In this third of the Lessons from Teaching series, CareerActually contributor Peter Luscombe highlights the value of managing both yourself and others well.

Know where you stand – set your compass bearings

Compass Concept

First day of class I’d walk in, sit my students down, then tell them to listen-up. The first few minutes went like this:

 There are only three rules in my classroom. They are:

 1. I am in-charge [meaning I am responsible for what happens]

2. We are here to work [meaning this is a business place]

3. Everyone will respect one another [meaning personal space, acknowledgement & praise for positivity].

In my mind, good management means keeping matters simple and clear. Good management as well let’s others know where they stand. I’m realistic enough to know that was not always the case in the world beyond my past classroom. Within those four walls, I was management. However, outside I was pushed to and fro like anyone in the work-force.

Crucially, what I learned was to know where I stood in the here and now; to look towards what was holding me back; and equally as importantly, to acknowledge there were issues I had no control over or even any say in. I told my students as much, and I expressed as much to what we called ‘Admin’ and to my colleagues. Every time I did, though at times it was daunting, I set my compass, stepped up, knew my bearings – AND – knew where I stood.

Know where you stand – be organized


A non-teaching friend once asked me –

 How do you manage 100 mins face-to-face with 25 teenagers?

My answer was simple –

 Doing my best to put us all on the same page and keep us there by being prepared and organized.

Disorganization is an anathema to good work practices and habits. You’re not at the helm, others know this and where you’re headed is unclear. Teenagers, but not just them, will immediately see this and take advantage. To keep myself firmly grounded, to have my students know what’s what, I used to put a plan on the board for that lesson. That entailed as much detail as required to orientate. With that at the end of each week I gave them the generalized picture of what we’d do next week in each lesson, reminders of deadlines and set deadlines.

I believed then, still do, that you need to have a view of the ‘big picture,’ bring that down to ground level [practical details and an understanding] and know where you’re headed. Matters have to be clear and kept as straight forward as possible. These were expectations I had of myself. ‘Admin’ passed down generalized expectations of how to do my job, however, it was up to me to come up with strategies, ways and means.

Of course I referred to my students for their take on what was what, their parents, my colleagues, attended seminars on how to better teach and that added on, kept my eyes open and generally broadened the grounds I stood upon.

Giving yourself space to breath, knowing where you stand, and simply getting on with matters all count in any job. They are compass bearings that place you at the helm so you can get on with the job. Admittedly, there are steps, daunting ones at times, which need to be climbed.