Why Forgiveness Is A Powerful Classroom Management Strategy

It’s easy to hold a grudge against difficult students. It’s our natural tendency; our default setting when someone angers us or hurts those we care about.

It’s an extension of that initial surge of annoyance and frustration that comes over us when a student repeatedly disrupts a lesson, challenges our authority, or makes fun of a classmate.

But here’s the thing: The decisions you make in the seconds after these feelings hit separate those who struggle with classroom management and those who excel.

To be most effective, to not only curb misbehavior in the moment but to diminish the possibility of it happening again, you need a moment of pause. You need a moment to take a deep breath and remind yourself that reacting emotionally is always a mistake.

Do this often and consistently enough and in time responding to misbehavior calmly, even matter-of-factly, will become a habit—so deeply ingrained that even a brief pause will no longer be needed.

Frustration and annoyance, however, don’t simply dissipate into the clouds or become internalized into stress. No, they’re relieved.

By allowing your classroom management plan to do its job, fulfill its intended purpose, and take the burden off of you, your classroom can be gloriously free of tension and resentment.

And you can be free to forgive.

Forgiveness, you see, in the form of complete and radical absolution of any and all past misbehavior—no matter how egregious—is a powerful classroom management strategy.

It has the power to soothe bitter, vengeful hearts, melt away heavily fortified walls of distrust, and turn your most challenging students into everyday members of your class.

It keeps you, your pleasant personality, and the all-important relationship you have with your students separate from your duty to hold them accountable. In other words, it allows you to demand the highest standards of behavior without causing friction or resentment.

So your students can both like and respect you.

Although forgiveness is a remarkable de-stressor, it isn’t simply an internal, personal decision you make and keep to yourself. No, you must share it with your students.

You must show them through your quick smile and open, welcoming body language that every day is a new day and that the mistakes of the past are truly forgotten and gone forever.

Greeting your most challenging students with a kind word, being in their company with no strings attached, sharing a story with the one who spent the previous afternoon in time-out . . . these simple actions have power.

Radical forgiveness—that which is given fully and freely with no expectation of anything in return—can be a remarkable tonic for your classroom.

By ingraining a calm, methodical approach to misbehavior, you learn to let go and forgive because it’s right for your classroom. It’s right for you and your career longevity. And it’s right for those students who wear the label of “behavior problem” like a book-laden backpack slung over their shoulders.

Although forgiveness is a gift on the house, what you receive in return can be reason to springboard wide-eyed out of bed every morning.

The small, quiet, humble gestures of appreciation.

The fulfillment in knowing you’re making a difference.

The life-lessons learned and passed on, rippling out to eternity.

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14 Responses to Why Forgiveness Is A Powerful Classroom Management Strategy

  1. Scott January 19, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

    The whole notion of modeling appropriate behavior and appropriate emotional responses is so important for students to see.

  2. Wes January 20, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    Michael, I don’t ever miss your column, I look forward to it every week. This week’s column is not only outstanding in its subject and content, but it is incredibly well written, in almost a poetic sense. Absolutely terrific!

    • Michael Linsin January 20, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

      Thanks Wes. I appreciate your kind words.

      Michael

  3. Lisa M January 20, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

    This concept is so simple, but so powerful. It really does work. I always start fresh. This helps to maintain control of my class because they know that each day I give them that chance to begin again.

  4. Lynn January 25, 2013 at 10:28 am #

    Thank you for all the great articles; I am inspired with every new article!
    I teach K-3 PE and have incorporated at lot of your ideas with success. Could you do an article on your ideas for management in PE classes – I know most everything applies in the gym as it does in the classroom – but some behaviours continue to be a problem, not stopping bouncing balls (we practice stopping and sitting, ball on lap), putting equipment away quickly, etc…and end up being rushed at the end of a 30 minute class. Thanks!

    • Michael Linsin January 26, 2013 at 10:21 am #

      Hi Lynn,

      I’m glad you like the articles. I’d love to do an article about PE. If I could find a way to make it fit in a way that would benefit all readers, I definitely will.

      :)Michael

  5. Lynn January 28, 2013 at 9:54 am #

    Thanks, I look forward to that. I teach in Canada and most elementary teachers tend to teach their own PE. There are actually very few of us specialist elementary PE teachers, so I’m sure many teachers would love to see your ideas for class management in the gym! One little idea that has helped me is distinguishing “Active Time” from “Listening Time”; students may only ask to go to washroom or for a drink during active time (except in emergencies, of course!) Initially, I was finding that once one Kindergarten student needed to go to the washroom, 10 needed to go! Thanks again.

    • Michael Linsin January 28, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

      Great idea, Lynn! And so true about kindergarteners.

      :)Michael

  6. Mac May 7, 2013 at 1:14 pm #

    Do you have any suggestions regarding students who display discrimination against another student, perhaps of another race or a darker skin? I am teaching ESL to multi ethnic classes of adults. Thank you

    • Michael Linsin May 7, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

      Hi Mac,

      I’ll consider putting it on the list of future topics. 🙂

      Michael

  7. maricar January 26, 2014 at 1:31 am #

    this is great Mr. Michael 🙂
    Very simple but has a lot of impact. 😀

  8. maricar January 26, 2014 at 2:04 am #

    Hi mr. Michael, thank you for this 😉

  9. Hilary January 29, 2015 at 6:20 pm #

    I agree with the comment above in regards to discrimination and prejudice in the classroom. That is one of the only classroom management issues that I find it impossible to not respond emotionally to. How can I help my whole class understand that this behavior is absolutely unacceptable without shaming the offending student?

    • Michael Linsin January 30, 2015 at 7:19 am #

      You hold the student accountable. In this case, immediate contact with parents is warranted.

      Michael

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