I Gave My Students the Benefit of the Doubt. Here’s What Happened


As educators, we’re often faced with the challenge of understanding and addressing the unique circumstances that each of our students experiences. In an effort to foster a greater sense of empathy and compassion, I decided to take a risk and give my students the benefit of the doubt during one semester. This is a story about how this decision impacted my teaching style and my relationship with my students.

Embracing a New Approach:

Instead of adhering to strict deadlines and policies, I took a more lenient approach when it came to missed assignments, late submissions, and absences. My ultimate goal was to create an atmosphere where students felt supported and understood, regardless of their personal situations.

The Immediate Impact:

Initially, I was worried that this decision might lead to a decrease in academic rigor or inspire students to take advantage of the situation. To my surprise, these fears never materialized. Instead, I began to see a drastic improvement in the overall atmosphere within the classroom. Students were more engaged in class discussions, more committed to their work, and felt comfortable discussing their challenges with me.

Building Trust:

By giving my students the benefit of the doubt, I was able to establish stronger relationships built on trust. The more compassionate approach allowed for open communication between my students and me. This newfound trust encouraged students to confide in me about any obstacles they faced—even those unrelated to academics—that previously would have been kept secret.

Increased Responsibility:

Ironically, by showing leniency toward deadlines and attendance policies, my students demonstrated a greater sense of responsibility towards their education. They began taking ownership for their mistakes by openly admitting when they were unable or had forgotten to meet a deadline instead of crafting elaborate excuses.

Unexpected Benefits:

There were also unexpected benefits that emerged from this experiment. In addition to improved student-teacher relationships and increased engagement within the classroom, students also began helping one another more. This collaborative culture supported students in not only surviving but thriving in their academic environment. It was incredible to see students rise above their challenges and prove they were more than just their mistakes.


While adopting a more relaxed approach to teaching may not be suitable for every educator, my experience giving my students the benefit of the doubt was overwhelmingly positive. It fostered an environment of trust, responsibility, and collaboration that allowed all of us to grow together. What began as an experiment has now developed into a cornerstone of my teaching philosophy – believing in the good intentions of our students can lead to unprecedented growth and success for everyone involved.

Choose your Reaction!