what Michael Scott can teach you about classroom management

Michael Scott has many flaws. For one, he has a penchant for saying, “that’s what she said,” after anything with the slightest off-color connotation. I can’t imagine a teacher wanting to emulate that. Also, he can err on the side of fun and fail to inspire his workers toward challenging work. Moreover, he can be a push-over in conflict. When Stanley said, “Did I stutter?” he chose the distant, permissive approach rather than dealing with the confrontation.

For all his faults, Michael Scott manages to take a diverse, difficult staff and build a sense of community. While the workers sometimes get out of hand, he gently pushes them back with humor and humility. Humor is one of the best tactics for preventative classroom management. Teachers can diffuse conflict, provide a sense of excitement and create an avenue for fun through the use of humor. For all his flaws, most people would enjoy working in The Office, because of the atmosphere. Seriously, he creates a disco cafe. How cool is that? True, there are moments where he fails to lead, but other times when he takes risks for his staff members. He is creative in his approach, which helps break the monotony.
Michael Scott realizes something that many managers don’t understand. No one wants to be micromanaged. People can be self-directed and groups can often manage themselves. If a manager wants a productive team, it has to be based upon relationships. People have to play together and be together. They have to know one another. For all that he gets wrong, Michael Scott is able to create that atmosphere, because, deep within, he cares about his employees.
Pretentious, Presumptuous and Perhaps Practical Advice
1. Use humor: I mean, not as much as Michael Scott, but seriously consider using it as a part of the classroom routine. If you’re not funny, act goofy sometimes.
2. Build relationships: For me, this means writing positive notes (not as bribes, but as feedback), doing birthday cards, opening class up at lunch and before school and taking the time to give longer feedback during cooperative learning activities. During bell work, I’ll set up mini-conferences with students. In a self-contained class, a teacher could easily meet with ever student individually once every two week for an in-depth conference.
3. Be creative: In terms of lessons, think of ways to catch students off guard and make learning more interesting. It doesn’t have to be a Disco Cafe, but it doesn’t have to be textbooks and packets either.
4. Avoid micromanaging: Before creating a rule or procedure, ask yourself, “Would they already know how to do this?” If the answer is yes, let them figure it out on their own. On a resource blog, I have a list of ways that you can outsource your job so that students do more.
Photo Credit
Flickr Creative Commons
And for some slightly off-colour humour:

John Spencer

My goal is simple. I want to make something each day. Sometimes I make things. Sometimes I make a difference. On a good day, I get to do both.

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3 responses

  1. I heart The Office and find Michael a mix of charming and horrifying, depending on the day. And I love this post for those reasons.

    Another thing, though, that I've learned from Michael: sometimes you have students that….well, that you just don't like. Like Michael and Toby. Michael is so, so, so mean to Toby; it's funny on TV, but would be awful in a classroom. And yet it happens.

    I've been teaching for two years (so not long, I know) and this year I had a kid that I just.didn't.like. And I felt terrible about it, and I caught myself being less patient with him than I was with most of the rest of my kids. That wasn't okay, so I worked really hard on treating him like everyone else. While I still don't particularly like him, I did a much better job of acting otherwise once I realized that. He had just as much right to be treated like a human being and not like an irritating little creep in my classroom as everyone else. For me, Michael is a cautionary tale too.

  2. This post is fantastic. I teach in a high school and the kids say "that's what she said" all the time. As an office fan, I can to force back a reaction. It's hilarious!

    Michael would make an awful teacher. I do love him though! While he builds a sense of community, he is not politically correct. Diversity day episode? Gay witch hunt?

    Still great though!

  3. Right on the money with this post!!! We can probably all agree that Michael's persona might not be the best fit in a classroom….but he is committed to who he is and OWNS it!!! Off color humor is better than no humor at all….right? It definitely makes more of an interesting day in the classroom. When kids are interested…they engage and learn….!!! Michael can sub for me….anyday of the week!!!

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