Developing emotional vocabulary.

-by Timothy (Tim) Grivois, Ed.D.

Social and emotional learning is not extra. On the contrary, alongside academic mastery, social and emotional skills are essential to becoming successful learners and good human beings. Emotional regulation, in particular, is critical to maintaining good mental health and developing healthy relationships. Like all SEL skills, emotional regulation begins from the inside out and depends on developing a broad and nuanced vocabulary for naming and expressing emotions. Here are three classroom-possible strategies for developing emotional vocabulary.

Mood Meter

Dr. Marc Brackett, author of “Permission to Feel,” developed the Mood Meter to help people name and understand emotions. You can find a simplified version here.

The mood meter invites us to stop for a moment and notice how we feel. Do we feel pleasant or unpleasant? And how intense is the experience? For example, the difference between “drained” and “sleepy” may seem subtle, but it is the difference between urgently needing rest and crawling into bed peacefully.

Consider enlarging the Mood Meter and using it as part of a class meeting, or print individual mood meters for students to use at their desks.

Paint Chips

While some hardware stores may not give away paint chips as readily anymore, even a few can be excellent tools for developing emotional vocabulary. Like a smaller, customizable version of the Mood Meter, each paint chip gathers similar emotional vocabulary words together and helps arrange them by intensity. Teachers may model this process first and then ask students to create their own ‘word families’ using the emotions they are learning about.

Here is an example of developing emotional vocabulary using paint chips:

Developing Emotional Vocabulary with Paint Chips

Art and Literature

An art teacher in Tucson combines the Mood Meter into visual arts lessons by selecting emotional vocabulary words and finding a clear example of those feelings in paintings and sculpture. Then, students identify what elements of the art contribute to those feelings and learn to express similar emotions on their own.

An English Language Arts teacher might focus on what the reader can infer about a character’s feelings based on words and phrases in the text. Students can practice similar structures in their own writing to convey feelings.

Expressing feelings without words in the classroom often looks and sounds like unexpected behaviors. An angry student knocks over a chair. A sad student puts their head down and disengages. A happy student interrupts their peers to share an unrelated story. Students with a broad and nuanced emotional vocabulary have words to express and regulate feelings. Investing in students’ emotional vocabulary expands social, emotional, and academic achievement.

Tim is hosting a free online workshop through the Tucson Regional Educator Collaborative on SEL on 9 September 2022. Click here to learn more.

PBIS101 for School Leaders with Dr. Tim Grivois

Join me on Friday, 2 December 2022 from 2:00-3:30 for a FREE webinar: PBIS101 for School Leaders. Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (PBIS) is a common framework for creating school-wide expectations and individualized behavioral interventions in schools throughout the country. 

If you are a school leader exploring PBIS, or if you’d like a refresher, this webinar is for you. Often, school leaders at schools already implementing PBIS find this training helpful too.

By the end of the workshop, you’ll understand how PBIS starts (school-wide / Tier 1), and where your PBIS implementation really starts to sing (Tier 2 and Tier 3).

This workshop is free, and is geared towards school and district leaders responsible for PBIS. You can register online here.

Self-care with Dr. Tim Grivois.

Join me on Friday, 18 November 2022, from 3:00-4:30 for a powerful workshop on self-care for leaders of schools and nonprofits. By the end of our time together, you’ll transform your view of self-care and feel validated, affirmed, and seen. You’ll also leave with tools to support your staff and their self-care practice.

This workshop is for any leader whose career requires high levels of care for others and, therefore, high levels of care for self.

What makes this workshop different is what won’t happen. No one will tell you how to care for yourself or what you can do at work. Instead, we will honor each other as experts of our own lives and circumstances and encourage one another to engage in whatever kind of self-care we discover works best for us.

The workshop is $37.00, and you can either register online or request a quote.

Until then, may you have many opportunities to be as generous with yourself as you are with those you serve.

Social and emotional learning: From the inside out.

On 8 September 2022 from 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm. I’ll host a free webinar on social and emotional learning for teaching courtesy of the Tucson Regional Educator Collaborative. The description is below:

Social and emotional learning is not extra. On the contrary, alongside academic mastery, social and emotional skills are essential to becoming successful learners and good human beings. However, most of what students learn in SEL connects to content that, until recently, rarely existed in classrooms at any grade level outside of early childhood education. And, more than any other content area, Social and Emotional Learning begins from the inside out. Join us and explore many strategies for tending to our relationships and our feelings. Then, discover opportunities to build the same SEL skills in your learning space.

Click here to register.

Teaching expectations in the bathroom: FAQ

-by Timothy (Tim) Grivois, Ed.D., Executive Director

Let’s talk about the bathroom! In most schools, the bathroom tends to generate many discipline referrals. Students often don’t report most of what happens in the bathroom since the bathroom is often a place students go to be beyond adult supervision.

When PBIS teams write lesson plans to teach expected behaviors in the bathroom, these three questions often come up. Here are the questions and the best counsel I have to share:

What if our school values don’t seem to ‘fit’ the bathroom?

Often, talking about school values in the bathroom can feel awkward. After all, how do you demonstrate “Pride” or “Curiosity” in the bathroom?

When you have a school value that seems out of place in the bathroom, you have two options:

Option 1: Ignore it. If your team cannot think of a way for students to demonstrate a value on your matrix in the bathroom, leave it blank. So long as you’ve made what matters most explicit, you can probably safely leave this box blank.

Option 2: Reframe it. Sometimes, values that seem out of place in the bathroom connect to our greatest aspirations for our students. For example, Ha:San Charter School, a school serving indigenous students, has pride as a school-wide value. In the bathroom, Ha:San demonstrates pride by using the bathroom to make positive choices to promote their well-being. Therefore, choosing to vape in the bathroom is not an example of pride because it does not promote well-being.

Should we teach students how to flush, where to stand when using the urinal, how to use the sanitary receptacles, and how to wash hands?

Yes. Not understanding how to use the equipment in the space is typically the main reason things go wrong. Teach students with a direct, no-nonsense, developmentally appropriate tone of voice exactly how people are supposed to use the equipment in the bathroom.

Hint: Humor goes a long way and makes these lessons memorable for students. And, what students remember is what they tend to do.

Do we have to go into the bathrooms?

Yes. We must teach skills in the setting where we expect students to demonstrate the skills. For example, seeing how long it takes to dry hands under the electric dryer matters more to students than telling them to dry their hands in class. Assign a few staff members who can enter any bathroom students use to teach these lessons.

Teach students what you want to see. Be explicit about what you don’t.

Even (and especially) in the bathroom, we can’t be surprised when unexpected behaviors happen in a place where we haven’t taught expected behaviors explicitly. Make sure your expectations are clear and have taught them in the same space you want students to demonstrate them.

As small as possible: Make professional learning fit.

-by Timothy (Tim) Grivois, Ed.D.

The biggest problem with professional learning is that everything about it is too big. The trainer from out of town is pricey, the stuff you need to implement the learning is expensive, and you need to pay for subs so that teachers can go to the Great Big PD during a work day. Worst of all, the PD might not be what teachers need, making every decision to send teachers to anything a gamble.

What if we could get great PD without going anywhere? Imagine if the PD showed up in a box with everything you needed to do the work already inside, and had a phone number for an expert ready to help?

Almost everything a person needs to know about Positive Behavior Interventions and Support, Social and Emotional Learning, Trauma Informed Care, Self-care and Wellness, Universal Design for Learning, or Differentiated Instruction exists on the internet for free.

What isn’t available for free is the stuff you need, organized into bite-sized chunks and sent to you in a curated box. The box should be small enough for any teacher or school leader to open it up and get started and comprehensive enough to support meaningful differences in practice.

I know. I have been highly critical of “PD in a Box,” and here I go telling you about the boxes I want to make. But go to a PD that I lead right now. You’ll engage with the same content and materials as anyone else and likely come away with a personalized method to apply your learning in your school, classroom, or nonprofit workspace.

Typically, educators have to find time out of their buildings or during their own planning time to engage in full-day sessions that might not even connect with what they want to know, understand, or be able to do. Soon, you’ll be able to choose from a variety of TGS Educational Consulting’s most widely requested trainings and get started in 15 minutes through your own action research and application.

Right now, the current bite-sized PD options we’re developing are:

  • Tier 1 PBIS
  • Buddy Board for SEL
  • Buddy Board for Staff
  • Basic Check-in / Check-out
  • Individualized Behavior Support Planning
  • Self-care for Caring Professionals

If you’d be interested in piloting one of these modules, email me at or schedule a video call by clicking here.

The best ways to invite grownups to participate on your PBIS team.

-by Timothy (Tim) Grivois, Ed.D.

Note: I use “grownup” for “parents” because children have a variety of amazing adults in their lives, and all should be included in our PBIS implementation.

Positive Behavior Interventions and Support functions best when grownups participate. Without grownups’ active involvement, teams can’t know if the systems, data, and practices meant to support students match their school community’s values, expectations, and cultural/racial identities. However, finding grownups who can participate in PBIS meetings can be difficult. Here are some other opportunities for grownups to participate:

1. Focus Groups

Instead of asking grownups to attend weekly or biweekly PBIS Team meetings, consider asking them to participate in focus groups scheduled periodically throughout the year. These focus groups might be about your PBIS values, how the school manages unexpected behavior, or how to improve your recognition system. In addition, having fewer, more targeted times for families to participate in PBIS elevates family engagement.

2. Surveys

Used sparingly, surveys can be an outstanding way of discovering how grownups experience PBIS at your school. For example, you might ask families how often their children receive positive feedback or to what extent the school PBIS values and expectations match their own values and expectations. This data is invaluable to your PBIS team and might be easier to collect through a school-wide survey than a meeting.

3. “Visiting” Grownup Groups

If your school has an established PTO, site council, or another gathering where your students’ grownups meet, sending a member of your PBIS team to those meetings can be an effective and efficient way of engaging families. Let families know what your PBIS team is working on, and ask for specific, concrete support.

Grownup engagement is crucial to PBIS implementation, but finding grownups who can participate in weekly meetings is challenging and unnecessary. Consider these alternative avenues for grownup participation on your PBIS Team.

Click here to talk more about how your school can increase grownups’ involvement in PBIS or all other aspects of your school community.

Introducing TGS-Transform, Grow, Succeed.

-by Timothy (Tim) Grivois, Ed.D.

I’m excited to announce that TGS Educational Consulting is launching a Youtube Channel featuring interviews with exemplary leaders from schools and nonprofits. Check out the first few shows here:

Adultism in Caring Organizations

In this episode, Victoria-Anne Tullercash shares their work as Youth Engagement Specialist and as a member of the Youth Action Council. When we centralize the voices of those we claim to serve, we carry out our missions with greater respect and efficacy.

It’s the Principal of the Thing

Dr. Chandra Sledge-Mathias, founder of “Wouldn’t It Be Cool If?” (, and expert in professional development shares what she believes must happen to elevate professional learning for school principals.

Building Community

Community matters. In fact, our community is the answer. How can schools build meaningful partnerships with their communities? To speak about it, Tim welcomes friend Jansen Azarias-Suzumoto to the show. Jansen is the CEO and co-founder of Higher Ground, a non-profit resource center that works to inspire youth and families to be part of lasting community contribution. Listen in as they talk about how what part communities can play in making our students and educators more successful in schools that may lack funding or resources. As Jansen notes, “It’s not about building something new. It’s about building on the resiliency of the community.”

What’s on your mind and on your heart?

-by Timothy (Tim) Grivois, Ed.D.

Self-awareness is, according to CASEL, the ability to “understand one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior across contexts.” Last week, I worked with a group of twelve teachers, counselors, and school leaders at Davis Bilingual Magnet Elementary School. Davis is a K-8 school in Tucson Unified School District and serves both Spanish-dominant and English-dominant emerging bilingual students. Our goal was to create something to help students understand and regulate emotions. What impressed me more, however, was how powerful our work became for teachers themselves.

We began each session with a simple prompt. I asked the group, “As you are right now, what is on your mind and heart?” Participants could answer this question silently to themselves or could share it out loud if they wished. Over the following days, I noticed the group’s skill and comfort grow, with people sharing positive and negative emotions. As they talked about why they felt these emotions, many participants saw how acknowledging what they felt tended to improve their overall mood.

At the end of our third day, teachers decided that they wanted to begin all staff meetings with this simple check-in. One teacher shared, “Even if I don’t share out loud, at least I have time to think about what I’m feeling and explore why.” Another said, “Just taking time to listen to each other, without needing to fix anything, feels good.”

While teaching students to be self-aware is important, self-awareness begins with school adults. You’ll see photos of self-awareness strategies teachers built as part of our learning. Each tool represents something they practiced themselves and honors their prior self-awareness skills. Fundamentally, each strategy helps people name what they are feeling and think through how their emotions drive their actions. Our work together will not only develop students’ self-awareness but ensure that teachers have time and space to elevate their interior insight.

Helping students regulate emotions is essential to their social, emotional, and academic achievement. However, supporting and understanding our students’ emotional learning becomes possible when school adults first know how to connect with their own emotions.

(Also, I paid for any supplies they needed that weren’t already at the school. We must stop training teachers to do something and then not equip them with the tools they need to implement what they learn.)

Let’s talk about social and emotional learning! If you’d like to schedule a call, click here. It’s always free to talk.

Rethinking Positive Feedback in PBIS

By Timothy (Tim) Grivois

Years ago, I attended a meeting for a child who received intensive behavior support. I knew the family well, and recently custody changed so that the child’s Aunt was the primary caretaker.

While most of the meeting was about reviewing data and goals for the child, at one point, the Aunt said, “I want you to know that my nephew keeps his Grizzly Tickets in the same place as he keeps family photos and Pokemon cards. Those tickets are treasures.”

This story demonstrates the true purpose of positive feedback within Positive Behavior Interventions and Support. For this child, tickets were not about points or privileges. Instead, every time the child looked at his tickets on the way to get his Pokemon cards, the tickets reminded him of a moment when an adult saw something good in him and took the time to let him know.

While this kind of feedback should always be the goal of PBIS, misusing praise can have adverse outcomes for students. Here are my thoughts on common reasons why adults often resist positive feedback systems.

“Why are we paying kids to be good?”

We shouldn’t. Unfortunately, sometimes accidentally and other times purposefully, the PBIS of 60 years ago encourages schools to monetize compliant behavior. For example, some companies sell schools entire digital environments where students earn ‘points’ for ‘being good’ that they later use to purchase items at their school’s online store. Do not do this.

Effective positive feedback is about having a system that makes it easy for staff to recognize the good that students bring to school every day. When students know what they can do to support the school community, they are more likely to continue. 

“We shouldn’t teach kids to seek our approval.”

We shouldn’t. We should teach children and youth to seek their own approval to follow their community’s values. Done right, your matrix should reflect your community’s values already. If not, talk to me about how to fix this.

Ideally, positive feedback lets students know that they are living their values out loud. When we see students being curious by asking questions, compassionate by including others, or proud by sharing their many languages, we can use our words to tell them. Positive feedback is not about approval but about elevating the quality of relationships with students by recognizing the good we see them do.

“Adults don’t get praise in the real world.”

We should, and here’s a positive example of why:

Recently, I picked up a couple of boxes of bagels for teachers for PBIS training. I’ve been to this shop many times, and before I leave, the manager always asks me to complete a feedback survey. I usually do, and I always have a positive review. On my last visit, I asked the manager, “Out of curiosity, what happens to these surveys once I submit them?”

“Oh my goodness, Tim! Everything you say gets sent to corporate whenever you leave us a positive review. Then they send it back to me, and I print out the email and put it up on our bulletin board by the schedules. We make a huge deal out of it, and I appreciate you giving us so much to celebrate! It makes the place feel happier, and the feeling lasts!”

If you are a school leader, be generous and genuine about recognizing the good your staff brings to school. Your team deserves to know.

Positive Behavior Interventions and Support centralizes positive feedback as a critical tenet of school-wide social and emotional support. Both the data and my values as a caring professional lead me to support expanding the frequency of kind words on campus. However, we must be mindful to avoid common mindsets that might lead to adverse outcomes. Whatever your system for positive feedback, make sure that the goal is warm, supportive relationships.