Why Gentleness Is A Strong Classroom Management Strategy

Smart Classroom Management: Why Gentleness Is A Strong Classroom Management StrategyThere is a common misconception that you must have a big presence to be an effective leader.

You must psych yourself up, throw your shoulders back, and move boldly among your students.

Your voice must boom.

Your walk must swagger.

Your eyes must squint and narrow in on your charges.

And while classroom presence is important, it isn’t born of overconfidence, forcefulness, or aggression.

It’s born of gentleness.

Here’s why:

Gentleness is respected.

21st-century students respond best to a calm, even-handed approach to classroom management. They appreciate honesty and kindness. They respect it, and thus, are quick to listen and please their teacher.

The older the students are, the more this is true.

Gentleness lowers stress.

Without saying a word, a gentle presence removes classroom stress, tension, and anxiety. It soothes and alleviates excitability and distraction—which are two major causes of misbehavior.

It equals a happier, more productive classroom.

Gentleness curtails pushback.

Enforcing consequences calmly and consistently diminishes the possibility that your students will argue, complain, or lie to you about their misbehavior.

Instead, they’ll quietly take responsibility.

Gentleness builds rapport.

When you carry yourself with a gentle demeanor, you become more likable to your students. In fact, it’s an easy and predictable way to build powerful leverage, influence, and rapport.

Which makes everything easier.

Gentleness feels good.

Beginning each morning with a poised, easygoing manner will make you a lot happier. Inconveniences won’t get on your nerves. Difficult students won’t get under your skin.

You’ll be refreshed at the end of every day.

Gentleness Isn’t Weakness

Weakness is when you lose emotional control.

It’s when you lecture, berate, and admonish students instead of following your classroom management plan.

It’s when you take misbehavior personally.

Gentleness, on the other hand, is strong. It’s capable and confident. It says that you’re in control and that your students can relax and focus on their responsibilities.

This doesn’t mean your lessons won’t be dynamic and passionate. It doesn’t mean you won’t be enthusiastic or you won’t demand excellence from your students.

Gentleness isn’t sleepiness. Nor is it afraid and cowering in a corner.

It’s a calm, reassuring approach to managing your classroom that communicates to every student that you’re a leader worth following.

Martin Luther King Jr. was gentle. So were Rosa Parks and Abraham Lincoln.

And so are the happiest and most effective teachers on earth.

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63 Responses to Why Gentleness Is A Strong Classroom Management Strategy

  1. Denia January 16, 2016 at 9:50 am #

    I love this!! Great message. I’m a first year teacher and this is very true in my experience.

    • Michael Linsin January 16, 2016 at 11:43 am #

      I’m glad you like it, Denia!


  2. Marcie January 16, 2016 at 10:00 am #

    I enjoy all of your articles, but I think this is the best one yet. I noticed when I give a consequence – gently – but matter of factly, I get zero push back. When I first began teaching, I felt like I had to control every little thing going on in the classroom. This was SO much work. However, when I took the students’ behavior and performance off of my shoulders and placed it on theirs, I was free to teach and have fun while doing so! My students aren’t perfect, and I’m not the perfect teacher; but, we have an effective classroom. I enjoy coming to school every day, and my students seem to enjoy being there! Thank you for your articles, they have truly blessed me with some great tools in my classroom!

    • Michael Linsin January 16, 2016 at 11:43 am #

      You’re welcome, Marcie. Thanks for taking the time to comment.


  3. Samantha January 16, 2016 at 12:33 pm #

    I really appreciate your mentorship. I purchased your book and found the ideas compelling. I’ve been working at implementing them in my classes. I have a background as an engineer so understandably I’m a little cut and dried on things but am working on the relationship part. I have given students more responsibility and they surely appreciate it. I also have been able to keep things calm and mostly with a smile on my face. You’re posts keep me on track!

    • Michael Linsin January 16, 2016 at 1:16 pm #

      Glad to hear it, Samantha. Cut and dried is a strength on the accountability end of the classroom management spectrum.


  4. Fatma Zohra January 16, 2016 at 2:10 pm #

    Thank you so much for this article. I would be more than happy to read more about your classroom management articles cause they are of a great help to my field of study here in Algeria.

    • Michael Linsin January 16, 2016 at 3:58 pm #

      It’s my pleasure, Fatma.


  5. Kirsten January 16, 2016 at 6:55 pm #

    Hi, Thanks for another thought-provoking article, I love your site!

    I am a secondary teacher who has all new classes starting in a few days. I wanted to change up my classroom management techniques and have been using your archives to plan my strategy. My question is (sorry not exactly aligned with this particular article): What consequences do you recommend for high school or secondary students. I teach mostly seniors and juniors in a “urban” environment where the kids would not take kindly to calling a consequence “time-out” nor am I sure it would be appropriate for my classroom. The school offers lunch detentions or ISS, but neither are enforced consistently and I like to keep behavior issues in house anyway. Do you have thoughts or suggestions on how I can mold your plan to fit where I’m at? Thanks so much!!

    • Michael Linsin January 17, 2016 at 8:37 am #

      Hi Kirsten,

      This is a big question we just don’t have the time and space for here. I don’t recommend time-out for high school students. Consequences depend on you, your students, your grading policy, and your school guidelines. I hope to have an ebook on this topic written before the end of next summer. Stay tuned.


  6. Andrea January 16, 2016 at 8:14 pm #

    I really loved this. I coordinate an after-school program and I can readily envision how this advice can be implemented and work well with our kids. Thank you so much. Definitely getting the book.

    • Michael Linsin January 17, 2016 at 8:29 am #

      You’re welcome, Andrea.


  7. Lynn McMillan January 17, 2016 at 6:43 am #

    Hi Michael,
    As always, this is great advice. I just wanted to say thank you and wish you a happy and healthy new year. Your mentorship touches and improves so many lives! Much appreciated!

    • Michael Linsin January 17, 2016 at 8:30 am #

      It’s my pleasure, Lynn. Thank you.


  8. Daphne January 17, 2016 at 7:45 am #

    This is very true and I’m very conscious about how my demeanor is when entering my school and classroom. My students come from chaotic home lives and it’s important to create a calm environment even as a sub. However, IT creates jealousy among my peers.

  9. Stephanie January 17, 2016 at 7:58 am #

    Fantastically inspiring and grounding at the same time. I can see how this would apply in higher ed classrooms as well as K-12. Thanks!

    • Michael Linsin January 17, 2016 at 8:31 am #

      You’re welcome, Stephanie. I’m glad you like the article.


  10. Carla Jorge January 17, 2016 at 8:33 am #

    Hello Michael. I am a new teacher. How do you give a consequence in a gentle way?

    • Michael Linsin January 17, 2016 at 8:41 am #

      Hi Carla,

      We have many, many articles on this topic. Please read through the Classroom Management Plan, Rules & Consequences, and Time-Out categories of the archive.


  11. Angie January 17, 2016 at 8:58 am #

    I just had a conversation with my class of 87 sophomores through seniors about my classroom management style. I told them that even though I don’t yell and get angry at individuals from the podium (i am a music teacher) doesn’t mean I am a push over. There are consequences in place for misbehavior but getting me to lose my focus and cool is not one of them. This article was very timely for me and reassuring that I am doing the right thing.

  12. Sandy Goodwick January 17, 2016 at 11:13 am #

    Yes. My heart and soul, borne out of almost 66 years of living (43 as teacher) says this is a far greater strength than brute force, coercion, etc. But it’s harder to learn. It takes greater power to be gentle than to be powerful. Combine gentleness with humor… and the bumps in the road are part of the ride rather than dead ends. Gentleness doesn’t necessarily mean using the ‘right’ words. It can be found in the silence, looks and gestures after outbursts. But to truly benefit from gentleness, it must be regarded as worthy, respectable, useful. When gentleness is met by disdain, over time it dissipates and fear is left in its wake. It is the antithesis of “rigor”. It brings us back to what counts the most… While I truly believe it will work with students, it doesn’t work with administrators, BoE members, etc. For them, we need an outside awareness that bullying even exists. Explicit policies/laws, etc., may be the only game changer for them.

  13. Aurora January 17, 2016 at 1:14 pm #

    As a secondary schho teacher I’ve found your tips really useful. But I’m not sure if I would get the same result as the ones described because of the age range I teach.
    I’m glad to know about your projet. So, I am looking forward to your book on High School.

  14. Hugh O'Donnell January 17, 2016 at 3:20 pm #

    Right on the mark!

    In my classes, we had posters here and there on the wall and classroom door that said “Respect Zone” in both English and Spanish. At the start of school and sometimes with reminders thereafter I explained the concept to students. That philosophy was congruent with your idea of “gentleness.”

    If I lapsed in patience with a recalcitrant student, and spoke in an ungentle fashion to them, I would apologize after in front of the entire class. (My policy was to speak privately to the difficult student, but I’m not perfect.) A little humility goes a long way also.

    • Michael Linsin January 17, 2016 at 7:53 pm #

      Thanks for sharing your insight, Hugh.


  15. Debbie January 17, 2016 at 3:24 pm #

    It says $7.53 for the Kindle book???

    • Michael Linsin January 17, 2016 at 7:44 pm #

      Hi Debbie,

      Dream Class is $4.99 until midnight on January 23rd. Here again is the link: Dream Class Kindle Edition


  16. Adrienne Warren January 17, 2016 at 4:49 pm #

    Your articles resonate with me! They speak of things that I know instrinsically, but so many strong voices create doubt. Thank you for providing simple truth.

    • Michael Linsin January 17, 2016 at 7:44 pm #

      You’re welcome, Adrienne.


  17. Lara January 17, 2016 at 5:38 pm #

    I love this.

    It resonates with me as I truly understand the impact being gentle can have on how students respond to us. We often think it is incumbent upon us to ‘show’ our dominance and no-nonsense approach with demonstrative displays of controlling and coercive behaviour management. This is the opposite of what we need to do and what our students need from us. You are absolutely correct, being gentle is not being weak or a push over. I believe it actually shows an inner strength and confidence in one’s ability to handle behaviour. Students respond to this. I’m going to refer this to my colleagues.

    Thank you

    • Michael Linsin January 17, 2016 at 7:45 pm #

      You’re welcome, Lara. Thanks for taking the time to comment.


  18. Gilmar January 17, 2016 at 8:16 pm #

    It says $6.17 for the kindle. I’ll check tomorrow.


    • Michael Linsin January 18, 2016 at 8:47 am #

      Hi Gilmar,

      It’s been $4.99 (USD) since 12am Sunday.


  19. Srinivas January 17, 2016 at 8:48 pm #

    Oh, yes, I can vouch for gentleness too…I remember a teacher in college who was gentleness personified. So also another math tutor I had. Thanks for your teaching….


    • Michael Linsin January 18, 2016 at 8:48 am #

      You’re welcome, Srinivas.


  20. Aruna January 17, 2016 at 11:52 pm #

    True. A calm gentle approach always wins over bossy strict disciplinarian. You look approachable and that is half the battle won as students open up to you easily. Great article. 🙂

    • Michael Linsin January 18, 2016 at 8:47 am #

      Thanks Aruna!


  21. Ernest Efa January 18, 2016 at 1:26 am #

    this is awesome.keeping calm and being gentle with lots of humour. having a good rapport yet being careful of over familiarity are the keys to students heart. these are skills we need to learn and they are 100% possible.

  22. Roger Engstrom January 18, 2016 at 8:44 pm #

    I’m soon to be 80. I’m not a teacher; but I have been a commander, leader and authority figure. I believe I’ve tried to use some of these principles in the past, but never distilled them to this basic principle. Too soon old and too late smart!

    • Michael Linsin January 19, 2016 at 7:48 am #

      Hi Roger,

      It’s an honor to have you on our website. Thanks for taking the time to comment.


  23. Heath January 19, 2016 at 9:11 am #

    I like the idea…I think gentleness gets confused with push over. Many teachers I have seen that are soft speaking or gentle have classes that are dominated by 3 or 4 students. who are the loudest of course. I think the teacher that is gentle and controls the learning environment can be effective but too often the students who are there to learn(best behaved) get the least amount of time.

  24. taylor January 19, 2016 at 4:57 pm #

    Great article. I have a particularly rough class this year and needed this reminder. Losing your temper is a short-term solution that is ultimately ineffective and stressful for both the teacher and students. As an educator, choosing your own weather and keeping yourself calm and gentle takes much more strength, wisdom, and patience. This is something all educators (myself included) should strive for every day. Heck, this is something that we should all practice toward ALL fellow humans. The world needs some more gentleness.

  25. Max January 19, 2016 at 6:51 pm #

    Hi Michael,

    First, I want to say that I really enjoy your blog!
    Today , something strange happened.
    My colleague and I teach at an after school enrichment program. Usually, the scene is chaotic, and it is very hard to teach without disruptions. However, today, my coworker and I switched classes and things ran very smoothly!
    Any idea why that was?Are we getting better at class management or is it because we had a fresh start with each group?
    Again, thank you!

    • Michael Linsin January 20, 2016 at 7:46 am #

      Hi Max,

      If it just started one day, then it’s likely a fresh start. But it’s a good time to implement a new plan and recommit yourself to better consistency.


  26. Laura January 22, 2016 at 3:20 pm #

    I am a first year teacher at a charter school teaching 6, 7 and 8 grade English. Classroom management has been very challenging. I recently discovered this website and read your book and both have been infinitely helpful. I’m definitely going to change a lot of things next year! I have a question about whether or not to post the class rules in my classroom. None of the other teachers at my school do, but I think it’s a good idea. I was wondering what your thoughts are about this.

    • Michael Linsin January 22, 2016 at 5:21 pm #

      Hi Laura,

      Yes, I recommend posting rules.


  27. Emily January 23, 2016 at 8:07 am #

    Michael, thanks for posting this article. You’ve been my management guru for quite some time now. I’ve always been told I had a gentle personality and I’ve used your advice to meld that with firmness and I have felt so much better about my management. My aide says I bring zen to the class.

    I also successfully downloaded the book for 4.99 the other day and am quite enjoying it.

    • Michael Linsin January 23, 2016 at 8:26 am #

      Excellent, Emily! Way to go, and thanks for sharing.


  28. sherry Abdi January 23, 2016 at 10:46 am #

    I am sure it works. Thanks.

    • Michael Linsin January 23, 2016 at 12:20 pm #

      You’re welcome, Sherry.


  29. Sharel February 11, 2016 at 5:56 pm #

    Sharel February 11, 2016 at 7:59

    Thank you for this information. I am a sub and I will be subbing for an Art teacher for 4 days. I am very interested in how this is going to work out with 6 different classes of middle school students. If this group of students take my gentleness as weakness, how should I handle it.

    • Michael Linsin February 11, 2016 at 6:37 pm #

      Hi Sharel,

      As explained in the article, they’ll only take you for being weak if you don’t follow through, hold accountable, and do what you say you’re going to do.


  30. Debbie February 13, 2016 at 3:18 pm #

    As a teacher of over 30 years, I totally agree with this. I’ve seen it work over and over.

  31. melissa sokol March 9, 2016 at 7:35 am #

    It takes a lot of forethought and modeling to get to this point as well as a strong intention. It is the difference between a nurturing style and a controlling style. Both can work for some people, but I agree with the first.

  32. Mark Eichenlaub March 28, 2016 at 8:33 am #

    This is brilliant and something I need to add to my post on connecting with challenging students. I just wrote a post about something I stole from the sales world that has been a HUGE help in connecting with students here that I think your readers might like Michael.


    Calling students by their first name. It sounds like silly and too simple but there is a psychology behind it. It doesn’t work in a day but there is a way to use this that has SIGNIFICANTLY reduced my problem behaviors.


  33. AT June 13, 2016 at 6:45 am #

    What a lovely article. As a more gentle teacher, I sometimes wonder if I ought to be louder or somehow more dominating or intimidating, but my students do respond well and follow directions. Thanks for this. 🙂

    • Michael Linsin June 13, 2016 at 7:29 am #

      You’re welcome, AT.


  34. Saleem August 12, 2016 at 11:24 am #


    Are the stragegies mentioned on this (and other pages) only meant for younger or can they be used for older kids (10 to 14 years)?

    • Michael Linsin August 12, 2016 at 3:13 pm #

      Hi Saleem,

      Older as well. 🙂


  35. Sabrina Joyner September 10, 2016 at 8:21 am #

    I was recently transferred from an elementary school 5th grade class to a middle school 8th grade class due to overcrowded 8th grade classrooms. It has been 15 years since I taught middle school. Wow! I’ve forgotten a lot about behavior management at this level. Thank you for reminding me that gentleness is always the better way. While it is so much easier to do with the younger students, it is needed even more for these middle schoolers.

    • Michael Linsin September 10, 2016 at 8:53 am #

      You’re welcome, Sabrina.


  36. Toni Goodwin November 21, 2016 at 8:34 am #

    Michael, since a teacher’s mailbox is often overflowing, I subscribe only to your articles. I don’t need to go anywhere else to encourage my teacher’s mind and spirit because there is more than one something for everyone here. I recommend to all of my colleagues, particularly those new to the profession, to subscribe to your writings and each one has thanked me. Thank you for providing such a gift to us all. You remind me that teaching is one of the noblest professions despite the way other professionals may perceive educators, and this article speaks to the truest teacher in me. Have the best end of this year and new one in 2017.
    Thank you. Cozying up with a cup of coffee to read your Dream Class book now,

    • Michael Linsin November 21, 2016 at 2:25 pm #

      Hi Toni,

      That’s wonderful to hear. Thank you for your kind words and for recommending SCM to your colleagues. Enjoy the book!