North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

March 7, 2013

Danielle Cater: Teaching skills are handy in an office

By Danielle Cater
North Jefferson News

COMMENTARY — I recently read an article about the top five careers to choose if you are a patient person. At the top of the list was the profession of being a teacher. Now I have never, in all my 32 years, claimed to be a patient person. I’m a little high-strung most of the time, and patience is a virtue that I don’t even claim to possess.

So it may surprise you to know that I have a teaching degree. That’s right, the general manager of our local newspaper actually has a teaching degree instead of a degree in business or management. But may I say, there is probably not a better degree to possess when dealing with an office setting.

Think about it — by being a teacher I learned the importance of knowing how to deal with each child individually. There are children who respond immediately to just a glare in their direction, but then there are other children who won’t turn a head until a threat of time out or some other punishment has been thrown on the table.

That’s how it is in an office environment also. There are employees who will correct any slight mishaps with just a short email or chat by the water cooler. But there are other employees who won’t change a thing about the way they conduct their business without the threat of being written up or worse.

Thankfully, I work with an incredible staff of employees who are all in the same mindset and want to help out around the office. I have never even had to threaten with a write-up or dismissal, so I have it easy for the most part.

Going back to the teaching degree: Other than dealing with people, teaching will also give you a good idea about how important it is to manage your time and be organized. When you have 15 3-year-olds running around a classroom and you have to teach them how to recognize the alphabet, then you had better be ready to manage that classroom like a boss. You have to get your “momma voice” on and gain order in the classroom and then the fun starts. After you have their attention, keeping it is the next hardest thing to do. So we have to keep it interesting.

If you stand in front of a room full of kids and start reading out of a book, they will quickly turn to their neighbor and start a fight or start a laugh fest before you get through the first page. The key to keeping their little minds focused on your subject is to interact with them and be animated. Laugh out loud, do hand motions and sing every chance you get (even if you don’t possess that talent, the children would probably prefer it). The kids will have a better time in class, and it can be a great way to reduce stress in your own life.

Now I’m not suggesting that you call a staff meeting Monday morning and break into karaoke and a dance, but I am saying that it never hurts to know your audience. If your co-workers are big eaters, then bring breakfast to the next meeting and see if they don’t perk up when you mention a meeting with breakfast next week. If they love music, then have a drawing for an iTunes gift card at the end of the meeting. Just a little incentive can make a huge difference in the mindset of your whole staff.

I’m the world’s worst at getting caught up in my day-to-day labors and forgetting to focus on the needs and wants of the employees that I am responsible for. But I’m going to try to do better for my own office, and if you have people who work for you, then take a look at your management and see if you need to take a few lessons from a kindergarten teacher’s management skills. I’m going to go ahead and start working on the patience that is needed to be a good teacher and a good manager. There is always room for improvement.

Examine what areas you need to improve in your office and get to work. Your co-workers will thank you and you’ll enjoy your long work days much more.