So Much Self-Reg, So Little Time: My OAME Conference Experience

I’m writing this post as I sit at the airport awaiting my early evening flight home from Ottawa. I just finished three incredible days of learning at the OAME Conference. I’m sure that this conference will inspire many different blog posts, but I think that my first one has to be around Self-Reg. This is not my first post about a Self-Reg conference experience, but this one, is different than my last post on this topic. There is a lot more to this post.

Strangely enough, even being at the OAME Conference required a little bit of Self-Reg. I applied to this conference on a whim back in the summer. I still remember the day. I was at Camp Power — my summer job — a little earlier than usual, and I happened to have a few minutes to myself. I was looking on Twitter when I saw a tweet about proposals for OAME. Perfect! I always wanted to go to this math conference, as Jonathan So and Matthew Oldridge spoke so highly of it. Presenting would give me the perfect opportunity to attend. I knew that I couldn’t make it to the BIT Conference this year, so this could be a new conference experience for me. I had a session idea, and so I wrote it up and pressed “submit,” before I could change my mind. I really didn’t think that I had a chance of getting my session accepted, and so I was thrilled and shocked, when I got the acceptance email months ago. I was also surprised when I found out that this conference, which I always associated with being in Toronto, was being held in Ottawa this year. Oh no! My session proposal was all about playing with math. I had plans to bring along LEGO, blocks, Perler Beads, bins of loose parts, muffin tins, and the list goes on. How could I fit all of these materials in a suitcase and get them to Ottawa? Blogging and tweeting often helps me self-regulate, and so in an attempt to feel better about this overwhelming problem, I sent out a tweet.

Well here’s to an amazing PLN, who obviously heard my stress and chimed in with offers to help.

And just like that, thanks to Stephanie Ranger‘s generous offer, I could breathe again. Amazingly enough, I’ve never met Stephanie, and never did until the day of my presentation, but she was able to co-regulate me from afar.

This leads us to the first day of the conference. I went to university at Nipissing, and one of the many things that I loved about this school was its small size. I could never get lost. All of the rooms were in one small building, and the building was like a giant circle. I was even able to lead campus tours, and for anyone who knows anything about me, this speaks to the small size and wonderful layout of the school. Nipissing was meant for me! My university experience many years ago, did not prepare me for the huge size of the University of Ottawa campus. Thankfully I was staying really close to the building where the sessions took place. I have to applaud the organizers for such fantastic signs that helped even directionally-challenged me not get lost. That is until I got into the building itself. Then came the numerous offers of maps to help me out. I think that the tweets below sum up my map thoughts, and if not, this blog post certainly shares how I do with maps.

Needless to say, when I finally found the room where I would be presenting at 10:00, I stayed there. I was supposed to be in a session in the other wing at 8:30, but what if I got lost on my way back? And so, I decided that the session operating in the same room would be the perfect first one for me (and it really did turn out to be wonderful). I could then breathe easy and enjoy a session before the stress of actually presenting myself.

Thankfully I wasn’t the only one looking at this conference through a Self-Reg lens. Lisa Corbett, an educator that I follow on Twitter, shared some of her own dysregulation. Maybe this inspired me to be more open with my thoughts. I couldn’t help but think about Self-Reg even more when I joined a Math and Art session yesterday. The session was full of wonderful ideas, and our kids love to communicate through art, so I saw lots of possible learning opportunities for them. Like Lisa though, this was a case where I was not anticipating the stressors until I walked into the room.

As I breathed deeply and attempted some challenging tasks, I was reminded by a fellow participant about how personal Self-Reg can be: what was a stressor for me was calming for her.

I persevered at this session though until I saw the next activity. Have you ever felt as though you didn’t even have an entry point? This was me. Maybe I should have kept at it. Maybe I should have asked for help. But instead, I walked away. Even with a growth mindset, sometimes we need to know where our limits lie. Thankfully there were tweeters still in the session that could help me see and appreciate the math/art connection, even if I wasn’t there to experience it.

This made me think of the classroom environment, and how we can support kids in both walking away and coming back. Do we provide these same opportunities for educators, and are they equally as important? I can’t help but think even more about cognitive stressors, and how we ensure these multiple entry points for both kids and adults. The session facilitator created a safe space to take a risk, but I still wasn’t willing to. Was the risk too big for me to take, or did I need an even stronger connection with the facilitator and the adults in the room, to take this risk? Maybe I would have felt differently if I knew more people in this session. Does this then speak to relationships being at the heart of Self-Reg?

Once again, I’m reminded about how much I view the world through a Self-Reg lens. Do others do the same? What impact might this have on your experiences? As much as I may have shared here, I still have so many more Self-Reg experiences that I could have shared from this three-day trip to Ottawa. Now imagine if it wasn’t an adult, but instead a child, working my way through these different stressors. All of a sudden, my behaviour seems a lot different … don’t you think?



4 thoughts on “So Much Self-Reg, So Little Time: My OAME Conference Experience

  1. I loved the learning, but there was a lot of cognitive stress. I had some sessions that contradicted each other (which I love because it makes me think about what I believe!) I had to stretch myself a lot. I sat in one session & realized I was beside a high school teacher and I knew she was going to know more math than me. I almost left because I thought I was in a session not for me but made myself stay & am better for it!

    Socially it was tricky too. There’s pressure to talk to a neighbour & I don’t always want to do that! I was annoyed by people who arrived really late but then felt that prosocial empathy for them b/c walking in late is hard.
    I met up with some people I know only on Twitter and that’s always a bit weird at first.

    Biological…I needed to pack more snacks for myself! I was challenging myself to always take the stairs. There were a lot of stairs! And my hotel bed was harder than I like.

    Emotional…I was missing my family & felt a bit guilty about having fun without them.

    But…I took care of my self-reg needs by resting at the end of each day. I packed snacks day 2&3. I hid in my computer so I would be too busy to talk to people when I needed a break from talking. I even left one session so I could say hi to some people I wanted to meet up with in the lobby of CRX! 🙂

    I’ll go back again sometime. It was worth all the stress. It gave me new insight into how it might feel to be the new kid or new teacher in a building.

    • Thanks Lisa for sharing about your stressors! I could connect to so much of what you said here. I think that I also took some quiet time alone at the end of the day back in my room just to decompress. It also helped me restore my energy for social time later. I have to say that the heat of the residence room was my biggest stressor. I never realized how much I like air-conditioning, and how desperately I wanted to go and buy a fan. If I could have found a place on campus, I would have! 🙂

      As for being late to sessions, I actually missed some because I just couldn’t bring myself to walk in late. The door was also at the front of the room, and I was concerned about how the presenter would feel if I pushed it open in the middle of the session. In a couple of cases, I wish that I did. The sessions sounded fantastic! But after a few bad night’s sleeps, and the headaches that come with those, I needed to sacrifice the sessions for the coffee line-ups. Strangely enough, finding coffee was the one thing that I could do consistently without getting lost. 🙂

      Glad to hear that despite the stressors, you would consider going back again sometime. I would too, and love the fact that it’s supposed to be in Toronto next year. Closer to home for me! 🙂 I can definitely appreciate what kids might be feeling in new social situations and/or classrooms without air-conditioning. 🙂


  2. I was sharing a room with a good friend I have traveled with before. Still, there was this whole thing where we had to work out what we would do about temperature in the room, bed time/ wake up time, where to eat, etc. Luckily we are good enough friends that we tell each other the truth instead of suffering in polite silence.

    I can relate to your concern about walking into a session late. I’m sure that was why I was rushing to get to sessions. I wonder if the university has thought of this when they designed the classrooms? Every single room had the door for entry right beside the place where it was most logical for the teacher to stand (up front, beside the tech station and projector.) When I was in university, I had one class that started within 20 minutes of the time when I had to drop the children I was a nanny for off at school. I had to drop them off as early as possible, then drive 25 minutes to get to campus. It was at least a 5 minute walk to class. I had to have the class though, and that was the only time it would fit into my timetable. I spoke to the prof on the first day and he was OK with it. But I could tell he was really dysregulated by it (I didn’t have that word then!) Every single time I would arrive and the only seat would be in the centre of the front row. I can absolutely see this as being a barrier for some students to attend class (on some days, or maybe often!)

    • I’m glad that you could talk to your roommate about the heat, wake up time, etc. This is so key. I’m really particular about these things, which is often why I stay alone. I also like and need some quiet after a full day of conference sessions.

      I could really connect to your university story. I hate the eyes-on-me feeling of coming in late. It’s why I’m perpetually early for everything. My teaching partner is a lot more relaxed with time — something I wish that I could be — and I’ve showed up later with her to some meetings. Having someone else to walk in with, helped, but I still felt the need to apologize profusely. I couldn’t do it alone. It’s why I missed two sessions and connected with people in the lobby instead. Still good learning, but I really wanted to also be in these sessions.


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