Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Would Alex Ferguson Make A Great Teacher?

Sir Alex Ferguson was one of the greatest football managers of all time. After spending nearly 27 years as manager of Manchester United, in 2013 he retired. My English teacher at school, who I went to observe and work with when I was deciding whether teaching was for me, told me that he liked to run his classroom like a football manager. This post will hopefully come to the conclusion whether that analogy holds true by looking at the example of Sir Alex Ferguson in the classroom.
Ferguson was renowned during his time as manager for the 'hair-dryer treatment'. This was dished out to David Beckham and other players during his reign. No player was deemed 'irreplaceable' should they step out of line (Lee Sharpe; Jaap Stam; Paul Ince to name a few).
Could this method work for Sir Alex in the classroom? Well, I have seen teachers from the more 'old school' method of teaching delivering some absolute 'rollickings' to students for misbehaving. This might have made the students toe the line with that teacher and could often give the impression of better teaching. However, I have also seen this method result in quivering wrecks of students who will not go into said teacher's lessons again. Obviously there needs to be a line with behaviour and your rules should be adhered to. However, as teachers, we cannot 'buy another student for £15 million' like Ferguson can with his players. There are no transfers with students - just relationships to nurture and develop.

Instead, I see the behaviour policy of a teacher should be more akin to Brendan Rodgers. He is seen defending his players to the press if they are playing by his rules and will often blame his tactics or choice of personnel if they are defeated. However, if they do step out of line, he follows the line of making sure that they know who is in charge.


One key aspect of a football manager's job is to decide which players should be starting games, and which players can be transferred into the team to make the team better. Ferguson was known for being a shrewd businessman and often developed players to their full potential before moving them on. Eric Cantona, Teddy Sheringham and Dwight Yorke were al bought by Ferguson despite reservations about their age, attitude or ability. All three (and countless others) repaid Ferguson's faith in abundance.

This kind of attitude can easily be applied to a teaching format. Ferguson saw the potential in those players when others did not; this should be the exact same for teachers and their students. We need to ensure that the students believe in themselves in our subject, even when others do not.


Ferguson had a wide range of personalities in the players that he managed. Timid players like Paul Scholes compared with the ego of Eric Cantona; the celebrity lifestyle of David Beckham compared with traditional Roy Keane. With all of these players Ferguson knew how to get the best out of them. Whether it was the arm round the shoulder or the proverbial kick up the backside, he knew how to motivate his players.

Equally, this applies to teaching. As a teacher, you need to understand when students need to be energised, when they need to be calmed, when they need to be consoled and when they need to be disciplined. Just as Ferguson developed an understanding of his players, a teacher needs to develop their understanding of a student and what makes them learn.


When my previous teacher referred to running his classroom like a football manager, I don't think he meant to take the analogy to differentiation and assessment. However, Ferguson would be an ideal teacher in this respect. His weakness in the classroom would have been what everyone often thought of as his strength: his behaviour management.


1 comment:

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