Breaking At #BIT16: My Self-Regulated Conference Experience

Last night, I returned home from the Bring I.T. Together Conference. This was the first conference that I’ve attended since finishing the Foundations 1 course through The MEHRIT Centre. I didn’t realize that this course would have such a huge impact on my conference experience, but it did. 

I started to realize this on Wednesday night when the Mega Minds on Media session ended. I was not as busy as I’ve been in past years — with visits at the table going in ebbs and flows — but by the time that the last person arrived to talk about Explain Everything, it took every bit of mental energy in me to find the words to engage in a conversation about this app. I knew then that I was drained, and I needed a chance to relax my body and mind. I quickly packed up and headed to my hotel across the street, and spent some quiet time unpacking and watching video recordings from my teaching partner and supply teacher, highlighting the learning that happened in class that day. These videos made me happy and excited about some new possibilities. That’s when I checked my tweets about meeting up with Adele to finalize our presentation for the next day. We decided to meet over in her hotel room. Little did I know that making it to this hotel room would be a 40 minute quest full of many stressors.

It all started when Adele mentioned that if I happened to have “crackers,” I could bring them over. I didn’t, but I hate to go anywhere empty-handed, so I decided that there must be a place to buy some. I called down to the front desk, and found out that there’s a convenience store a block away. I started heading there, but then wasn’t sure which direction to take, so thought that I could find something in the lobby of the hotel to buy. I found a Starbucks at the Marriott, and thought that nuts and bagels are kind of like crackers: they at least belong to the same family of foods. I bought them and headed upstairs to Adele’s room. I knocked … three times, no answer. Did I have the room number wrong? I decided to check my iPad, but realized that I forgot it back over at my hotel. No problem. I’d ask at the desk. The problem was that Adele wasn’t registered there, and I couldn’t remember the last name of her roommate. Aargh! It was time to haul all of the goodies back to my hotel and check. When I got there — of which, now it was 25 minutes past when I should have been in Adele’s room — I decided to take the elevator that I thought was closer to my room to save some time. It turns out though that this elevator went to the same floor as mine, but somehow, the hotel rooms on this side of the building didn’t connect with the ones on the other size … and I was now in a maze of hotel rooms, searching to find my way back to the elevator. When I managed to do that, I went down, walked across the lobby, and took the other elevator up to the floor. Then I found my hotel room, and thankfully, my iPad. Now I had a new problem: the room number that I went to at the Marriott was the same as the one that Adele messaged me, so why didn’t she answer the door? Thirty-five minutes into this hotel adventure, I write Adele again, and she says that she’ll meet me in the lobby of her hotel. That’s when I think back to a couple of years ago, and vaguely remember that there are two Marriott hotels right near each other. Did I go to the wrong one? I look back on the name of the one that she sent me, and I realize that it’s similar to — but not exactly the same — as the one that I see outside of my hotel room window. I get downstairs and ask the parking attendants where I can find the right Marriott. Their response: “turn the corner.” I do … and about 40 steps from where I’m standing is the hotel that I tried to find 40 minutes ago. 🙂 Can you feel my stress? 

screenshot-2016-11-12-at-16-01-40

While this story provided many laughs throughout the conference, that night, I realized how draining it can be to get lost in so many different ways. By the time that I went through the presentation with Adele and enjoyed dinner out with her and some other conference goers, I was exhausted. Dinner ended around 8:30, and I was invited back to the room with the others, but I knew that I needed a chance to unwind. In previous years, I would have socialized anyway, but on Wednesday night, I thanked everyone for a wonderful time, and headed back to my hotel (thankfully without getting lost).

Then comes Thursday: the day that I have two presentationsWhile both presentations seemed to go quite well, it was definitely a non-stop day full of way more talking than I’m used to doing in a day. Plus, the Bring I.T. Together Conference is full of many opportunities to socialize and meet new people in-person that you may have only connected with online. As I mentioned in a recent post on The MEHRIT Centre blog, all of this small talk can be a social stressor for me, so while I loved the opportunity to connect, I was definitely feeling it at the end of the day. That night, I was supposed to go to two different social events, but instead, I went back to the hotel room, watched some more video uploads from my teaching partner, and took a nap. I then went out for a quick and quiet dinner with some friends, and happily went back to the hotel room early to go to bed. I needed this low-key evening to help self-regulate after a very up-regulating day. 

Early the next morning, I caught a tweet from Jonathan So about his Ignite presentation that I missed the night before. That’s when I engaged in this Twitter conversation with him.

screenshot-2016-11-12-at-15-13-31

screenshot-2016-11-12-at-15-13-50 I realized that in past years, I would have forced myself to go out. I would have come back exhausted, and I probably would have struggled with learning anything the next day. By thinking about what I needed first, and giving myself permission to take the time for me, I was able to go into the final day of the conference ready to learn.

It was on this final day, that I realized that I’m not the only one finding ways to self-regulate. The second session that I attended on Friday was about tech-enabled teacher leadership. As the presenter, Camille, had us orally share some ideas with the group, I looked up and noticed a fellow educator, Kristy, crocheting. Watching her crochet throughout the session, I realized that this was helping her stay calm, stay focused, and stay engaged in the learning. I later had lunch with Kristy, and she let me take this photograph and share it with others. 

screenshot-2016-11-12-at-15-23-53

Our conversation with her over lunch made me even more aware that as adults, we all find ways to calm down during “stressful times.” 

  • We may choose to crochet.
  • We may choose to doodle.
  • We may choose to tweet (something that many people at this conference chose to do).
  • We may choose to catch Pokemon … of which, apparently, Niagara Falls is full of them. 
  • We may choose to journal or blog.
  • We may choose to fidget with our own adult fidget toys … which, as Kristy pointed out to me at lunch, was the toothpick that I broke apart in so many different ways.
  • We may choose to hum, to tap our foot or fingers, or to move back or forth in our seat. 
  • We may also choose to take a break or create our own mini-sessions, where we can enjoy some quiet conversation and maybe a little less cognitive strain.

Thinking back to previous years at this conference and other ones, I wonder how many times I was in a state of high energy and high tension, and if I ever tried to get myself back down again. Last night, I saw one of my favourite vlogs from Susan Hopkins at The MEHRIT Centre, and I realized how much I could relate to her thinking.

When you’re on this Self-Reg journey, it’s so hard not to see everything through a Self-Reg lens, and constantly reflect on how much more learning you have to do. As challenging as it can be at times, this conference was a good reminder for me, that to be at my best, I need to find some alone time. How do you take this time for you? What might be the benefits in doing so? May we all have those wonderful opportunities to learn, to engage, to socialize, and to take a break and self-regulate.

Aviva

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?

Aviva

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.

Learning How To Say, “No.”

I am usually the worst person at saying, “No.” I like to get involved in different things and I like to help people out. If somebody needs a volunteer, I’m always there. When offered different personal and professional opportunities, I consistently take them. I love opportunities to share. I love opportunities to collaborate with others. I love opportunities to present. These are all parts of teaching that are outside of my time in the classroom, but bring me a lot of joy. 

Recently though, I’ve been thinking a lot about a blog post that I read a few weeks ago by one of our Board’s superintendents, Sue Dunlop. Sue is working hard at meeting her one word “essential” goal, and I applaud her for this. Her recent post about “the art of choosing no” aligns with her one word goal, and in it, she shares about the different ways that she says, “no.” Since reading Sue’s post, I’ve found my own “no” voice. 

It’s the end of the year, and this definitely means some increased stress.

  • Report cards are due in about three weeks.
  • My final project for my course is due at the same time as report cards.
  • I’m packing up a classroom and moving to a new school.

These are just three things, but they’re three important, time-consuming activities, and I’ve realized that I can’t add more to my list right now. I need to be there for my students. I need to be happy, patient, and calm, for while it’s a stressful time of the year for educators, it’s also a stressful time of the year for kids.

  • Some kids are worried about next year.
  • Some kids are sad about school ending and unsure about what the summertime will bring.
  • Some kids are anxious because of the many changes in routine with field trips and special days.
  • Some kids are extremely happy and excited about the start of summertime, and finding it hard to focus on school work.

If we want our students to be calm during this challenging time, we need to be calm too, and for me, that means that I need to recognize my limits. Today, I said, “No, I can’t do that right now, but I will by …,” and I gave another time after the deadline for my report cards and course work. This was really hard for me to do. I had to tell myself not to go back and change my response. I stuck with the “No,” and I’m glad that I did. 

I love my job, and I choose to spend the time that I do on programming for students, planning provocations, and professional development because these are all part of what I love. But lately I’ve realized that I also love, and need, “me time.” 

  • This morning, instead of reading a blog post, I read the last five chapters in a mystery book that I’ve been trying to finish for the last two months. 
  • I’ve met friends for dinner.
  • I’ve gone out for brunch.
  • I went and got a pedicure, and I enjoyed some time reading as I did so.
  • I played with my dogs outside. 
  • After reading Sue‘s post on sleeping, I’ve gone to bed by 10:15 every night, and gotten at least six hours of sleep. That’s a lot for me!

Teaching is still my passion, and I continue to put a lot of time and effort into our students, but I’ve started to realize that in order to be “better” for them, I need to spend a little more time on myself. This goes along with sometimes saying, “No.” I don’t know if this word will ever come easily to me, but I’m going to keep working at it, for sometimes it’s the right word to choose. How do you decide when to say, “No?” At a stressful time of the year, maybe this is a word that would benefit all of us. What do you think?

Aviva

As part of my final project for Foundations 4, I am blogging about my thoughts, questions, and experiences connected to self-regulation. While this post doesn’t explicitly mention self-regulation, the ability to stay calm and self-select strategies to do so, definitely aligns with this topic. I hope that these blog posts provoke more conversations on self-regulation.

Quieting Down, Getting Louder, And Everything In Between!

A student was upset. He wasn’t my student. He’s not even in the grade that I teach, but he’s still somebody’s student. And this student happened to be coming out of a classroom near the one where I was delivering my students for my prep. I noticed because he ran past me. I noticed because I heard a supply teacher at the time call his name, and I knew there was a problem. That was when I started walking back to class, and I heard his name on the announcements. I also saw him sitting in an alcove not far from my classroom. So I stopped. I sat down next to him. I thought back to Stuart Shanker‘s Calm, Alert, and Learning book that I read last year, and I forced myself — really forced myself — to keep my voice very low. And in that whisper voice, I asked him, “What’s wrong?” He told me. I listened. I let him calm down, and then I convinced him to walk with me to where he was asked to go. We spoke about staying calm. We spoke about what he could do if he was feeling upset. In those few minutes, on a difficult day, I felt like what I did mattered.

That’s when I started to think about what I did. I kept calm and stayed quiet. This is hard for me.

  • I’m a loud person.
  • I speak loudly.
  • My actions are big.
  • I get easily excited, and the more excited I get, the louder I get.
  • I’m passionate, and passion can be loud.

I think it’s a good thing to be wrapped up in the true joy of learning, and it’s one of the reasons that I’m thrilled to go and teach every day … because I truly love what I do! For so many of us, this excitement shows, and for me in the classroom, it can often be in my louder words and bigger actions. But that afternoon, I couldn’t help but think of this student. I wonder if “the quiet” helped him, or at least if it did at the time. And so as the day came to an end, and the volume in our classroom got louder, I tried hard to quiet down.

  • I turned off the overhead lights.
  • I talked less.
  • I whispered more. 

In my head, I had to talk myself through this process, but it worked! Overall, the students were calmer, and the environment was calmer. I liked the feel of this!

Fast forward a year, and I think about this experience from last year. I thought that the feeling of calm came from the “quiet” and the “lack of bright lights.” Maybe this helped, but maybe it was about more than this. Maybe the calm came from taking the time to connect with kids. When I sat down on that floor, the child knew that I was there for him. I wasn’t judging him. I wasn’t yelling at him. I was listening to him. I could say the same thing about what happened in our classroom later on that day. As I turned off those lights, lowered my voice, and spoke less, I listened to students as they spoke more. I got down to be with them. I watched them work, and I celebrated with them as they met with success. We didn’t need a big celebration with huge cheers, but just a pat on the back, a high five, or the quiet spoken words of, “Way to go!” Looking back now, I wonder if the “quieting down” was less about the noise and more about the connections.

I ask this because I look at our class from this year. While for me to feel calm, I need less movement and more independent time, this is not true for everyone. Just the other night, my previous vice principal, Kristi, reminded me of this with a comment that she made in response to another post of mine.

Screenshot 2016-05-27 at 20.51.23

I think about our kindergartners. Many students need to be active in order to calm down. Sometimes our class feels the most calm as a large group of students dance to favourite songs or participate in obstacle courses that they create. Watching the many ways that our students calm down makes me question if I was right last year. Does the lack of noise cause problems for some while working for others? Could this also be true about the lack of bright lights? As I mentioned to Kristi in this other post of mine, maybe it’s less about creating one area that works, and more about creating “zones” — from low lights with less noise to bright lights with more noise — to allow all of the children to find the area(s) that work(s) for them. And then, thinking about what happened last year, it’s also about watching children closely, examining their triggers, supporting them in the many ways that allow them to get to “calm,” and being there for them when maybe they can’t “calm down” alone. What do you think? We differentiate when it comes to academic skills. Maybe we need to do this more often for social skills.

Aviva

An Additional Note

As part of my final project for Foundations 4, I am re-exploring some blog posts that I wrote in the past (before taking the courses through The MEHRIT Centre) where I discussed self-regulation. I am updating these posts based on my new learning. Here is a link to the original post — Quieting Down.

After a discussion that I had with Dr. Mary Howard on this last blog post of mine, I decided to include this note at the end of this blog post instead of at the beginning of it. Even without the use of the terminology, this post looks at self-regulation, co-regulation, and how we can support ALL of our students in the classroom.

Aviva

Asking “Why?”

I’ve now finished and published four blog posts as part of my look at self-regulation for my Foundations 4 Final Project. When I was initially figuring out the details of this project, I thought about how important it was for me to publicly share these reflections. I learn so much from the interactions I have online and in person after blogging, and I wanted these interactions to be a part of this project. I guess that I saw these posts as provocations for continued conversations.

This is where I’m now struggling because these four blog posts seem to have generated the least amount of interest, comments, and conversations than any blog posts that I’ve published in the past. In the spirit of the course and the reflecting that I’ve done since I starting take the first Foundations Course, I’m now left wondering “why.”

  • Is self-regulation not a topic of interest for others?
  • Does some of the self-regulation terminology used in these posts make the content less accessible and/or less interesting to readers?
  • Are people less interested in re-exploring blog posts that have been previously published and would rather new content?
  • Is it a question of timing? With the wonderful weather this weekend, are people outside more and less interested in reading online content?
  • Is it for another reason altogether?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this, for over the next couple of weeks — and maybe longer — I plan on blogging more about self-regulation, and I’m hoping these posts are the starting point for future discussions. What could I do to make this possible?

Aviva