How Not To Micromanage at School

After teaching for a while, it is easy to get so caught up in the day-to-day and lose sight of the bigger picture. Truthfully, we sometimes forget what we are actually supposed to be doing in the classroom. Our job is to facilitate learning. We are teachers, not dog trainers. That is how I come to an important piece of advice: do not micromanage. What are you really getting out of controlling every single movement, breath, action, and thought of the kids in your class? Does it really make that much of a difference between a kid putting his hand up to get a drink of water from the fountain and simply getting up and going for one? You’ve got to let them have a little freedom! And it’s not only for them but for you as well. A teacher will undoubtedly increase their own stress levels if they are always on top of students about every last thing, their desks, their binders, who can get up, when they can get up, walking in line, behavior in gym class or during presentations, behavior before and after the periods change. If you micromanage every last thing, your next trip to the doctor’s office will no doubt include a conversation about high blood pressure!

I am not saying that you should let your classroom turn into a space where there are no rules. But turning every little instance where someone steps out of line into a big instance is not the main role of a teacher. Give students a little rope. I had a group of rowdy boys last year, so instead of turning every small issue into a big one, I used a form of progressive discipline that provided students the opportunity and agency to steer their behavior in an appropriate direction. These rambunctious boys operated on what I called the “5 strike system”: they had up to five instances of inappropriate behavior. This included things like distracting others from their work, leaving the room without permission, and not getting on task. On the 5th strike, they no longer had the privilege of going to the mall for lunch on Friday. For the most part, it kept my boys in line. And it helped me because I no longer needed to micro-manage every issue. Sometimes a loose grip on the class works better than a tight one. If you let go of some of the micromanagement, I promise you will feel more balanced and energized.


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Matthew R. Morris

Educator, Speaker, Writer

Matthew R. Morris is a writer, speaker, and elementary educator in Toronto. He has an M.A. in Social Justice Education from OISE at the University of Toronto and is the author of the forthcoming book, Black Boys Like Me. 

Matthew R. Morris

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