About 1 1/2 years ago, I got involved in a fabulous Book Club through our Board. We discussed Stuart Shanker‘s Calm, Alert, and Learning. Reading, thinking, and talking about this book, changed my understanding of self-regulation and many of my classroom practices.
- I reconsidered bulletin board colours and visual displays in the classroom.
- I tried to speak in a softer tone.
- I became more aware of when students were “up regulated” and how to help them “down regulate.” Students also started taking more ownership over this “down regulating.”
- As a class, we worked on creating more zones in the classroom. We ensured that there were “quiet areas” for when students needed them.
- I thought of music in a different way, and realized the value that it could have for many students.
- After many years of report card comments to the contrary, I finally came to understand that self-regulation was about more than sitting quietly and raising your hand to share ideas.
I share all of this now because when I read Shanker’s book, I was teaching Grade 5. The Book Club was advertised as a Full-Day Kindergarten and Early Learning Book Club. Everyone was welcome, but self-regulation was a focus in the Early Years, so this was the target audience. I hate to admit it now, but the only reason that I even signed up for the Book Club was because I really wanted to move from teaching a junior class to teaching a primary one the following year, and I thought that this Book Club would show that I was dedicated to learning more about a topic that mattered in primary. What I quickly came to learn though was that self-regulation isn’t just for kindergarten.
Let’s think about what happens as children grow up.
- Friendships become more challenging.
- Students often start to feel more stressed (for various reasons).
- Puberty often complicates emotional reactions to problems.
- Relationships start … and they often impact on the classroom environment if we want them to or not.
- Learning needs become more prevalent. As gaps widen, student frustration often increases.
And each of these issues, and many more, make it that much more complicated for students to regulate (or control) their behaviour. As teachers, we also expect that as students get older, they know the classroom and school expectations even better, and should be able to follow them with few, if any, reminders. So what do we do when there is drama, tears, outbursts, and/or interruptions in class (regardless of the age of our students)? Would our reactions vary if our knowledge of self-regulation was different?
I think of this more now because there is currently a Self-Regulation Symposium happening in Peterborough. I was reading some of the tweets later this afternoon, and I saw this one by Cathern Lethbridge: a principal in Midland, Ontario.
I am thrilled to hear this, but I also wonder, how many people and school boards are at this Symposium to hear this message? How can we get this message out to those not there? My tweet below sums up my thoughts.
If I hadn’t chosen to join the Book Club back when I did, I would still see self-regulation as an “FDK topic.” I wonder about the impact of this, for if students don’t learn to self-regulate well, how do they really learn? What do you think?