and they can ask you if they need anything. A great rapport with other staff is a surefire way to make your stay with any family a more comfortable one.
7. Be punctual
You wouldn’t believe how many people are late for day one at work, and this really can be disastrous. Throughout your role, but particularly in the beginning, be sure to be on time or a little early for meetings and the agreed schedule.
In the event that something goes wrong, try to let your employer know sooner rather than later but be sure not to pester them with unnecessary updates or messages. If in doubt allow time for emergencies and be ready ten minutes beforehand, at least until you are a little more established in the position.
8. Over prepare
One of the worst things that can happen beginning a job is sitting around finding you’ve got nothing to do. It looks terrible, but it should never really be the case. When the kids are with you, be sure to have a lot of activities planned such as: homework and reviewing school work; your own lessons; arts and crafts; design work; games. There are thousands of ideas on Pinterest alone.
If the kids are busy and you don’t want to be seen to be just sitting down waiting, get your computer out and do some research for cool arts and crafts ideas or plans for next week. It is always better to have a lot to do than to be struggling for ideas. If you need specific materials, ask the parents if a driver could go with you (or even go alone) to pick them up.
You will often find that if you over prepare you will have plenty of ideas for a rainy day. If you under prepare you will look disorganised or even boring. Don’t make this mistake!
9. Remember, they’re not your kids!
It is important to remember that you are a staff member, not a parent. As a general rule (all cultures are different) it is a good idea to sidestep any potential conflict by avoiding kissing or hugging the kids (however cute they might be!) and reminding the children that their parents are in charge.
On the other hand, the parents will likely be overjoyed if you prepare arts and crafts with the kids as gifts for them, and are likely to appreciate you reminding the kids that you are a friend to them but not their mum or dad, and some things are not your decision or appropriate for your position.
10. Take a peace offering
Last but not least, a great instant way to build rapport with a child is to take them a thoughtful present. Firstly, this shows the parents that you are organised, you think ahead, you're serious about the role and you are keen to establish a good relationship with their son or daughter.
Secondly, you show the child that you are coming as a friend and someone that they can look forward to being around. It is advised not to take gifts too regularly - make sure you aren’t buying the child’s friendship - but every kid loves a little surprise once in a while.
The best presents are ones that you can work on together with the child - Lego, a drawing or painting kit, a model, or a board game. This can further strengthen your bond with them.