Managing a classroom is a difficult task. Regardless of the age, grade or school environment each class will bring about management issues that a teacher simply cannot ignore. A teacher is a manager whose primary role is to get students to complete tasks and support them in achieving goals. According to the Wall Street Journal (2015) managers have 5 primary functions:
1) Sets objectives. The manager sets goals for the group, and decides what work needs to be done to meet those goals.
2) Organizes. The manager divides the work into manageable activities, and selects people to accomplish the tasks that need to be done.
3) Motivates and communicates. The manager creates a team out of his people, through decisions on pay, placement, promotion, and through communications with the team.
4) Measures. The manager establishes appropriate targets and yardsticks, and analyzes, appraises and interprets performance.
5) Develops people. With the rise of the knowledge worker, this task has taken on added importance. In a knowledge economy, people are the company’s most important asset, and it is up to the manager to develop that asset.
From a teaching perspective management could be seen as:
1) Set objectives: Start each day with a clear objective, learning target and class goals.
2) Organizes: Chunk curriculum into tasks that students can accomplish, differentiate instruction to meet ALL needs and select pedagogy that will support all learners
3) Motivates and communicates: Set clear expectations, classroom rules, procedures, consequences and incentives that are clear, comprehensible and understood by all.
4) Measures: Use student assessment both formal and informal to drive instruction. Provide students with immediate feedback, recognition and praise that is tied to their performance and behavior.
5) Develop people: establish relationships with all constituents at your school site and connect stakeholders in a way that builds on the most important assets in the community their children.
The similarities between teacher and manager are certainly clear and therefore begs the question what kind of manager are you? Identifying one’s strengths and weaknesses as a manager can surely support teachers in identifying areas of strength and places for growth.
Teachers do not enter the profession with the desire to be unsuccessful and managers who are not successful surely won’t last for too long. Managers not only set expectation but also manage conflict. The biggest mistake new teachers often make is turn over the management of their classroom to the principal. This not only sends a message to the school leader (CEO) that you can not do your job as a manager but also sends a message to the student (your employees) that you are not authority when it comes to classroom discipline.
Mike Myatt (2012) warns managers “Don’t Fear Conflict–Embrace it-it’s your job“. Teachers must adopt the mindset that conflict is natural and healthy part of your job. Rather than perceive conflict as a impediment for teaching it should be viewed as an opportunity to develop your practice and for all to grow. Perhaps then conflict would be confronted in a much more productive way and become in itself a teachable moment where all stakeholders can benefit. Myatt (2012) also shared with managers 5 keys of dealing with workplace conflict which I will restate with a teaching lens
1). Define Acceptable Behavior: Teachers need to make PUBLICLY clear what their expectations are and what is acceptable behavior. Myatt notes that manager can not assume that people understand what is acceptable and should establish a framework. Teachers likewise will also benefit from having clearly posted guidelines and expectations defined and simplified. Expectations can be sent home and signed by parents and students.
2) Hit Conflict Head On: Teachers just like managers need to seek out areas of potential conflict and devise strategies to intervene and circumvent disruptive behavior. An ounce of behavior is worth a pound of cure.
3). Understanding the WIIF Factor: The WIIF factor is “Whats in it for me” is important for teachers to consider when managing disruptive classroom behavior. Rather than approach a situation from the lens of I can’t do my job because you are being disruptive, approach the student from the stance of what the benefit is for the student. If students see the value in what they are doing and how it will help them then they will be motivated to do the task.
4). The Importance Factor: Timing is everything and when we respond to conflicts in the moment this may cause us to act out of character or out of emotion. Determining when to pull a student aside to discuss an issue is critical, but also teachers need to think critically about whether a potential conflict can be ignored. If students are constantly being redirected for behavior they can not control this can cause an uncomfortable dynamic in your personal relationships.
5) View Conflict as Opportunity: This is especially true for teachers as conflict in the classroom reveal areas for growth and ways we can support our students in being successful not only in the classroom but throughout their life.
Preservice teachers can certainly benefit from addressing potential conflicts they will face as new teachers in the classroom. In this Voicethread post I challenge my students to respond to these 3 situations in a way that is proactive and seeks solutions that develop students’ capacity to manage their own behavior.