I walked into the empty classroom before my students arrived and my first instinct was to meditate. I sat down at my desk, closed my eyes, and cleared my mind. My principal walked in before I was finished meditating and she inquired about what I was doing. I already knew she didn’t like me because of some comments she had made during the school year. I told her that I was calming my mind before my students entered so that I could approach them with patience. I had learned years before that moment that many teachers yell at their students and this leads to students disengaging in their own education. No one wants to be yelled at, it never helps anyone either the person being disrespected or the person yelling. So, as a young teacher, I learned many different strategies to use instead of anger. By meditating before entering the classroom helped me keep a calm state of mind so I could best deal with my students.

This explanation was completely missed by my principal she didn’t understand me whatsoever. But that could be because she was a very harsh woman. She was the kind of person who degraded students, yelled at students, and demanded respect without giving any back.

Honestly, I have a really hard time respecting somebody who has those personality characteristics. She believed that the students should walk in a line with their hands clasped behind their backs. My opinion was this was reminiscent of being in prison and the students were not in prison they were in school. One time when my class was lined up, a couple of students were not completely at “attention.”

They were standing in line, however, they were standing slightly askew. As a teacher, that didn’t bother me whatsoever. But as a controlling school principal that completely bothered her, and she let me and my class know that it would not be tolerated. The way she spoke to the students, was like she was making them feel 1 inch tall.

The biggest word that comes to mind is that she was shaming my students. Because this principal was in a power position above me I didn’t want to argue with her in front of the students. It made me sick to my stomach to let her yell at them but it didn’t feel like I had any power to get her to stop. After the verbal lashing, she went back to the office. My students and I went back into my classroom and I let them know that they have done nothing wrong. I saw the guilt and shame linger on their faces as she was verbally abusing them, and I didn’t want them to think that I was OK with her behavior. So I let them know that sometimes people aren’t very kind to children.

I stayed firm in my calm, connected, and engaged mode with my students. You see, I’ve been shamed for most of my life. And once I know I’m being, “put in my place,” I have a negative reaction. Basically, I have the self-esteem to not take that type of behavior from anybody. It doesn’t matter if it’s a romantic partner, a boss, a friend, or someone in a powerful position who perceives themself to be above me. I will never stoop to the level of letting somebody shame me. I’ve grown past that in my confidence and since I know how to teach so well, I’ve been able to go into private practice so I can be my own boss.

One of the reasons I understand the plight of dyslexic students is because they are the most shamed students in the classroom. Whether it’s the teacher putting them down, another student bullying them, or even a parent disregarding their learning, that feeling of stress and overwhelm when somebody doesn’t treat you well is the feeling I know how to alleviate in my students.

Every student wants to feel confident, connected, valued, and engaged. When you are a powerful educator, you help connect your students with their best selves so they can create learning in their lives. And isn’t that what we want for every student?

With Love,

Heidi Nord

Other websites I love:

Equipped for Success

Unlocking Literacy

The National Reading Panel and The Big Five

Think A Plus

Improving Literacy


Reading Horizons

Five Ways to Build Lasting Self-Esteem

Recognizing Dyslexia May Prevent Low Self-Esteem and Anxiety

University of Oregon

Orthographic Mapping

Speech is Beautiful

Really Great Reading

Dr. Dan Willingham's


International Dyslexia Association

What Teachers Should Know About Reading

Reading Rockets!

Keys for Learning

The Orton Gillingham Online Academy


The Orton Gillingham Online Academy