The Teacher as a Boss


A students relationship with a teacher has some similarities to a relationship with a boss.

Upward management

As you know, an important thing you learn from working is the concept of “Upward Management” or “Managing your Boss.” It is a very important part of being successful in the workplace.

This is an extra dimension of working for someone.

Managing your boss means elegantly working with them in a way that results in good outcomes for yourself.

The relationship between you and your boss should be a two-way street. Obviously your boss can ask you to do things, however you are also able to ask things of your boss. For example you can ask for guidance or for certain help to achieve your goals.

In business the most effective managers provide clear instructions to their staff. When they ask for a report they give clear details as to what it should contain. A poor manager gives vague instructions. This leaves the staff member confused and the result will probably not be what the manager has asked for. It is the same at school or university.

If the manager or teacher has given poor instructions, students need to have them clarified. This is part of managing their teacher. They need to ask the teacher specifics about the assignment.

This is the concept of “Open and Closed Loops” which can be found in many aspects of life.

Open and Closed Loops

“Open loop” means there is no feedback. “Closed Loop” means there is feedback.

Think of the air conditioner in your home. Old style air-conditioners were Open Loop. You set them to heat or to cool and away they went. No matter how hot or how cold the room was getting they kept pumping out more and more hot or cold air. This causes problems. You end up sweating or shivering.

Modern air-conditioners are Closed Loop. This means they measure the temperature of the air in the room and then adjust the amount of hot air or cold air they pump in. This leads to less energy being used and a more comfortable temperature.

Staff often find that they have a manager who seems to always leave them unclear as to what to do. This Open Loop situation is often stressful and you feel as though you are working in a vacuum. Your results also suffer.

If a teacher just gives out an assignment and a student simply works away on it then they are working in an Open Loop. If they have a clear understanding of what is needed and understand the theory then they should still do well in it.

If, on the other hand, they are unclear of the requirements then they may be working away in the wrong direction. This is where an Open Loop task can be a disaster. They may do hours of work and then still get a bad mark, even if they do know the theory well.

So, if a student finds that the assignment task is not clear, they need to turn this into a “Closed Loop” situation. They need to ask their teacher for clarification.

A good manager works with their staff in a Closed Loop situation. They give feedback, are open to questions and ensure that there is clarity. This is the same with good teachers.

If your child's teacher is not strong at this then they need to act to clarify the requirements so they are not working in vague circumstances. This is simply looking after themselves.

Teachers generally actually like it when students ask them questions, just as a good boss likes it. This shows they are interested and that they want to ensure that they understand the assignment requirements well so that they can produce good results.

It is important that students not be scared to do this. They may be nervous at first but practice makes it easier.

It is part of being professional about their work.