Today was April Fools’ Day. Usually for us, April Fools’ Day is a PA Day or weekend, so this is the first one that I’ve experienced as a junior teacher. My students were excited to pull a little practical joke on me. They wrote me a note on the board, typed another one on my computer, hid a couple of my devices, and left me a box full of a nice, muddy surprise. The Grade 5’s thought that this was hysterical, and I couldn’t help but laugh along with them. 🙂
Then came the problem though of a very excited class, one last period to work, and a lesson in which I really needed them to calm down. What to do? Their volume was up, and I could feel my stress level rise. I’ll admit that when this happens, my initial instinct is to talk over the students — get louder to quiet them down. But this is when I can’t help but think of Stuart Shanker and self-regulation. As a teacher, this is when I feel as though I need to self-regulate. So I resist the urge to “talk above” and instead I “go below.”
- I take a deep breath.
- I get really quiet.
- I try to keep my tone even.
- I use as few words as possible, and I often give additional wait time to get students thinking.
And as someone that has used this same strategy from Kindergarten to Grade 6, the results are always the same: the students quiet down. The students calm down. The students become ready to listen and learn. And I feel my stress level quickly decreasing.
Self-regulation is something I also need to consider in other facets of my job. I find myself self-regulating during meetings and inservices: I’m a passionate person and an emotional person. For me, often the two go hand-in-hand. I will always speak up to support students, and I will always contribute if I feel strongly about an issue. I don’t like admitting it, but many times these contributions come with tears. I start to talk and I can feel that lump in my throat: I know that the tears are coming quickly if I want them to or not. This is when I have to self-regulate.
- I may stop talking altogether, or if not, I try to keep my tone low.
- I think carefully about my words.
- I try to sum up my thoughts quickly, so that I can stop talking before the tears start.
- I take a deep breath.
- I get up, leave, and try to find just a little alone time.
If I think that speaking up may lead to tears, I plan in advance what I’m going to say. I try to create a script. And, if need be, I sit back, smile, and bite my tongue (literally) — re-thinking if I really want to say anything. Depending on the situation, I may also tweet: not in a negative way, but in a positive one. Tweeting or blogging make me feel better, and this matters!
I share this post because as I read more of Stuart Shanker‘s Calm, Alert, and Learning, I see all of his references to “adult self-regulation” and this can be hard. As adults, we’re often trying to multi-task, we’re feeling the impact of multiple stressors, and we want to remain calm, but this can be a challenge. I believe though that really reflecting on how we self-regulate will make us more aware of strategies we can use in different situations to keep calm: benefitting not only us, but our students. How do you emotionally self-regulate? What are the benefits in doing so? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!
Aviva, I just read a few of your posts on Calm, Alert and Learning in a row, ending with this one, and I couldn’t help but notice that in just a few days you’ve gotten from having a hard time thinking of even one way you self-regulate to this super-thoughtful, reflective accounting and invitation to share. Wow! The book and book study really has got you thinking.
I have seen the same effect as you when it comes to calming down children. When kids are wound up and the energy of the adult in charge matches their level, everything escalates. If he adult can set a different, more in-control tone, most kids will calm down. It can be especially powerful if the kids actually see their adult using strategies they’ve learned to “reset” and calm down.
I’m interested in other people’s answers to your question about what adults do to emotionally self-regulate. I’m going to cross post to the Responsive Classroom Facebook page, where I think we’ll find a bunch of people who will share their strategies.
Thanks for the comment, Jen! I’m incredibly interested in hearing what other people do as well. I totally agree with you about how our tone often impacts on the tone of the child, and this reflection has definitely made me more aware of this. I find myself thinking about self-regulation a lot lately, and I’m so glad that this book club has really made me examine my own practices and think about what more I can do.
Thanks for sharing this post with others as well!