Strict or Lenient Educator Personalities

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At the end of the article are guiding questions for the educator.

A hidden gem in classroom management is teacher personality and how it can influence the structure of the classroom. When teacher personalities are discussed, the two most common types mentioned are strict and lenient. There is no right or wrong personality for an educator to posses; however, there are pros and cons to each personality and certain classroom problems may result from the educator’s personality.

Teacher personality may be difficult for educators to exam because many educators instruct according to inherent nature. Therefore, reflecting upon personality can cause personal distress because no educator wants to feel like he is impeding the classroom environment. *It should be noted that this is not to tell educators what personalities they should possess, but to assist in case a certain personality is impeding the classroom.

Another aspect that should be implied is that strict or lenient is not a static state of being, they have varying degrees of measure. With an increase of intensity comes an intensification of pros and cons. Each personality is like a double edge sword that helps and hurts at the same time. That is why it is always recommended to find a healthy balance to assist instruction and learning.

Strict TeacherThe Strict Educator

Strict educators have become synonymous with some crazed looking educator who wields a ruler and breathes fire at every little indiscretion. Although it’s an exaggeration, some educators try to emulate a military style regime by taking strictness to the highest possible level. However, being strict can be a useful class manage tool, but remember, for everything gained there is something lost.


1.      Makes students adhere to class structure which increases opportunities to learn.
Students normally behave better, so unwanted behavior does not interfere with the lesson as much.

2.      It teaches the students about responsibility for their actions.
Students learn they have choices to make and they are held responsible for what they do. Example: No homework= stay after class to do homework.

3.      More likely to treat everyone the same as rules govern the class as opposed to emotion.
The strict educator is normally guided by rules which allow a systematic management of students. Example: A quiet student who never causes trouble becomes angry and unleashes a torrent of bad words. Even though this student has never done this, the student will receive the same punishment as everyone else. Whereas a more lenient educator may rationalize that it is not normal for that student and let it be, but the strict educator is governed by the rules and there are usually no exceptions. The strict educator understands that playing favorites diminishes the rules and will not let that happen.

4.      The rules are clearly known to the students so they know what is expected of them.
A strict educator will make the rules known to the students because he wants everyone to abide. Therefore, the students are clear on what is expected.

5.      Students tend to be more respectful.
At the lower levels of strictness, some students will honor the educator because they understand the educator is trying to help them learn.


1.      Can’t connect with students.
An overly strict educator can create a barrier between him and the students. That barrier creates several of the problems below.

2.      Decreases student participation.
When students can’t connect with an educator, they normally don’t feel any need to participate. Whether it’s lack of connection or afraid of being admonished for being wrong, student participation suffers.

3.      Kills classroom atmosphere
That inaccessible barrier the educator has created can make the classroom a place of dread instead of learning. An overly strict educator can decrease motivation in the classroom.

4.      Respect through fear.
There are two levels of respect: honor and fear. Anything done in fear produces lower results than from honor. Example: If a student is doing an assignment, he may be concentrating more on how demanding the educator will be instead of focusing on what he can learn.

5.      Students rebel against the rules in protest.
An educator who is overly strict could cause students to break rules as a form of protest. It may become a joke amongst the students of how they anger the educator. This is not normal, but it is possible.

bigstock-duo-of-girls-with-apples-47027581The Lenient Educator

The lenient teacher is more laid back and easy-going. The classroom becomes a freer place without rules to burden the students. However, similar to a strict educator, even though students are allowed to be free, too much freedom can have adverse affects on the classroom and students.



1.      Students favor the educator more.
Students like an educator that allows more freedom in the classroom. This will allow the educator to gain popularity which may garner more respect from the students.

2.      Students don’t feel burdened.
The students don’t feel the stress of rules hovering over them. They can relax without worrying about breaking rules. The process of learning is not a quick shot, but a drawn out process, so being relaxed will increase the opportunity to learn.

3.      May increase participation.
Students may feel more freedom allows them to communicate in class without fear of reprisal. Also, with less rules they may feel they have more responsibility in class.

4.      Creates connections with the educator.
Students may feel closer to the lenient educator because they are trusted. This trust may allow the students to interact with the educator in a way that a strict teacher wouldn’t afford.


1.      Diverse expectations of what is expected.
When students aren’t given a set of rules to follow, then they are able to set their own rules. These rules may or may not mirror the educator’s expectations for the students. This may cause problems for the educator in reaching the class objective.

2.      Doesn’t focus on responsibility.
Students are free to act and perform how they want. Students may not learn the responsibilities of being a student which may have consequences down the road.

3.      Emotions can govern decisions.
Without rules to govern the students, educators can fall into the trap of letting certain students escape punishment while other students do not. Also, it allows for potential manipulation from cunning students who know how gain sympathy.

4.      Students may take a free pass.
While some students may participate more, some students will definitely not participate if it is seen as a choice.

5.      Respect for the wrong reason.
Students may respect or like the educator more, but it may not be a compliment. Some students look for the easiest path and they like the educator who requires the least. In other words, some students don’t want to learn and they cherish the educator who allows that.

What does it all mean?

Each style has a way of benefiting the classroom depending on the educator’s objectives. There are many other factors involved with deciding which personality to utilize such as student age, student level, grades or no grades, curved grades, etc… For example, a class offered to working adults who are not receiving grades or a certificate may allow the educator to be more lenient with late arrivals as opposed to a university class where grades are being curved. In the first instance, the adult students are paying, and since there are no grades or certificates involved, it is up to the student to reap the benefits of their money. On the other hand, in a university class where grades are curved, it can affect a student’s grade point average; a set of rules such as being late can create the ability to curve grades easier.

So what is the best personality? Neither is better than the other when standing alone, but combine them together to allow balance and it helps create a disciplined engaging classroom.

bigstock-Interaction-between-teacher-an-15441221Using both personalities at once.

Some educators realize they are either one or the other and inquire about being more balanced, but they assume their natural personality does not allow for parity. Balance is the key to implementing both strict and lenient personalities. However, Tesol Class does not like the terms “strict” or “lenient,” instead we want to label the balance as a “structured” educator.

Strategies to be a structured educator.

  • Set appropriate classroom rules to guide the students. Too many rules become burdensome, while too little will allow too much freedom. Think of what is essential to increase learning and explain to the students why these rules have been made.
  • When students break a rule, look seriously at them and explain they are doing something they are not supposed to do. Try not to yell, but be serious about upholding the standards set. After addressing the problem, ask the student/students if they understand why it is a problem and use a softer voice to acknowledge their answer and make a joke if possible. If a joke is out of the question, then a smile to show no anger for the mistake.

This is psychological as the students understand that they did something wrong, but the educator does not make them feel like “bad” students. Students can acknowledge the wrongdoing but understand the educator still “likes” them.

  • Sometimes educators get really upset and yell at the students. If the students happen to break the rules and educator yells, then take a few minutes to gain composure and try to begin smiling or be upbeat again. Being angry for the remainder of class will spoil the interaction and mood of the class.

Again, this is psychological. If the students have a connection with the educator and they do something that causes the educator to fume the entire lesson, then the students feel bad and the ability to learn is hampered. The educator should do his best to return to normal and let the past be the past.

  • Never let what happened in the class carry over outside of class or the next week.
  • Be interactive with the students on a personal level, not just an academic level. Arrive to class a few minutes early to talk about what is happening in their lives. In class, if some students have finished tasks earlier than others, talk with them if there is a chance. Any kind of talking will show the students the educator is interested in them personally.

Even building a rapport with a few students has benefits as the other students will notice and understand the educator is approachable.

  • When students give wrong answers, encourage them or tell them they did well, but the answer isn’t completely right. Always be encouraging to students so they know their effort is appreciated.
  • Make sure the rules apply to everyone.
  • Allow the student freedom to interact and enjoy class, but if the students start getting out of control where learning ceases, it is time to calm the students down. For example, if there is a fun activity with a group of seven-year olds and they are laughing and having fun, it is okay. However, if they are laughing so hard they lie down on the floor and roll around, now is the time to stop the activity as it has gotten out of hand. The same can be said with adult learners minus the floor action.
  • If there is a really bad problem with a student, take that student outside and talk the problem over or wait until after class. Admonishing students in front of class can be counter-productive sometimes.
  • If the educator reprimands a student in error, admit the mistake and apologize to the student.

The structured educator is fair and balanced with the rules and allowing students to be themselves. Many times educators are labeled as strict because when rules are broken they are quick to anger and remain angry. This feeds into the belief the educator is “always” angry. On the other hand, lenient educators are guilty of not upholding the rules and the students notice this. Therefore, the structured educator will balance both aspects.

The first step is reflecting upon the problems in class and determining why those problems are happening. If the problem is being too strict or too lenient, then there are some strategies one can implement to become more structured and have the best of both personalities. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many students obeyed all the rules or how many students love the educator; what matters most is what the students learned. That is the ultimate goal and the educator’s personality should assist that objective.

Questions to Think About to Help Teaching

  1. If you are a strict/lenient educator, what are the benefits and negative results you have experienced from being strict/lenient?
  2. Are you satisfied with the positive and negative with your personality?
  3. How can you be more balanced?
  4. Does being strict equal being mean and lenient equal being nice?
  5. When you were in school, which educators did you respect the most and why?