Henry Mintzberg (1973) researched what business managers do within companies. His results indicated that managers have three primary roles, which are…
We will examine each of these roles within the context of a teacher as a classroom manager.
The interpersonal role of a manager involves dealing with many people during a given day. Managers serve as figureheads, and this involves such tasks as greeting guests, participating in various ceremonies/formal activities, and being the general face of whatever they are in charge of. Teachers are frequently involved in figurehead-type roles as classroom managers. For example, teachers are often responsible for flag ceremonies in the morning, participating in graduation, responding to guess who comes to the classroom, etc. As such, teachers have a lot in common with business managers in the role of figurehead.
A second interpersonal role for managers is that of liaison. The liaison role involves maintaining connections outside of the group or unit that the manager is in charge of. It also involves connecting people within the organization with those outside and keeping track of information gained through external and internal relationships. For teachers, serving as a liaison is not as common in my experience. Often the student has access to the same people like the teacher. One exception may be if a teacher helps a student obtain a job or get into a college by providing connections to such opportunities.
A final interpersonal role of managers as a leader. The leader role involves training, motivating, and communicating with subordinates. When most people think of managers, this may be the first thing that comes to mind. This is also a primary function for teachers as they are expected to lead the classroom and communicate expectations with students.
The informational role defines itself and involves obtaining pertaining data relating to the goals of the manager’s team. One role that falls under this category is that of a monitor. The manager is supposed to gather information from various sources to improve decision-making, among other things. Teachers also have to play this role as one of their primary functions is communicating what they have learned with their students. Teachers and managers who like knowledge or expertise will generally struggle with their role as a manager.
A second informational role is that of a disseminator of information. As mentioned with the teacher, the manager gathers information to share it. There are various lines of communication such as telephone, email, chat, etc. Whatever channel(s) is chosen is just how the manager shares information. We have already discussed how teachers spend the majority of their time sharing information, so we do not need to add much but to mention that it is important to consider how the information is shared in that do the students understand.
Lastly, managers serve as spokespersons, which means sharing information with people outside the unit or team. Sharing information like this can involve speaking with superiors, members of the community, etc. For teachers, the role of spokesperson may involve sharing concerns of their students with administration or with other teachers. Students sometimes like to raise concerns about things that the teacher can speak about because the teacher has a higher status. Thus the spokesperson role may be an advocacy position for a classroom teacher.
The final collection of roles of managers involves decisions. A manager is also an entrepreneur, which involves taking the initiative in projects and delegating responsibilities. Teachers are often implementing new ideas and teaching approaches in their classroom, and when possible, they will delegate responsibilities to students.
Managers also must handle conflicts and other emergencies. These conflicts can be among coworkers, with people outside the team, and even with the manager themself. As such, diplomatic skills are an important aspect of a manager’s skill set. Teachers may deal with even more conflicts than managers, given the age of the students. Both managers and teachers have in common the must know how to handle conflict and surprises.
Managers are also resource allocators, and this involves sharing not necessarily information but tangibles things such as budget resources, determining schedules, and setting wages. Teachers also serve as resource allocators as they determine who gets to use the computers, when it’s time to play, what rewards students get for good behavior, and much more. Care must be given to resource allocation as hints of unfairness and favoritism can lead to conflict.
The final role of a manager is that of a negotiator. This role is often paired with many of the other roles already mentioned. For example, the manager may negotiate as a spokesperson for their team, negotiate a conflict between subordinates, etc. For teachers, the same ideas apply. Teachers have to negotiate for themselves, their students, and with parents as just some examples.
From the examples presented here, we can see that teachers as classroom managers have a lot in common with managers in the business world. Both teachers and manger need to perform roles that involve interpersonal skills, informational skills, and decision-making skills. As such, a knowledge of management in the context of business could help teachers in their classrooms.