P.A. Day Tired. Does This Help Us Understand Kids More?

Yesterday was a P.A. Day, and as educators, we were the students. We had a full-day of professional development on bullying. I loved that the day included lots of opportunities to connect with colleagues, brainstorm ideas together, and share as part of a large and small group. When the day was over though, boy was I exhausted! I usually teach 27 kindergarten children, but even on the most challenging of days, I come home less tired than I did yesterday. In fact, I may have been fast asleep on the sofa by 8:30: a rockin’ Friday night, I know. 🙂 Waking up today feeling far more refreshed, I got to thinking about why I was so tired. Strangely enough, our group even discussed part of this during one of the scenario conversations yesterday. I wonder if Self-Reg can explain this exhaustion. 

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about “feeling tired” on The MEHRIT Centre blog. Today’s post is an extension of that, with a closer look at Stuart Shanker‘s Five Domains, but with regards to professional development.

Biological Domain – I teach at a fairly large school, and our P.A. Day was held in the library. With tables close together, lots of people talking at the same time (blocking out the noise was a challenge for me), lights on full power, and no windows, I could feel the biological stressors at play. 

Emotional Domain – Our P.A. Day discussion was all about bullying. In addition to discussing scenarios, we also watched a very powerful video (I found myself choking back tears, and I was not the only one), and had to start thinking about our own experiences with bullying. This is not a topic that I’ve discussed a lot, and while I was tempted to write about an experience today, I’m still not sure how much I’m comfortable with sharing. Needless to say, the emotional impact of the day was certainly draining.


Social Domain – Most of the day was spent socializing with others. As an individual with a non-verbal learning disability, social situations are challenging. I like and need my quiet space. During the year, I rarely go to the staffroom, and when I do, you’ll usually see me on my iPad or off at a table to the side. This is not in an attempt to be anti-social. In many ways, it’s how I self-regulate. This gives me the quiet that I need to cope with the amount of social that happens all day long: from conversations with colleagues to interactions with kids. Yesterday, there was never really an opportunity to escape the social, which meant even more frequent attempts from me to engage.

Pro-Social Domain – Yesterday’s professional development on bullying was about more than theory. We applied theories through the use of examples. In these different situations, I sometimes saw previous students that I taught. Sometimes I saw myself. Empathy is so important, and yet, at times, you can also feel the emotional drain of empathy. I think that I was feeling both yesterday. Then there was our first activity, where we had to write our name in the middle of a piece of paper, and ultimately, create a poster that captured our identity. I don’t know what others were feeling at the time, but as I started to write, I wondered, will we need to share this poster with others? Am I comfortable doing so? How will people react? This had me thinking carefully about what information I included and didn’t include. My concerns (unfounded, I know) on if others could empathize with me, I think further increased my stress.

Cognitive Domain – While sometimes we had to read and respond to texts or video clips, in other cases, we had to share ideas based on our own knowledge and background experiences. Schema. None of the questions were made to be overly complicated. Even for our first activity, we brainstormed some ideas as a group first before going to complete our poster. There were even some topics up on the SMART Board to help us if we got stuck. And yet, I kept wondering, am I doing this right? Am I missing something? Did I get the correct answer (even if there wasn’t one)? What if I totally missed the main point here? At one point, I spoke on behalf of our group by sharing an idea that we generated for one of the questions. Our group stood behind the idea. But as I started talking, I kept watching my principal‘s face: did he understand my point? Did I have to share more? As he kept looking back at the question, I started to wonder, did I get this wrong? In the end, he and others referred back to the idea that I shared, but at the time, I worried that I missed the boat.

Stress is not always a bad thing. In the midst of yesterday’s learning, I think that I was only aware of some of these stressors at play. It was only through reflection, that I figured out the rest. I did become aware though of what I was doing to self-regulate.

  • Picking a chair with my back to most of the group helped me tune out some of the noise and distraction around me.
  • Sitting with people that I know well, including my teaching partner, Paula, gave me some comfort during these group discussions. 
  • Doodling helped me focus, especially when it got louder around our table.
  • Tweeting a few conversation points, also allowed me to escape into a quiet space while staying focused on the bigger conversation.

  • Heading out during our lunch break gave me a chance to reset for the afternoon. I also got some sunshine and fresh air, which made a big difference.

I can’t help but think now though about our students, who are often placed in similar learning situations all day long: in our classrooms or in other classrooms. How are we addressing these stressors? How are we teaching kids to self-regulate in all grades? Are we supporting students who might attempt to self-regulate much as I did, or are we viewing their actions as contrary to expectations? Maybe as adults, we all need these kinds of days and experiences to view children and environments differently. 


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