Teaching through Emotions

where emotions and relationships are central to teaching and learning

About Me

Betsy Burris PhD, MSW, LCSW

As a teacher, teacher educator, psychotherapist, and mother, I know the power of emotions. I am devoted to the task of helping people, especially educators, harness the power of their emotions so they can do their best work.

The truth is that emotions tell us a lot about ourselves, about our students, partners, and colleagues, and about our children’s and students’ development. Emotions offer incredibly accurate information about our relationships. Why should this information matter to educators? Because relationships are the foundation out of which all learning emerges. And because they are the cause of so much teacher misery.

The work I do in Teaching through Emotions reduces misery and the chances of burnout. It increases relational alignment in classrooms and schools so students and teachers can learn and grow freely. It helps teachers feel better every day about themselves, their colleagues, and their students.

Here’s what I do: I consult with schools, school districts, and other types of groups to foster effective working relationships. I organize and run Teacher Support Groups and Study Groups. I train teachers who want to organize and run their own Teacher Support Groups. I give talks and workshops about the emotions, relationships, and dynamics of teaching and learning. And I coach administrators and teachers individually, in person or online.

Here are my vital statistics: I have a Ph.D. in education from Stanford University. I have a MSW from Smith College and I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Over the past 20 years, I have taught in teacher education programs at Stanford University, Dominican College, Connecticut College, and Bennington College; I have directed teacher education programs at Stanford (STEP) and Bennington (the MATSL). In the past decade I have been a psychotherapist for children and adults at the Kids’ Place (Pittsfield, MA), for college students at Williams College (Williamstown, MA), and for adults at the Brien Center for Mental Health and Substance Abuse (North Adams, MA). I am currently in private practice, specializing in psychotherapy and supervision for teachers. I am married to Brad Wells and mother to Mae and Wilder.

I have written a book about emotions and relationships in the classroom. It’s called The Feeling of Teaching: Using Emotions and Relationships to Transform the Classroom. It is available for sale (in e-book form) at most e-book distributors, including Amazon.com, and it is available in print form from me.

I’d love to hear from you. Email me!


  1. Hi Betsy!

    I can’t believe what you’ve got here. I just taught a course called “discourse and compassion” where I wandered into this territory really tentatively. I wish I had found you last year! But here we are.


  2. Hi Betsy:
    I just found out about your blog and your book from a good friend and colleague who read about you in a professional journal (or magazine – Smith School for SW?.) I am a school psychologist in Northampton. I also co-teach 2 courses at the Elms College on the topic of classroom management. Our second course is focused on the teacher’s mind/heart/spirit and explores the relationship between the teacher’s emotional life and the management of the classroom and the behavior of students with challenges. I can’t wait to read your book and I would love to meet you if you ever do any speaking/trainings! Yay!

  3. I’m interested in your term you coined, metacogniscience. How long has this term been around? I just came upon this through my readings and research for a graduate course on teaching and learning styles. I am concerned how traumatic events impact the brain and learning. A good example would be the 9/11 attacks in New York and that horrible event that families had to deal with who lived there and actually experienced the event first hand. Does this relate to trauma or PTSD cases?
    Thank you

    • Betsy

      November 19, 2015 at 8:07 pm

      The term “metacogniscience” is, as far as I know, completely original — you saw it first here! I, however, did not coin the term; a teacher I work with did. She was not thinking specifically about trauma or PTSD when she came up with “metacogniscience” but was, rather, trying to describe the kind of work we do in our Teacher Support Group. That work is about making sense of the emotional and relational data our students are constantly offering us about their experience of learning. To the degree that trauma influences those data, “going metacogniscient” can certainly help. But I’m mindful of Bessel van der Kolk’s claim that talking does not necessarily help with trauma or PTSD. Rather, body work (like yoga) does. Perhaps a combination?

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