It was really a combination of experiences this week, with different students, that led to this blog post.
Things started with our Awards Assembly on Thursday afternoon. As we were about to enter the gym, one student was really struggling. This child was jumping up and down, making loud, screechy noises, and running around in circles. I knew that this student wasn’t ready for the assembly. I’m going to admit that I said something now that I wish I didn’t. I looked down at this child and quietly said, “You need to stop before you go into the gym. Are you choosing to go into the gym or back to the classroom?” The student looked at me, pointed back to the classroom and started to walk. What? Wait … I was not prepared for this response. I then said, “If you’re going back to the classroom, I’ll need to find somebody else to be there with you because I need to hand out the awards.” The child stopped. He turned and reluctantly walked into the gym. A few minutes after sitting down with his class, he walked up to me and said, “It’s too loud in here. If staying in the assembly means staying in this noise, I think I’d rather be in the principal’s office.” These are the words that changed things for me. I started to think about Stuart Shanker and invisible stressors. I started to realize that what I initially viewed as misbehaviour was actually stress behaviour. The loud gym was causing him to feel dysregulated, and he didn’t know what to do. My approach changed. I showed him how to plug his ears, and I put my hands over top of his hands to further block out the noise. He calmed down almost immediately, and only appeared stressed again when the music in the slideshow started to play. Maybe some noise-cancelling headphones would help for the next assembly.
At this same assembly, I interacted briefly with another student from a different class. This child appeared really calm during the entire assembly until the awards were handed out, and he didn’t receive one. He clenched his fists, started to scowl, and quickly appeared angry and agitated. I walked up to him, got down low, and said, “You seem mad. What’s up?” That’s when he told me he was angry about not winning an award. I told him, “I can understand why you’re mad, but before the end of the year, you’ll get an award too. I know that I don’t have an award for you, but I’m proud of you.” I then spoke about some of the recent changes I noticed, and he started to smile. He asked me to “pinkie swear” about the award, which I did, and then he started to smile and sat down calmly to watch the slideshow.
Flash forward to the next day. It was close to home time, and I wanted to empty out the sensory bin to prepare for Monday. I asked if anyone wanted to help me, and a group of students came over. This request resulted in the following story.
I’ll admit that when I saw the water running into that little metal bowl, I started to feel stressed. We plugged that hole for a reason. But when I heard this student’s thinking, I began to relax. This child was sure that he was helping us. He had the best of intentions. As the time ticked on, and a small puddle formed on the floor (which we cleaned up), I made a comment to my teaching partner, Paula: “Why exactly did I ask for help? I think that we could have done this quicker on our own.” That’s when she provided a very important reminder: “Maybe so, but think of how much problem solving these students are doing now.” It’s hard to argue with that. I think that Paula’s words helped me become more positive about the whole experience.
These experiences reminded me about the importance of “listening” … really listening. When we take the time to hear the “why” our perceptions change, and often for the better. While I’ve finished the Level 1 Self-Reg Foundations Certification and continue to work for The MEHRIT Centre as the Portal Plus Moderator, I’m reminded this week of just how complicated self-regulation can be, and that no matter how much we know — or think we know — we can all make mistakes. Maybe the important thing is that we stay open to listening, so that we can continue to make changes based on what we hear. How do you listen intently? With Halloween upon us on Monday, I’m thinking that I’m going to need to listen to all students and myself a little more closely. What about you?