How Do You Self-Regulate?

The other day, I was reminded about the importance of self-regulation. On this particular day, one small problem seemed to lead to another one, and pretty soon, I could feel my stress level rising. Voices were getting louder. There was a mess everywhere. An attempt to tidy up was just making things noisier and messier. The students were too up-regulated. I was too up-regulated. We all needed an opportunity to calm down. I’d love to say that I did the right thing — whatever that right thing at the moment may have been — but I didn’t. I kept on pushing on to get the room cleaned up. I kept on dealing with one little problem after another one. By the time that we all gathered on the carpet, I think that we all wanted to cry. We were frustrated, excited, stressed, and not at the optimum level for learning. It was as I was sitting in the chair, looking at and listening to the students, that I realized the problem. We then took a moment to listen to some quiet music, move slowly around the room (to slow down our bodies), and head outside to move around, so that we could bring ourselves down.

It was this experience that I thought about a couple of days later, when my partner and I decided to make a few changes to better meet the needs of our students. I knew that these changes would be very uncomfortable ones for me, and I thought that I might need some opportunities to self-regulate. I jokingly said that I might use the hallway as my self-regulation space (which is funny, as this area usually increases my stress level with the bright lights, congestion, and items everywhere), but I knew that I needed something. So on Friday, when I could feel my stress level rising, I took a moment. I stepped back. I took a deep breath. I played through the conversation in my head, and reminded myself to keep that quiet, even voice, that I knew would matter. I also made sure to take breaks during the day (even if they were very short ones): I found a quiet spot to sit and relax when I didn’t have duty, and I made sure to take a few minutes out of the classroom at lunchtime. I found ways to self-regulate so that I could better help my students do the same.

Please don’t get me wrong here: I love my job! There is nothing I would rather do in my life. I care about all of our students, and I really do want to see them succeed. This is why I’m willing to get “uncomfortable,” as I know that the changes are what they need. But I also know that my ability to self-regulate impacts on my students. I need to be calm, so they can be too. And if I’m feeling stressed, I need to be able to address that, so that this stress does not impact on the students’ learning environment. Am I always good at doing this? No. I make a lot of mistakes. But as educators, I think that we can’t forget about the tremendous value in making sure that we self-regulate.

  • Maybe it’s about finding a place to take a break: be it the staff room, an empty classroom, a quiet hallway, or even outside.
  • Maybe it’s about going on a walk or doing yoga at lunchtime.
  • Maybe it’s about using more natural lighting and lamps instead of the harsh overhead lights. (I think our students benefit from this one too, but I know that I love the feeling of this calm lighting, and use it even when I’m the only one in the room.)
  • Maybe it’s about doing some deep breathing — even taking a couple of extra, calming breaths — before going and dealing with a problem.
  • Maybe it’s about blogging. Reflecting and sharing helps me calm down.
  • Maybe it’s about having that coffee in the morning before school. Sipping a delicious coffee in a quiet area does a lot to help me self-regulate.

How do you self-regulate? I also think about parents at home. This need to self-regulate is surely just as important for them. Parents, what do you do? When we see behaviour — both our own and our children’s — through the lens of self-regulation, I wonder if we address it differently. I wonder what impact this has on everyone involved. I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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