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reflecting on learningDr. Brene Brown, a popular author and research professor at the University of Houston, spoke to a teacher group last March.

7 Words That Might Change the Way You Teach, an article on the We Are Teachers website, is based on Dr. Brown’s presentation and wise advice to teachers.  She encourages educations to create “Daring Classrooms” where students are safe to be themselves, learn, and grow.

Please visit the link below to read the article.  Embedded in the article is the video of Dr. Brown’s address to the teachers.  Enjoy!

Shaming is on the forefront of issues we need to reflect upon and figure out a way to readdress with our management skills in the classroom. How can we as educators address the practice of shaming?

Brown suggests seven words that will teach courage. Hence, by adding these four skill sets in your room will help us eradicate shame in the classroom.

With seven words Brown defines in her speech you can begin to understand how to work towards a “Daring Classroom” yourself.

You can make your classroom, a culture of courage, the only space a child has, to take off  the armor of his or her heart. One betrayal is shame, it cannot happen in that classroom. Shaming incidents at school, forever changes how you think of yourself, 90 percent men and women surveyed can remember a teacher, coach, or admin that believed in themselves when no one else did.

Do not question the power you have with the people you teach. Shame resilient classrooms are imperative. The shame or threat that they are unlovable just should not exist in our schools. Ranking of importance for a child goes like this : parents, teachers, clergy, peers. You can make difference in students lives.

The classroom may be the only place in your students’ lives where they can feel comfortable enough to be courageous. According to Brown, courage can be taught (yes, taught) and developed if these four pillars are present:

  1. Vulnerability
  2. Clarity of Values
  3. Trust
  4. Rising Skills (The ability to get back up when we fall)


Vulnerability is “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.”

It opens us up to pain and tragedy. But it also opens us up to love, joy, and connection, among many of the other feelings that make life worth living; feelings that we strive for everyday. And learning is inherently vulnerable: “It’s like you have a classroom filled with turtles without shells.”

Encouraging vulnerability in the classroom or in life is not synonymous with “coddling.” Quite the opposite, actually. It means inviting students to open themselves up, abandon their comfort, and learn in a more personal and intentional way. So, what does it take to invite vulnerability?


According to the Oxford English Dictionary, courage is defined as, “The ability to do something that frightens one.” However, the original definition of courage is “To tell the story of yourself with your whole heart.”

Shame v. Guilt

Shame is “the intensely painful belief that there is something about us that makes us unworthy of love and belonging.”

85% of the people Brené Brown interviewed could remember a shaming incident at school that was so devastating that it forever changed how they thought of themselves as learners. Perhaps even more eye-opening: “Through about fifth grade, shame is literally the threat of being unlovable. It is trauma because they are dependent. Shame is a threat to survival.”

It is the great betrayal of vulnerability. Shame is not, however, the same as guilt. “Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior. Guilt: ‘I’m sorry. I made a mistake.’ Shame: ‘I’m sorry. I am a mistake.'”

A simple change in wording can allow you to more accurately (and positively) express how you view your students and, in turn, better shape how your students view and treat themselves and each other.

Humiliation and Embarrassment

Humiliation is the feeling that you deserve the bad treatment someone puts you through because you believe they are right. Embarrassment is the feeling that you did not deserve however you were treated, regardless of what you’ve done.

The real example that Brené Brown gave was heartbreaking:

“Susie is sitting in her classroom as her teacher is passing out papers. The teacher says, ‘I have one paper left. Who didn’t get a paper?’ Silence from the class. And, with more emphasis the teacher says, ‘I SAID, I have one paper left. Who didn’t get a paper?’ Susie slowly raises her hand. The teacher comes over and says, ‘I’m not surprised. Class are you surprised? Here Susie, I’ll help you out.” And, then the teacher proceeds to write on her paper where the student’s name would go: STUPID.”

Whether it’s humiliation or embarrassment comes down to Susie’s response. If she believes her teacher, then she is humiliated; “She’s right. I am stupid.” If she believes her teacher is being a jerk, then it’s embarrassment. “Obviously my teacher either woke up on the wrong side of the bed!”

With this, it is important to be mindful of how we make students feel when we talk to them. Belittling students will not make them grow; it will make them resent you, at best.

Embarrassment, according to Brown, is felt when you know you can connect with others in the midst of a difficult situation, reminded that you are not alone. Shame requires that you feel hopeless and alone.


“Empathy is… communicating that incredibly healing message of, ‘You are not alone.'”

Ensuring students never feel that they are alone requires an immense amount of vulnerability on the part of the teacher. You must be willing to be uncomfortable and vulnerable, connecting with your students instead of leaving them to dry out in the heat of their circumstance all by themselves.

Brené Brown states that, “The number one exacerbator of shame in a conversation is empathic failure.” Empathic failure is responding to vulnerability with “You’re fine!” instead of, “Tell me why this was so painful.” This affirmation, meeting the student where they are and walking with them through their difficulties, can be transformative not only for them, but for you.


If you want to learn more about Dr. Brene Brown, her work, and how it could transform your life, I highly recommend her book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.




From Ian Byrd’s Website: 

Ian Byrd’s website has some interesting articles on questioning. In the article link above, he uses the students’ curiosity to teach them how to create questions. This technique could be taught as early as third grade and would work well in middle and high school.

Ian Bryd states, “School is often, quite strangely, not a place where students feel comfortable being curious. But you can change that with a determined and consistent effort…by intentionally promoting curiosity as a classroom habit.”

In his first step he uses a binder titled ‘The Book of Unanswered Questions’.  He wants his students to be actively curious, make them aware that they don’t know everything, and understand that some answers are findable and some are not. Ian goes on to explain that if you just say, “Write your questions in this book,” it’s dead in the water. Like anything complex, we’ve got to scaffold it through modeling and structured participation.

Scaffolding is his next step. He starts by demonstrating curiosity by bringing in an image, video, song, or object that is interesting, yet creates authentic questions.

He uses questions like; How long….., What else……, I wonder….., Why do you think…..  Next he gives students a chance to ask questions and then directs them to the ‘Book of Unanswered Questions’. The book is about questions that he wants them to find out on their own and share the next day in class. At the beginning of this process he expects that one student will come the next day with the answer. Ian suggests that the teacher spends a few minutes on this daily.

Step three is connecting the ‘The Book of Unanswered Questions’ to your curriculum: social studies, science, literacy, and even math, etc. Eventually, everyday his students write an unanswered question and put it in the book.

His last step in using the ‘Book of Unanswered Questions’  is to help students to ponder which questions have answers and which ones need more pondering.

Check out Ian Bryd’s website!   His ideas on teaching students to ask interesting questions are engaging and impactful!




From Ian Byrd’s Website:

Ian Byrd writes interesting articles on teaching children.  His website has numerous, helpful ideas on differentiating instruction. In the article link above, he clarifies that a low floor is an easy task and a high floor is a difficult task. Byrd compares it to Tic Tac Toe and Chess. He states, “We want tasks with low floors so many students can get started easily…The ceiling is the potential room for a task to grow…. One is easy to master and the other one you could play for a lifetime and still learn more.” Byrd goes on to say that a skilled teacher can lower a floor on any task. A teacher does this through modeling, guided practice, scaffolding, feedback, and proximity.

Ian Byrd believes that it should be the teacher’s goal to develop tasks that all students can get started with, but that also scale up for students who are ready for more: Differentiation! Start with your highest-ability students first, then figure out how to get everyone else started.

Assigning students more is not the best way to differentiate.  More math problems for an advanced student in Math is ‘busy work’! Byrd reminds us that it is really hard to raise the ceiling on a worksheet, but it’s easy to lower the floor on a research project!

Check out Ian Byrd’s website.  His ideas on differentiating instruction for students are extremely useful.


Although the best way to adapt a lesson for your students who are less proficient at mastering material quickly is to respond to them as individuals, sometimes you may find that several students are experiencing difficulties. In the following list, you will find some ways to adapt lessons so that all of your students can be successful.

  • Vary the learning modalities in a lesson that will make it easier for all students to learn and use their preferred learning styles.
  • Provide more examples, models, and demonstrations.
  • Build on students’ prior knowledge.
  • Build students’ self-confidence by encouraging their efforts as well as their achievements.
  • Allow students to work with peers in mixed-ability groups.
  • Supply students with support materials such as word banks, graphic organizers,  technology practice, and outlines.
  • Give more time to complete an assignment.

Helping struggling students in a variety of ways will guide them on the road to success and make your classroom a fun and interesting learning environment for everyone.

Adapted from The First-Year Teacher’s Checklist: A Quick Reference for Classroom Success by Julia G. Thompson


You’ve survived the craziness of the holidays and have had some time to relax. It’s a new year and with it comes new hopes, new dreams, and new possibilities.

As you reflect on your experiences so far this school year, are there things you would like to change? While all teachers can adjust their instruction, management, and teaching style at any point during the year, the beginning of a new year is always a great time to do this.

Take a few minutes to consider these tips to help you start 2018 as an even more effective and confident teacher:

  • Focus on curriculum development and teaching strategies using your newfound confidence and energy.
  • Try something new with your students and talk about the results with other teachers, even if it didn’t work out the way you had expected it to.  Now that you have made it through some difficult times, you have valuable experience to share.
  • Expand your professional network to include new and experienced teachers. Pooling ideas from multiple sources gives you many more ideas.
  • Go back and examine your vision of successful teaching.  Honestly evaluate your teaching efforts from the beginning of the school year to see how far you have come as an educator.

These questions can help you recognize your successes and determine your future actions:

  • What worked?
  • What didn't work?
  • What’s next?

Make the new year a fresh start in your classroom for you and your students.


Handling Frustration Around The Holidays

Below you will find a few ideas to help decrease the stress that is creating a negative impact on your health. It is important to find ways to cope and empower yourself to face the stress of the holidays.

  • Acknowledge your feelings
  • Reach out
  • Be realistic
  • Take a breather
  • Seek professional help if you need it
  • Learn to say no
  • Don't abandon healthy habits
  • Set aside differences
  • Stick to a budget

How Do I Spend My Legislative Money?
Have you ever wondered what is best to buy with your legislative money?

Rules Regarding the Use of Legislative Money

  1. The money should be spent PRIMARILY on consumables that you cannot purchase through the district warehouse, or that you wish to buy above and beyond what other funding allows
  2. Non-consumable items you purchase will follow you through the school district.  However, if you pool your money and purchase items with a colleague or team, the items should stay at the school where they were purchased.
  3. If you leave the school district, any items purchased with legislative money will remain at the school you leave.  Remember, this is only if you leave the district.
  4. Be sure to turn in receipts ONLY for the total amount you are given.  Anything spent over that total amount belongs to you and can go with you if you move districts.
  5. It can be helpful to write "purchased with legislative funds" or "purchased with personal money" on non-consumable items you buy.
  6. Check with your secretary for the final due date and protocol for submitting receipts,  as procedures will vary by school.

Purchasing Ideas

markers giant sticky notes
colored pencils dry erase markers
glue vis-a-vis makers
scissors mini white boards
crayons class sets of approved books
organization tubs books for classroom library
candy (for incentives and rewards/activities) picture books for teaching
pens bookshelves
pencils wire baskets
class sets of highlighters technology tools
post-it notes paper
jump drives notepads
classroom posters teacher guides
dry erase paper workbooks
rubber bands stapler
3 ring binders electric pencil sharpener
3 x 5 note cards 3-hole punch
classroom set of calculators storage crates
binder clips name badges
push pins awards



Jordan Family Education Center
Located at River’s Edge School
319 West 11000 SouthSouth Jordan, UT 84095

The Jordan Family Education Center provides support services and classes for families and students in Jordan School District. These services are provided by the District’s school psychologists, counselors, and school psychology interns.  The center offers classes and short-term counseling on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings. There are three-quarters packed full of interesting classes and support groups covering a variety of topics like parenting skills, dealing with adolescence, attention deficit, anger, anxiety, autism, blended families and much more.

For information about classes and counseling, call 801-565-7442. These services are available to families at no cost as a service of the District.

In addition to Jordan School District services, listed below are several other resources for families and caregivers in Utah.

Parents, guardians, and caregivers play a vital role in student success. Parents face similar issues from helping a beginning reader to applying for college financial aid. The resources listed here provide great ideas for building the home-school partnership.


Why should teachers have students practice routines? If you have ever had the chance to observe kindergarten, especially at the beginning of the year, you may see a lot of repetition of directions. Kindergarten teachers know that their students need to  practice basic skills a lot: sitting in their seats, moving to the carpet, raising their hands to talk, sharpening pencils, lining up... you name it. Kindergarten teachers are pros at establishing routines.

Routines should be established and built in all levels of teaching. It is important for teachers to set these expectations and practice them with their students, even with older grades and students in secondary schools.

In this TED Talk, How To Use A Paper Towel, Joe Smith teaches adults how to help the environment by using paper towels more effectively. Watch the video and see what techniques he uses to help his audience remember the directions.

When we give directions, we should try to follow these basic ideas:

  1. Get the student's attention and make sure you have it!
  2. Give clear, positive directions with high expectations.
  3. Limit the number of directions and steps to the directions. 
  4. Vary the way directions are given (teacher modeled, student modeled, using phrases like, "When I say go...", students repeating directions). 
  5. Be consistent and follow through.
  6. Give students time to process.
  7. Repeat directions if needed.

If you find you are struggling to have students follow directions or they struggle to do routine tasks, try using some of these ideas to help your students remember the routines and procedures for your classroom. It is never to late to polish up routines and procedures to help students be successful!



During their first year, new teachers experience some extreme phases of teaching. According to the New Teacher Center, teachers experience five phases.

This time of year, our new teachers may discover the disillusionment phase. They begin to realize the amount of time teaching takes, their management and planning may not be going the way they had envisioned, and they might question why they became a teacher in the first place. As a mentor or colleague, you may witness your provisional educator "express self-doubt, have lower self-esteem, and question their professional commitment" (New Teacher Center, 2017).


Our department recently worked with lead mentors in Jordan District to illustrate the phases and share strategies to help teachers through them. Mentors and colleagues can provide emotional support for their teachers by genuinely listening to them, encouraging them, giving positive feedback and helping them with perspective.

Instructionally, mentors can help plan lessons, observe their teaching and model lesson ideas for them, and help provide ideas to help with management challenges.

Mentors can also help new educators with logistical items, such as making copies, offering advice on parent teacher conferences or evaluations, assisting them with grading, and finding books or materials that will help them with areas the new teacher is concerned with.

If we can support our new educators through the disillusionment phase, we have a better chance of retaining them. As mentors look to support their new teachers and provide the emotional, instructional and logistical support they need through the phases, they can make a huge difference for new teachers.

New Teacher Center. (2017). From surviving to thriving: the phases of first-year teaching. 

Mentor Training New Teacher Phases document