How To Create An Independent, Motivated, And Mature Class

Smart Classroom Management: How To Create An Independent, Motivated, And Mature ClassWhen teachers first implement an effective classroom management plan . . .

  • By teaching and modeling it in detail.
  • By following it exactly as it’s written.
  • By being consistent day after day.

. . . they’re often shocked by how peaceful their classroom becomes.

The respect, the contentment, the quietude. The smiles, the thank yous, the calm energy.

It’s like having a whole new class.

But there is danger lurking.

You see, at the first sign of peace, it’s all too common to start believing the lie that you’re not doing enough.

The silence of independent work, in particular, has a way of making teachers uncomfortable and raring to help out.

So, without considering the impact, they burst through the sacred cocoon of concentrated work and begin micromanaging students.

They interrupt to offer hints, suggestions, and advice. They rush over and kneel down in response to every look mild frustration and every hand raised.

They assist and handhold and coddle, all the while undermining a critical part of the learning process and removing what students crave—and need—most:

Freedom and responsibility.

The students, in turn, begin believing that they really do need your help for every little this and that. Hands go up all over the room and they quickly lose confidence in their ability to listen, learn, and do for themselves (learned helplessness).

This causes boredom, irritability, low motivation, and the desire for you to personally reteach individually what you taught the entire class just minutes before.

And although a faithfully followed classroom management plan will still keep a lid on things, their dissatisfaction will manifest itself in sneaky, off-task, and behind-the-back misbehavior.

Work-habit expectations should be spelled out for your students, without a doubt, as well as the tools they need to do the work successfully.

But once these are established, you must cut your students loose. Really cut them loose. Send the message that independent work, whether individual or in groups, is truly independent.

Be reluctant to rush over to provide what they can work through all on their own. Allow them to make many of their own choices and decisions and wrestle with whatever you place before them.

Give them the space they need to take ownership of their work, and their imagination, their energy and passion, and their intrinsic motivation will kick into high gear.

Teach interesting and inspiring lessons. Provide everything they need to succeed. Check thoroughly for understanding and allow for every question. Teach them well.

But then get out of their way.

Shift 100% of the responsibility for doing the work over to your class while you fade into a corner to observe and take in the big picture.

Work on devoting more and more of the school day to independent work, projects, creative endeavors, etc. and less of the day to directed teaching.

Directed teaching is still important, mind you. In fact, it’s critical that you become an expert in delivering lessons. But you must continually push the envelope on what your students can do for themselves.

This is learning. This is how they develop and thrive and become empowered to chart their own course. This is what prepares them for success in a rapidly changing world.

Take more of you out of the picture, and you’ll discover your students becoming staggeringly more mature, independent, and responsible.

Their motivation, focus, and on-task behavior will increase tenfold, and they’ll become persistent, self-directed problem solvers—even, and especially, the most challenging among them.

Your classroom management plan will still be there, obscured in the mist and watching over your students, but they’ll hardly notice it anymore.

Because the joy of learning will take center stage.

PS – There is a lot to this topic, which we’ll continue to unpack in the coming months.

In the meantime, for more on this game-changing approach to teaching and learning, including how to teach lessons your students will love, please check out The Happy Teacher Habits.

Also, if you haven’t done so already, please join us. It’s free! Click here and begin receiving new-article updates in your email box every week.

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20 Responses to How To Create An Independent, Motivated, And Mature Class

  1. Tara October 28, 2017 at 7:55 am #

    WOW. Just WOW. This IS teaching.

    • Michael Linsin October 29, 2017 at 10:40 am #

      Thanks Tara!

  2. Aspen October 28, 2017 at 8:28 am #

    Hi Michael!
    I have a student who I IMMEDIATELY thought of when you said, “Learned helplessness”. She is new to our area, our first grade class, and living with her mom again after 4 years apart.
    She cross-talks to her neighbors which interrupts those speaking. She shuts down quickly when I re_direct her in a kind whisper. She whines like an infant when you give her work to do independently.
    She complains to her mom that she can’t be good at school so she doesn’t want to go and her mom takes her to the zoo instead.
    I have followed your posts for 6 years and implement them intentionally. How can I help this student feel successful?

    • Michael Linsin October 29, 2017 at 10:39 am #

      Hi Aspen,

      I’d have to speak to you personally to give you accurate advice about a particular student. We do offer personal coaching.

  3. Greg October 28, 2017 at 8:37 pm #

    One of the best articles I’ve read on this site! I am looking forward to more posts on this topic.

    • Michael Linsin October 29, 2017 at 10:38 am #

      Thanks Greg!

  4. Julie October 29, 2017 at 8:30 am #

    Great article ! I agree with the principles and want to implement them both in classes and with my own children. However, how do you do independent work in a choir class? (I am not currently teaching but am thinking ahead for when I return to teaching.)

  5. Linda Lopez October 30, 2017 at 7:57 am #

    I love this article which serves as a timely reminder. When my students are digging into the work on their own, I definitely worry about how the scene looks. It looks like I’m not teaching, so I start walking around and looking over their shoulders trying to find anything that I can help with. It will take great self control to give them some space, especially at the thought that someone may walk into the room and draw a negative conclusion or at the thought that a student may complain that I don’t teach.

    • Michael Linsin November 1, 2017 at 9:47 am #

      Thanks for sharing Linda!

  6. Kristen October 31, 2017 at 8:27 am #

    Love this article!! PLEASE PLEASE do write more on this topic because I agree that it is of critical importance, but it is so easy to miss the mark here.

    • Michael Linsin October 31, 2017 at 8:45 am #

      Will do, Kristen! Thanks for the feedback.

  7. Karen November 1, 2017 at 9:40 am #

    As a HS math teacher I see a lot of learned helplessness and working to overcome it is a goal I’ve already been working toward. But not helping them individually is hard for me to fathom. I’m trying to encourage them to attempt things, instead of shutting down and quitting. Am I contributing by helping them individually really? I need more ideas and info.

    • Michael Linsin November 1, 2017 at 9:46 am #

      Hi Karen,

      Please check out The Happy Teacher Habits. You may also want to peruse the Learning & Independence category of the archive.

  8. Martha November 2, 2017 at 1:18 am #

    Great article .

  9. Beverley November 2, 2017 at 7:04 pm #

    I have struggled with learned helplessness for years, thanks for your inspiring articles I’m now better able to be more productive in the classroom.

    • Michael Linsin November 3, 2017 at 7:37 am #

      You’re welcome, Beverley.

  10. Marcel Berge November 3, 2017 at 12:56 pm #

    Hi Michael!

    I just have to say thank you! I have read Happy Teacher Habits and Dream Class twice, as well as many of your articles on this website, and they have made me love my job as a teacher even more than before. My class has a lot of “tough guys”, but after I modelled the rules overly clear and kept them responsible for their behaviour all the time, they are the most polite and hard working group of pupils I have ever seen! All of my lessons go flawlessly, even with external observers and visitors.

    However, the only issue I have not been able to fix is to make them behave exemplary while they have other teachers than me. I am their main teacher, so other teachers come to me when they have got any issues with my pupils. I have encouraged them to strictly follow my classroom management plan, which is posted on large posters in the front of my classroom, but they want to do things “their way”. Is it then OK for me to just relax and think that this it their problem, not mine? Or do you think I should work harder to make the pupils behave?

    I am aware that you are busy and try to make the most out of your time, so I fully understand if you do not have the time to answer comments like these. But if you would give me a quick yes or no answer, it would be greatly appreciated.


    • Michael Linsin November 3, 2017 at 4:35 pm #

      Hi Marcel,

      Thanks for sharing your success! Way to go. I sure wish I could give you a straight yes or no, but if I don’t include a complete explanation, then I risk leaving you and others confused. This is an important topic I’ll be sure and cover it in a future article.

      • Marcel Berge November 4, 2017 at 1:12 pm #

        Great! I look forward to read the article.


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