Since we know that supporting adults and students with self-regulation is so important, we were asked in our course this week to think about 'what are the barriers to supporting others in developing their understanding of self-regulation? and then to brainstorm when we might be able to create opportunities to share our knowledge of self-reg and how we can reframe behaviour as stress behaviour rather than misbehaviour, and then go about recognizing and reducing stressors for students. In an earlier post, I shared some of the barriers,so this post we are going to look at the opportunities to support others, including parents and educators, in developing and deepening their understanding of self-reg. Some of the opportunities we identified included:
If the teacher is able to engage in discussion, then we can talk about 'what is your goal?' Just like our students, teachers are not ready to engage in discussion if they are dysregulated themselves. Here's an example from my work as an education consultant. A kindergarten teacher complained that a student wouldn't sit for whole group time (sometimes called 'circle time') and he was always disruptive. The only thing that would work was if he sat at a nearby table and played with play doh. If she did that, he would sit, play with the play doh and listen to what was happening at the whole group. If she tried to get him to sit at the carpet, he would run out of the room and down the hallways.
So I'm thinking, great - you've already solved this problem. What do you need me for? But the teacher was really focused on having him sit at the carpet. That was her goal. We had the discussion - why do you want him to sit at the carpet? Well, that's what they are supposed to do.
Is it disrupting the other students when he sits at the adjacent table? No.
Are the other students asking to sit at the table because he is at a table? No.
Is he able to listen and learn when he is at the table? Yes.
Can we try letting him sit at the table during group time for a week and see what impact it has on him and also on you? Okay.
So we did. And not only was he able to sit and be part of the class, but it really reduced the teacher's stress because she wasn't worrying about him bolting from the class. She was much more relaxed when she was teaching so group time became more enjoyable for her, for Jacob and the rest of the class. Sharing our own self-reg success stories from our personal self-reg journey may encourage others to try self-reg themselves. I have used this blog and other social media like Facebook and Twitter to share my self-reg learning journey. By articulating the stressors that we observe - how we recognize and reduce stressors in our own lives, others may begin to recognize and reduce stressors in their own lives. And once they see how self-reg works for them, they will be more willing to try self-reg with their students or their own children.
Suggestions from others included:
Create opportunities to gently challenge a perspective or belief in a way that creates just enough dissonance for the person to feel the impact of the concept of Step 2. This is so powerful but such a tricky'sweet spot'to find. You want to push their thinking far enough to cause some dissonance and create an impetus for change. I think that's the good stress Stuart Shanker is often talking about - stress that creates growth. Yet you have to be careful not push them so far that you've created too much stress and they go into 'fight or flight' or freeze.
Another suggestion is to edit language choices, protocol descriptions, etc in documents used within the school, the district and with parents. Language is a powerful yet subtle way to promote thinking and this method can be a terrific accompaniment to more overt teaching. Opportunities to teach the science of self-reg as well as the five steps at regularly scheduled meeting as the brain science behind why self-regulation works can inspire and persuade some reluctant educators and parents. Modelling self-reg practice for teachers and parents is another practical strategy. If we have an opportunity to show someone how self-reg can help return a child or adult to calm, then we can ignite their curiosity to learn more. Articulating what we are doing and why we are doing it is part of this modelling practice.
Using the increase in social media attention on the topic of stress - on Twitter, Facebook and other discussion boards and blogs - to heighten interest of our colleagues. Mental health and well-being is 'a hot topic' right now.
What strategies have you used to share the principles of self-regulation? How can we support teachers and parents with looking at stress behaviour vs misbehaviour; co-regulation instead of punishment; self-regulation instead of self-control?