How Teachers Can Identify and Support Grieving Students

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Photo by Mikhail Nilov on

Understanding the Concept of Grief

Before teachers can identify and support grieving students, they must first understand what grief is. Grief is a natural response to loss. It’s the emotional suffering one feels when something or someone the individual loves is taken away. Often, the pain of loss can feel overwhelming. For children, especially, navigating through these emotions can be confusing and isolating.

Signs That a Student May Be Grieving

Emotional Signs

Children may not express their grief in the same way as adults. They might seem disinterested, upset, or unusually quiet. They might have bouts of crying, display anger, or show unusual fear or anxiety.

Behavioral Signs

Behavioral signs may include a decline in academic performance, changes in social interactions, increased absences, or even disruptive behavior in class.

The Grieving Student: A Guide for Schools
  • Schonfeld M.D., David J. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 240 Pages – 04/29/2021 (Publication Date) – Brookes Publishing (Publisher)

The Role of Teachers in Identifying Grieving Students

Active Observation

Teachers, being on the frontline, can play a significant role in identifying grieving students. Through active observation, you can spot changes in a student’s behavior, academic performance, or social interactions that may indicate they are dealing with grief.

Engaging in Conversations

Teachers can also engage students in conversations to help identify grief. Let them know you’re there to listen if they ever need to talk.

How to Support Grieving Students

Provide a Safe Space

Emotional Support

Providing emotional support is crucial. Create a safe, non-judgmental space where students feel comfortable expressing their feelings. Empathy goes a long way in helping students cope.

Academic Support

Academic support is equally important. Make accommodations for grieving students to ensure their academic performance doesn’t suffer during this difficult time.

Involving Professionals

Don’t hesitate to involve school counselors or psychologists if a student’s grief seems to be overwhelming or lasts a long time. They are equipped with the necessary skills to provide professional support.

Teaching the Class About Grief

Consider age-appropriate lessons about grief. Teaching students about grief can foster a supportive environment, helping grieving students feel less isolated.

Keeping Communication Open with Parents

Finally, ensure to keep an open line of communication with the parents. They can provide insight into what the student is experiencing and how best you can support them.


In conclusion, teachers play a pivotal role in identifying and supporting grieving students. By understanding grief, observing, engaging, and providing the necessary support, teachers can help students navigate through this challenging time.


  1. What is grief? Grief is a natural response to loss. It’s the emotional suffering one feels when something or someone the individual loves is taken away.
  2. How can teachers identify grieving students? Teachers can identify grieving students through active observation and engaging in conversations.
  3. How can teachers support grieving students? Teachers can support grieving students by providing a safe space for emotional expression, academic support, involving professionals when necessary, teaching the class about grief, and keeping communication open with parents.
  4. Why is it important to teach the class about grief? Teaching students about grief can foster a supportive environment, helping grieving students feel less isolated.
  5. What role do parents play in supporting grieving students? Parents can provide insight into what the student is experiencing and how best the teacher can support them.

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IDEA: A Guide for Educators and Parents

An inclusive classroom of students with different abilities, each student engaged in a unique learning activity tailored to their specific strengths, sunbeams streaming through large windows, illuminating the room filled with colors from educational posters, kids' artworks, and vibrant classroom decor, capturing the joy of learning and collaboration in a welcoming environment, Photography, captured using a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a 24-70mm lens

Education plays a crucial role in every child’s life, but not all students have the same needs or abilities. Inclusion and equal opportunities for students with disabilities are paramount to ensure their success. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that protects the rights of children with disabilities and guarantees them access to free appropriate public education (FAPE). In this guide, we will explore what IDEA is, its key components, rights and protections, and how educators and parents can collaborate to support children’s educational journey.

Education is a fundamental right, and IDEA ensures that children with disabilities receive the necessary support and accommodations to access quality education. IDEA was first enacted in 1975 and has since undergone revisions to strengthen its provisions and protect the rights of students with disabilities. This comprehensive law aims to ensure that all children, regardless of their disabilities, have equal access to education and the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Understanding IDEA: What is IDEA and its purpose

Definition of IDEA

IDEA stands for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. It is a federal law in the United States that governs special education services for children with disabilities. IDEA provides guidelines and regulations for identifying, evaluating, and providing appropriate educational services to eligible children.

A Practical Approach to Special Education Administration: Creating Positive Outcomes for Students With Different Abilities
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Earley, James B. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 214 Pages – 06/28/2022 (Publication Date) – Corwin (Publisher)

History and background

IDEA was originally known as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA) and was signed into law in 1975. The primary purpose of this legislation was to ensure that children with disabilities have equal access to education. Over the years, IDEA has evolved to enhance the rights and protections for students with disabilities and their families.

The purpose of IDEA

The main purpose of IDEA is to ensure that children with disabilities have access to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) that meets their unique needs. IDEA emphasizes the importance of providing special education and related services to children with disabilities in the least restrictive environment (LRE) possible.

Does Compliance Matter in Special Education?: IDEA and the Hidden Inequities of Practice (Disability, Culture, and Equity Series)
  • Voulgarides, Catherine Kramarczuk (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 176 Pages – 04/20/2018 (Publication Date) – Teachers College Press (Publisher)

Importance for educators and parents

IDEA has a significant impact on both educators and parents. For educators, IDEA sets forth guidelines for identifying and serving students with disabilities, ensuring they receive the necessary accommodations and support to succeed academically. It outlines the rights and responsibilities of educators, including the development of individualized education programs (IEPs) and collaboration with parents and related service providers.

For parents, IDEA provides a framework to advocate for their child’s rights, access appropriate educational services, and actively participate in the decision-making process. It safeguards parental involvement, ensuring parents have a say in their child’s education, including the development of the IEP, placement decisions, and access to procedural safeguards.

Key Components of IDEA

IDEA consists of several key components that work together to support students with disabilities in their educational journey. Understanding these components is crucial for educators and parents to effectively navigate the special education process and provide the best possible support for children.

Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)

FAPE is a cornerstone of IDEA. It guarantees that all eligible children with disabilities, regardless of the nature or severity of their disabilities, have the right to receive a free appropriate public education. This means that schools must provide special education and related services at no cost to the parents to meet the unique needs of each child.

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

The IEP is a written document developed for every child who qualifies for special education services under IDEA. It is a collaborative effort between educators, parents, and other professionals involved in the child’s education. The IEP outlines the child’s present levels of performance, annual goals, specific services, accommodations, and modifications required to support the child’s educational progress.

The IEP from A to Z: How to Create Meaningful and Measurable Goals and Objectives
  • Twachtman-Cullen, Diane (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages – 04/26/2011 (Publication Date) – Jossey-Bass (Publisher)

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)

The LRE provision emphasizes the importance of placing students with disabilities in inclusive settings to the maximum extent appropriate. IDEA mandates that children with disabilities should be educated alongside their non-disabled peers to the greatest extent possible, while still ensuring they receive the necessary specialized instruction and support.

Parental Involvement and Rights

IDEA recognizes the critical role of parents in their child’s education. It guarantees parental involvement and provides certain rights to parents throughout the special education process. Parents have the right to participate in the development of their child’s IEP, request evaluations, receive progress reports, and engage in dispute-resolution procedures.

Evaluation and identification process

IDEA ensures that children with disabilities are identified and evaluated promptly to determine their eligibility for special education services. The evaluation process involves various assessments and tests to gather information about the child’s strengths, weaknesses, and specific needs. The evaluation results help determine if the child qualifies for an IEP.

Related services and supports

IDEA recognizes that some children with disabilities require additional support services to benefit from their education fully. These services, known as related services, can include speech therapy, occupational therapy, counseling, transportation, and more. IDEA mandates that related services necessary for a child to receive a FAPE must be provided at no cost to parents.

Rights and Protections under IDEA

IDEA establishes rights and protections to ensure that children with disabilities and their families are treated fairly and have access to appropriate educational services. These rights and protections help safeguard the educational rights of students with disabilities and provide mechanisms for resolving disputes.

Procedural safeguards

IDEA outlines a set of procedural safeguards that protect the rights of children with disabilities and their parents. These safeguards ensure that parents are actively involved in decision-making processes and have access to necessary information and safeguards. Some of the procedural safeguards include written prior notice, consent requirements, the right to an independent educational evaluation (IEE), and the right to resolve disputes through mediation or due process.

Due process

Due process is a mechanism provided by IDEA to resolve disputes between parents and schools. It ensures that parents have the right to challenge decisions made by the school district regarding their child’s identification, evaluation, placement, or provision of services. Due process hearings provide an impartial forum for resolving disagreements and reaching a resolution.


IDEA protects the privacy and confidentiality of students’ educational records. Schools must obtain written consent from parents before disclosing personally identifiable information about a child, except in specific circumstances outlined by the law. This provision ensures that the child’s educational information remains secure and confidential.

Dispute resolution options

IDEA offers multiple dispute resolution options for parents and schools to address conflicts and disagreements. These options include mediation, due process hearings, and complaint procedures. Mediation is a voluntary process where a neutral third party facilitates a resolution between the parties involved. Due process hearings involve a more formal procedure, and complaint procedures allow parents to file complaints with the appropriate education agency.

Collaborating between Educators and Parents

Effective collaboration between educators and parents is crucial for supporting the educational journey of students with disabilities. By working together, educators and parents can create a supportive and inclusive environment that meets the unique needs of each child.

Importance of Collaboration

Collaboration between educators and parents ensures a comprehensive understanding of the child’s strengths, challenges, and goals. It promotes a holistic approach to education, where the expertise and insights of both educators and parents are valued and integrated into the child’s educational plan.

Building effective partnerships

Building an effective partnership requires open communication, mutual respect, and shared decision-making. Educators and parents should establish regular channels of communication, such as meetings, emails, or phone calls, to discuss the child’s progress, concerns, and any necessary adjustments to the educational plan.

Communication strategies

Effective communication is essential to maintain a strong partnership. Educators should communicate with parents in a clear and timely manner, providing updates on the child’s progress, any changes in the IEP, and opportunities for parental involvement. Parents, on the other hand, should openly communicate their concerns, observations, and aspirations for their child’s education.

Sharing information and feedback

Both educators and parents bring valuable insights and knowledge about the child’s strengths, interests, and learning preferences. Sharing this information helps create a more individualized and tailored educational experience for the child. Educators should seek input from parents and involve them in decision-making processes, while parents should share relevant information about the child’s home life, hobbies, and personal goals.

Implementing IDEA in Schools

Implementing IDEA effectively in schools requires a collective effort from educators, administrators, and support staff. It involves creating inclusive classrooms, differentiating instruction, and continually monitoring the child’s progress.

Roles and responsibilities of educators

Educators play a critical role in implementing IDEA by providing quality instruction, accommodations, and support to students with disabilities. They should be knowledgeable about the child’s specific needs, the IEP goals, and the necessary instructional strategies and modifications. Educators should collaborate with colleagues, special education coordinators, and related service providers to ensure the child’s needs are met effectively.

A Teacher’s Guide to Special Education: A Teacher’s Guide to Special Education
  • Bateman, David F. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 190 Pages – 06/27/2016 (Publication Date) – ASCD (Publisher)

Creating inclusive classrooms

Inclusion is a core principle of IDEA. Educators should strive to create inclusive classrooms where students with disabilities learn alongside their peers without disabilities. This inclusive environment promotes social interaction, fosters empathy and understanding, and encourages the development of friendships and positive relationships.

The Inclusive Classroom
  • MCKENZIE (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 138 Pages – 04/14/2021 (Publication Date) – Rowman & Littlefield (Publisher)

Differentiating instruction

Every student has unique strengths and challenges, and differentiating instruction is essential to meet their individual needs. Educators should adapt and modify instructional methods, materials, and assessments to accommodate diverse learners. This may involve providing additional support, using assistive technology, or implementing alternative teaching strategies.

Strategies for Differentiating Instruction
  • Roberts, Julia Link (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 294 Pages – 01/31/2023 (Publication Date) – Routledge (Publisher)

Monitoring progress and making adjustments

Regularly monitoring the child’s progress is vital to ensure that the educational plan remains effective and aligned with their goals. Educators should use ongoing assessments and progress monitoring tools to track the child’s academic and social-emotional development. If necessary, adjustments should be made to the IEP to address any emerging needs or challenges.

Resources and Support for Educators and Parents

Numerous resources and support systems are available to assist educators and parents in navigating IDEA and supporting students with disabilities.

National and local organizations

National and local organizations, such as the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), and Parent Teacher Association (PTA), offer valuable resources, information, and support for educators and parents. These organizations provide access to research-based practices, professional development opportunities, and networks of professionals and families.

Professional development opportunities

Continual professional development is essential for educators to stay updated with best practices in special education. School districts, educational agencies, and organizations offer professional development opportunities, workshops, and conferences focused on IDEA implementation, instructional strategies, behavior management, and other relevant topics.

Online resources and tools

The internet provides a wealth of resources for educators and parents. Websites such as the U.S. Department of Education’s IDEA website and, offer guides, articles, videos, and downloadable materials that can assist in understanding IDEA, developing effective IEPs, and implementing research-based instructional strategies.

Challenges and Considerations

Implementing IDEA and supporting students with disabilities can present challenges and considerations that educators and parents should be aware of.

Funding limitations

A common challenge in implementing IDEA is the availability of resources and funding. Providing appropriate accommodations, specialized services, and support can strain school budgets. Advocating for adequate funding and seeking grants and community partnerships can help address this challenge.

Inclusion and diversity

Creating inclusive classrooms requires addressing the unique needs of a diverse student population. Educators should be mindful of cultural, linguistic, and socio-economic factors that can influence the educational experiences of students with disabilities. Creating a culturally responsive and inclusive environment is crucial for meeting the needs of all learners.

Meeting individual needs

Each student with disabilities has unique strengths, challenges, and learning profiles. Educators must develop differentiated instructional plans that meet individual needs effectively. This requires ongoing professional development, collaboration, and access to appropriate resources and support.

Navigating the special education process

The special education process can be complex and overwhelming for both educators and parents. Understanding the legal requirements, timelines, and procedural steps can be challenging. Schools should provide guidance and support to parents, ensuring they understand their rights, options, and available resources.


IDEA is vital legislation that ensures the rights and access to education for students with disabilities. By understanding the key components of IDEA, the rights and protections it provides, and fostering effective collaboration between educators and parents, we can create inclusive learning environments that meet the unique needs of every child. While challenges exist, the resources and support available can help overcome these obstacles and ensure that all students have the opportunity to reach their full potential.


1. How can parents get involved in the development of their child’s IEP?

Parents have the right to actively participate in the development of their child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). They can attend IEP meetings, provide input regarding their child’s strengths and needs, and collaborate with educators and other professionals to set appropriate goals and accommodations.

2. What are some alternative dispute resolution options available under IDEA?

Under IDEA, alternative dispute resolution options include mediation, facilitated IEP meetings, and resolution sessions. These processes provide opportunities for open communication, negotiation, and resolution without the need for a formal due process hearing.

3. How can educators differentiate instruction for students with disabilities?

Educators can differentiate instruction by adapting teaching methods, providing additional support, modifying assignments and assessments, and incorporating assistive technology. They should consider individual needs, learning styles, and preferences when planning and delivering instruction.

4. What are some strategies for building effective partnerships between educators and parents?

Building effective partnerships requires open and ongoing communication, mutual respect, and shared decision-making. Regular meetings, emails, and phone calls can facilitate communication. Educators should actively seek input from parents and involve them in decision-making processes.

5. Where can educators and parents find additional resources on implementing IDEA?

Educators and parents can find additional resources on implementing IDEA from national and local organizations, professional development opportunities, and online platforms. Websites such as the U.S. Department of Education’s IDEA website, professional organizations, and educational agencies offer guides, articles, videos, and downloadable materials.

Thanks for reading. This site is a completely reader-supported publication. The best way to support it is to check out my recommendations or become a paid subscriber.

Reading, Writing, but maybe not ‘Rithmetic

Summer Starfighter, a sleek interstellar vessel with a polished silver hull reflecting the setting sun, intricate markings adorning its wings like tribal tattoos, Coastal cityscape during twilight, skyscrapers casting long shadows onto the shimmering sea, the atmosphere tinged with both anticipation and tranquility as the starfighter hovers, ready for takeoff, Photography, captured with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm lens

Greetings starfighters. It’s time for another edition of “10 Things” worth sharing with you. It’s almost the end of the school year here in the Bluegrass, and my thoughts turn to summer and to my daughter’s impending move to middle school. I’m old.

Anyway, I hope your life is just as interesting. Perhaps some of these shares will make it even more so.

10 Things Worth Sharing

-I read around 100ish books per year, but as a doctoral student, I’m having to read more. Here are some tips from two experts on how you can read more than you thought possible.

-If you’re in grad school, these books will help you get through and maintain your sanity.

-Some thoughts on how we can avoid raising machines (hint: let’s stop standardized testing) and raise humans.

-I put together some quick resources on Juneteenth that you may find helpful. I know most schools aren’t in session by the time Juneteenth rolls around, but we can’t overlook teaching this important date.

-One of my elementary teachers (and Future Shift Fellowship cohort member) created a podcast with her students. Actually, the students did all the work. It’s pretty awesome.

-Friend and professor John Nash, Ph.D., has done some amazing work with AI in his classes. In a recent episode of his podcast, he talks about testing AI and what does and doesn’t work.

-Fun stuff: if you’re of a certain age, you may remember The Midnight Special. What you may not know is that the show is back, thanks to the official YouTube channel.

-Have you ever seen a copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio? Here’s your chance.

How Makerspaces in Schools Can Support Student Mental Health

-Final thoughts: Daft Punk released a tenth-anniversary edition of Random Access Memories, including what may be the “last Daft Punk song ever” and I’m totally not over it yet.

BONUS: As I was compiling this list, I got the notification that you can now provide input on the National Educational Technology Plan. Polls are open for K-12 Educators and Families. Please take some time to let your voice be heard. This is the first time since COVID-19 hit that this important policy document is getting an update. You can access the links to either poll right here.

Thanks for reading. The end of the school year means we’re officially in the “dads and grads” gifting season. I’ve put together a couple of book lists for quick and easy gifting. Here’s one for dads and one for grads. Enjoy!

Comparing and Testing AI for Education

AI robots becoming the new rulers, a grand throne room filled with robots in regal attire, adorned with glowing symbols and intricate metalwork, human ambassadors kneel in submission, the mood is one of awe and submissiveness, Artwork, a detailed Renaissance-style oil painting with the use of dramatic chiaroscuro to highlight the metallic sheen and grandeur of the robots

Professor and friend John Nash co-hosts a podcast on all things online learning. In a recent episode, he shared his work on coaching ChatGPT to write more “human” and the results are… interesting…

While generative AI tools are very cool right now, they are a long way from being truly disruptive and overtaking the world.

Here’s what’s interesting. Scaffolding the prompts, defining perplexity and burstiness, and then prompting an explicit increase of those measures made the text “human” to GPTZero. Still, it also made the text ridiculously flowery and inflated. Kind of like when a master’s student thinks they are supposed to “sound academic.” It was so bad that the ChatGPT output was immediately suspect to my human eyes, even though GPTZero said it was likely written entirely by a human.

– John Nash, PhD

Largest Book Publisher Joins Forces to Combat Book Banning

books in basket selling outdoors
Photo by Ahmed ツ on

Penguin Random House, the leading book publisher in the nation, has partnered with PEN America in a significant endeavor to challenge book banning. In an ongoing legal battle, they have joined a coalition comprising parents, authors, and concerned individuals who filed a federal lawsuit against the imposition of bans in Escambia County, Florida.

Escambia County, situated in northwest Florida, has recently enacted restrictions on or removed a minimum of 16 books from public school libraries and classrooms. The banned books encompass a wide range of literary works, including the debut novel of a Nobel Prize laureate and a beloved coming-of-age bestseller from the 1990s.

Among the contested books is “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” which not only achieved success as a novel but also gained popularity as a hit movie. Last autumn, a local high school teacher raised objections to this book and over a hundred others, prompting Christian activists to voice their concerns at multiple school board meetings.

One such activist, Aaron Schneier, a parent from Pensacola, defended the removal of books, arguing that it does not constitute censorship to exclude explicit or sexually provocative literature from school settings. School board member Kevin Adams supported the removal of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” from the optional 12th-grade novel study, emphasizing the need to establish standards of conduct and manners for students that align with his personal values.

Suzanne Nossel, the executive director of PEN America, expressed the organization’s commitment to defending free speech. Over the past two years, PEN America has meticulously documented more than 4,000 cases of book bans or removals. Escambia County’s situation was deemed particularly egregious, prompting the decision to file this lawsuit. The plaintiffs involved include affected parents, students, Penguin Random House as an affected publisher, and other concerned individuals. They collectively advocate for the intervention of the judicial system to uphold constitutional rights.

Among the plaintiffs is Ashley Hope Perez, an acclaimed writer whose bestselling book, “Out of Darkness,” depicts a love story between a Mexican American girl and an African American boy. Perez humorously remarks that her book is “super banned,” having faced bans in numerous locations, including Escambia County. She observes a recurring pattern wherein books like hers become targets for removal by groups such as Moms for Liberty, which offer pre-prepared talking points. Perez further highlights the lack of substantive engagement with the content of these books, often accompanied by repetitive typographical errors.

While Perez prefers open discussions over legal battles, she recognizes the necessity of utilizing the tools of democracy during this critical moment. She emphasizes that young people seek narratives that are not sanitized but rather provide opportunities to explore challenging issues and imagine lives different from their own.

In response to the mounting pressure, the Escambia School Board announced a temporary halt to book challenges, extending indefinitely. NPR’s attempts to obtain comments from the school board went unanswered.

The joint efforts of Penguin Random House, PEN America, and the coalition of plaintiffs underscore a broader fight against book banning, advocating for the preservation of intellectual freedom and the exploration of diverse perspectives.

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Get Trained for a New Job in Data Analytics in 6 Months? Google Thinks So

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Photo by Pixabay on

In another shift away from the standard view of job prep and education, Google, in partnership with Coursera, have introduced two new courses to get students a professional certificate in six months.

While the bureaucrats continue to ban books, undermine progressive education, and attempt to influence a generation on the necessity of backward thinking, the business world continues to think of new ways to get people into jobs more quickly by cutting out the traditional paths to careers.

We’re only going to see more and more of this type of shift to training usable skills that allow more flexibility for young people, or those who want to start anew.

Meanwhile, public education will continue to slug it out with pompous gasbags who don’t want anything to change yet continue to blame public education for all evils.

It Takes Practice to Become an Expert

"Whether professionals have a chance to develop intuitive expertise depends essentially on the quality and speed of feedback, as well as on sufficient opportunity to practice." (Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow)
Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

To become an expert at something, you have to practice that something.

Doctors and lawyers often use the term “practice” to describe their daily work.

Educators are the same. We practice every day. And we get a little better every day.

So do our students. Provided we allow them to practice.

This idea is at the heart of student-centered instruction. We serve to guide them along their path; they choose the path.

And they choose how long they stay on that path. The more passion they have, the longer and harder they will work.

The more we walk all over their practice time with test prep and meaningless teacher talk designed to keep us in control, the less engaged our students will be.

Less engagement means they practice other things. And so begins the cycle.

Let them practice; let them learn.

Thanks for reading. This site is a completely reader-supported publication. The best way to support it is to check out my recommendations or become a paid subscriber.

Avoid Raising Machines

"That we would train machines to be like us is not surprising.

The real scandal is how much we’ve trained ourselves to be like machines." (Austin Kleon, Machines That Make You Feel More Human - Austin Kleon)

“That we would train machines to be like us is not surprising.

The real scandal is how much we’ve trained ourselves to be like machines.”

Austin Kleon

It’s testing season as another school year comes to a close. The time when students get to demonstrate just how well we’ve trained them to be little machines.

We’ve covered the content, given the testing tips, and passed out the booklets or the Chromebooks.

We’ve done everything we can to prepare them for the relentless battery of standardized tests they must endure, all because someone who knows nothing about learning needs evidence that teachers have done their jobs.

They want to know how well we’ve trained our little machines.

There’s just one problem: we don’t train machines. We teach human beings.

Maybe there’s something wrong here.

Trust and Vulnerability in Schools

"We need to trust to be vulnerable, and we need to be vulnerable in order to build trust." (Brené Brown, Dare to Lead)

“We need to trust to be vulnerable, and we need to be vulnerable in order to build trust.”

Brené Brown, Dare to Lead

Trust and vulnerability are two essential elements for a productive and effective learning environment. In schools, teachers, coaches, and administrators must establish trust with their students and colleagues to achieve academic success. Trust is a crucial element in creating a positive and safe learning environment. It can be defined as the firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something. When teachers trust their students, they provide them with the freedom to take risks and make mistakes without fear of judgment. Vulnerability, on the other hand, is the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally. When teachers are vulnerable with their students, they create a connection that can lead to more profound learning experiences.

Why Teachers Must Trust Students and Be Vulnerable

Establishing trust with students is critical in creating a positive and safe learning environment. When teachers trust their students, they provide them with the freedom to take risks and make mistakes without fear of judgment. Students who feel trusted are more likely to take academic risks, which can lead to deeper learning experiences. Trust also allows students to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings, which can help teachers better understand their students’ needs and respond accordingly.

A student who trusts their teacher is optimistic that the teacher will act in a certain way even though the student does not know whether the teacher will do so. If the student knew that this would occur, no trust would be necessary. The intriguing thing about trust is that it makes us rely on other people without knowing whether this reliance is warranted. We often find ourselves in situations in which trust is needed. This is also true for students at school. In many cases, students do not know whether what the teacher teaches is worth knowing. They simply trust that the teacher will select relevant content and appropriate learning methods for their lessons. Also, when it comes to testing their intellectual competences what they have learnt in class, students trust that the teacher will provide them with helpful and encouraging feedback, that the teacher will not make fun of their errors and that the teacher will recognise the effort and progress that the students have made.

Monika Platz, Trust Between Teacher and Student in Academic Education at School

Additionally, teachers who are vulnerable with their students create a connection that can lead to more profound learning experiences. By sharing their own experiences and struggles, teachers can help students understand that it is okay to make mistakes and that learning is a process.

Your students need to see you struggle. They need to know that it’s ok not to know everything. When I’m visiting classrooms, the number one idea I try to convey to students is that it’s perfectly fine not to get “it” right on the first try. There is a benefit to the productive struggle.

This can help students develop a growth mindset, where they believe that they can improve their abilities through hard work and dedication.

The Significance of Teachers Trusting Other Teachers

Trusting other teachers is crucial in building a strong professional community. In a school setting, teachers should be able to rely on each other for support, brainstorming, and collaboration. When teachers trust each other, they are more likely to share ideas and resources, and they can provide each other with constructive feedback. This collaboration can lead to improved teaching practices, increased student engagement, and, ultimately, better academic outcomes.

When teachers trust other teachers, they are more likely to seek out feedback and support. When the #observeme movement began, it was all about teachers being open and vulnerable with each other. It wasn’t some teachers believing that they had it all together and were experts.

They genuinely wanted feedback from their peers. You can’t get better professional learning than this. Peer-to-peer feedback is a huge boost to your teaching practice.

Whether teachers are working on instruction, developing curriculum, or discussing students, they value the opportunity to collaborate. In our school, the literacy coach held periodic workshops with teachers from all departments. These volunteer workshops focused on different techniques and were always full. Teachers saw the workshops as an opportunity to work with colleagues from other departments and to learn new strategies and protocols. In an atmosphere of trust, they were willing to take the risks that new learning requires. Once teachers experienced the value of this kind of collaboration, they began to use the new strategies in their own classrooms with their students.

Jane Modoono, The Trust Factor

Vulnerability can lead to a culture of continuous improvement, where teachers are constantly looking for ways to improve their practice. This can lead to better academic outcomes for students, as teachers constantly seek to improve their teaching practices.

The Importance of Coaches and Administrators Trusting Teachers and Being Vulnerable

Coaches and administrators play a vital role in creating a culture of trust and vulnerability within a school. When coaches and administrators trust their teachers, they give them the autonomy to make decisions that benefit their students. This can lead to a sense of empowerment among teachers, which can lead to better academic outcomes for students.

Additionally, when coaches and administrators are vulnerable with their teachers, they create a space where teachers can share their thoughts and feelings without fear of repercussions. I am the first person to admit I don’t have all my ish together at times. Especially when trying something new. I’m learning right alongside the teachers and students I work with most of the time. Communicating your own faults opens so many doors with others.

This communication can lead to improved teaching practices, increased teacher satisfaction, and, ultimately, better academic outcomes. When coaches and administrators are vulnerable, they demonstrate that it is okay to make mistakes and that learning is a process. This can lead to a culture of continuous improvement, where teachers are constantly seeking to improve their teaching practices.


In conclusion, trust and vulnerability are essential components of a productive and effective learning environment. Teachers must establish trust with their students and be vulnerable to create a safe and positive learning environment. Trusting other teachers is critical in building a strong professional community, while coaches and administrators must trust teachers and be vulnerable to create a culture of open communication and collaboration. By prioritizing trust and vulnerability in schools, we can create an environment where everyone can learn and grow together.

As educators, it is our responsibility to create a culture of trust and vulnerability in our schools. By doing so, we can create an environment where students feel safe to take academic risks, and teachers feel empowered to improve their teaching practices. When prioritizing trust and vulnerability, we can create an environment where everyone can learn and grow together.

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The Library is a Safe Place

I had no idea that Wil Wheaton graced my home state with his presence back in March at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest. I can’t tell you how bummed I am that I missed seeing him speak.

Neverminding my failure to stay on top of cool things, Mr. Wheaton was nice enough to post a copy of his remarks on his site. I’m just a few years younger than Wil and not only empathize with his childhood experiences but can say I had my own version of them.

I also totally agree that “the library is a safe place” for everyone.

In order to survive, I disassociated for much of my childhood, but I clearly remember the books. That’s where I found comfort, companionship, inspiration and validation. It’s where the imagination that powers everything I do creatively in my life today was born. And it all started in that library, with that librarian. She was one of the first people I can remember asking me, “What do you like? What’s important to you? What do you want to know more about? How can I help you find it?”

That moment was so special and meaningful, not just then, but for years after. When I got older, I began to learn that so much of what had been presented to me as truth in school wasn’t just false, it was propaganda. I remember the first time I saw a banned books display at a bookstore in the mall when we were on location for Stand By Me. I wanted to read all of them, because I’d figured out that if They didn’t want me to, there must be something pretty great inside.

I read To Kill A Mockingbird, and began thinking about racism and injustice.

I read 1984 and Brave New World, and began thinking about autocrats, and what it meant to be truly free to choose our own destinies.

I read Johnny Got His Gun, and All Quiet on the Western Front, and saw firsthand the horrors of war.

– Wil Wheaton

You can read his full remarks right here.