My grandmother always used to call me, “giddy,” and I actually thought of her — and this comment — at our Staff Meeting on Thursday. The Staff Meeting started off as most Staff Meetings do, but it was when we started travelling and discussing the work of other groups, that the laughter started. Now, days later, I’m starting to view this laughter through a different lens.
Let me explain. During our meeting on Thursday, we were asked to brainstorm ways that we used self-regulation and outdoor learning to meet the needs of our target students. Our principal, John, gave each group a piece of chart paper, and we recorded our thoughts on this paper. After brainstorming as a group, we moved to another table and read some of the ideas that they shared. The thought was that we could add to their discussion, ask questions, and help further the thinking and learning.
It was when we moved that I started to lose control. Thursday was a really rainy day in Ontario, and we actually had a thunderstorm during our Staff Meeting. I always get terrible headaches when the weather changes, and I was starting to get a horrible one right before our Staff Meeting. I often take my glasses off when I have a headache, and that afternoon, I happened to be wearing my glasses on the top of my head. I don’t need my glasses for reading, but I do need them for distance. When we moved to the next table group, I was too far back to read the words clearly, but just looking at the writing, I asked aloud, “Is that list written in cursive?” Our group members said that it was, and that’s when I put on my glasses. Sure enough: the entire list was in cursive writing. At that moment, I was brought back to the #summerofcursive many years ago, and I couldn’t hold back the laughter.
I jokingly made a comment to my teaching partner, Paula, that this cursive writing must have been a stressor for me, and looking back now, I think that it was. Based on where I was standing, this list of points was actually upside down. I can read printing upside down, but it’s more of a struggle to read cursive. I realized that I really had to think about what the letters were, and then how they blended together to make words. All of a sudden, I felt like our students do when they’re learning to read, and I was using humour to combat my stress response. I was quickly becoming the “problem child” in this Staff Meeting.
- I was loud.
- I was laughing so much that I actually had tears rolling down my face.
- We were discussing the merit in have spaces under the table for children to sit and work, and I jokingly (or not so jokingly) said that pretty soon, I was going to be under the table too. (I honestly considered the option. 🙂 )
Then when my laughter was truly out of control, the discussion ended, and we had to return to our initial table groups. This is when we had to fill out a form about our target students and next steps. Our principal, John, knows about my aversion to paper (and the fact that I never carry a pen), so in the nicest of ways, he always makes these forms available in digital and hard copy. My iPad wouldn’t open the digital copy properly though, so I chose the hard copy. This is when, at the point of which I was most certainly too up-regulated, I faced another cognitive stressor: printing on paper in a small space with no lines. This is like the ultimate spatial awareness task, and I had no idea how I was going to do it.
Since I didn’t have a pen, I used a marker to fill out the form. We’re not talking about a small marker here, but a big, thick, smelly marker (the smell of which was its own biological stressor, and likely helped get me up-regulated in the first place … I’m the worst person with scents, especially when I have a headache). I think that I got about three words in the box that required about four sentences … and boy did I have a lot to say about this, in again, a very loud voice! Bless the heart of my incredibly patient teaching partner, who let me laugh, but calmly talked me down, and even suggested alternating colours to help with the readability of the form. The room was quiet except for us, but now, days later, I’m incredibly thankful for the staff that never once moved to silence me, even though I was most certainly disturbing the peace.
By some sort of miracle, I managed to complete the form with Paula’s help.
- The printing merged between both boxes.
- I drew lines to help organize my incredibly large writing.
- I may have even included an arrow or two.
I almost felt embarrassed handing it to our principal, but John must have sensed my concerns, and even began his feedback with a compliment: thanking me that he would not need to use his glasses to read my sentences. 🙂 And strangely enough, just like that, I felt better.
- He never yelled at me, and truthfully, never yells at anyone.
- He never made me feel as though my work wasn’t good enough.
- He helped me laugh one more time, but with his kind words and gentle tone, also come back down again.
— Aviva Dunsiger (@avivaloca) April 20, 2017
Back at ya "Dunsiger"! Also thankful for outside the box thinking! 🙂 https://t.co/MDHJh8iMBt
— John Gris (@john_gris) April 20, 2017
I couldn’t help but compare my feelings on Thursday to how students may have felt in the past. My behaviour was the result of some stressors: could theirs be too? I needed some support to calm down. Self-regulation didn’t work for me on Thursday: it was all about co-regulation.
- How do we support our students in helping them calm down?
- How do we identify the stressors that may be triggering their behaviour, and then help reduce these stressors?
As Doug Peterson commented on in a recent blog post, it’s hard for me not to view almost everything through a Self-Reg lens, but I wonder if we all need to have these challenging experiences to understand what our students may also be experiencing. I think this helps us see and support their behaviour differently. What do you think?