Is It “Us” That Makes The Difference?

Today was an interesting day at school. My partner, Nayer, and I were both out for the morning to prepare a presentation for Monday’s Kindergarten Networking Session. We had two supplies in the room — one who’s our regular supply, and one who’s never been in the classroom before. At first nutrition break, we heard that the children were having a marvellous day (always a great report), and a similar message was communicated to us when we arrived back in the classroom at noon. 

Walking in the room though, we could tell that the children were getting very excited. 

  • The noise level was up.
  • There were materials everywhere.
  • Some students were starting to act silly.

Nayer was leaving for her lunch break, and that’s when I knew that we needed to go outside. This is usually our outdoor learning time, and the students were showing that they needed this outdoor environment. We cleaned up as quickly as we could, collected some items from the classroom together (paper, scissors, crayons, pencils, and blocks), and headed outside. 

Another teacher mentioned to me earlier in the day that she might be bringing her class outside as well. She also brought out materials from the classroom to use, and our children loved using her materials too. We don’t usually get a chance to play with this group of students, and we have some siblings between the two classes. The children were definitely excited about this new opportunity!

During nutrition break time, Nayer mentioned to me that the students continued to be very chatty and active, even when they got back inside (which isn’t usually the case), and she chose to do an activity with them together to help calm them down. We wonder now if the change in routine — with supplies this morning plus new children and new activities for outside time — kept the children “up” instead of bringing them “down.”

Then after this break, my prep coverage teacher thought that she would bring them outside for some different learning time. For part of this time though, two other Kindergarten classes are also outside. Our class never plays with these students because of opposite recess times, and the activities were different than our usual ones. While the children in the other classes loved this outdoor time, many of our students were reluctant to play, asked to go back inside, and stayed close to both educators instead of interacting with other students. I’m left wondering, “why?”

  • Could it be because we were already outside a lot today?
  • Could it be because this is different than our usual routine, and we didn’t prepare the children for a change in plans?
  • Could it be because the other children outside are not the ones that our children know and usually interact with at school?
  • Could it be because there were more children and more noise in the playground area? We usually have two classes outside together instead of three.

Maybe it was a combination of all of these reasons. Looking at the students’ actions though through the lens of “why” (with all of these different possibilities) makes the behaviour make a lot more sense.

I guess then, given all of these various factors, it’s not surprising that within minutes of the children arriving back from their outdoor time — about 15 minutes earlier than expected — they were noisy, silly, and incredibly excited. Both Nayer and I initially tried to go around and model the use of quiet voices. We sat down and played with them. We offered groups of students different challenges to provide that “intentional interruption” and change the focus of the play. Nothing worked though. That’s when Nayer and I started to talk, and she filled me in on the lunchtime excitement and the outdoor learning time issues. Now things were starting to make sense. What could we do though?

For a minute, I decided to pause. I stood there, and asked myself, “What helps bring these children down?” Dancing. I knew though that if we tried to clean up the classroom and call everyone to the carpet, it would be a struggle to make this quick transition and likely lead to more stress — for both the students and for us. That’s when I went over to the SMART Board, and pulled up the Just Dance Webmix that our children love. I picked The Gummy Bear Song — a favourite for many children — and turned it up just loud enough that at least a few students around the carpet area would hear it. 

The plan worked. Within a few seconds, a couple of students heard the song, saw the video, dropped their containers in the water bin, and said to each other, “Do you want to dance?” Dancing is contagious, and pretty soon, many students joined us on the carpet to dance. 

  • A few students still drew pictures.
  • A couple of students looked at books.
  • A couple more students continued playing in the water.

That was okay though. The children that needed to dance to calm down, joined us on the carpet, and they did start to calm down. The other children calmed down in different ways — through drawing, reading, and sensory experiences — and then Nayer worked with a few of them to tidy-up. 

The process was seamless. There were no more transitions — which in a day full of changes, would have likely led to more problems — and everybody went home happy: educators and students included. 

Reflecting at the end of the day though, I realized how many times I’ve reacted differently.

  • While I’ve gotten better at asking “why,” I usually do so after responding, instead of before responding.
  • In the midst of “super excited times,” I don’t always take the time needed to pause and problem solve. 
  • While I know that the same approach doesn’t work for everyone, I don’t always consider what that means when it comes to carpet gatherings. 

Today’s experience made me wonder if after “perfect endings” like today, we need to ask ourselves more, what did we do differently? Is it our actions that ultimately make the biggest difference for kids? This is an “uncomfortable” revelation for me, but one that I think is worth considering. What do you think?


As part of my final project for Foundations 4, I am blogging about topics related to the four Foundations courses. While this post doesn’t use the terminology, there are links to self-regulation, co-regulation, up-regulation, down-regulation, dysregulation, invisible stressors, reframing behaviour, and leakage. I hope that these blog posts provoke more conversations around these important topics.

2 thoughts on “Is It “Us” That Makes The Difference?

    • Thanks for your comment, Corey! The one thing that I will say is that as I’ve learned more about self-regulation, I find that little voice in my head is stopping me more often during these “super excited times.” Not always, but there has been improvement. I’m thinking that’s a good thing.


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