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Self-Regulation for Students, Self-Regulation for Me

I attended I really great session today on self-regulation. It was part of a series of centrally-organized vice principal leadership sessions. This has been the best session to date!

The workshop was premised on the work and research of York University's Dr. Stuart Shanker, who provides one of the most practical and understandable definitions of self-regulations, at least that I have read:

"Self-regulation is the ability to manage stress. It refers to the neural processes that control the energy expended to deal with a stressor and then recover. When an individual's stress levels are too high various systems for thinking and metabolic recovery are compromised. The signs of dysregulation can show up in the behaviour, mood attention and/or physical well-being of child, teen, or adult."

Having self-control or responding to situations in an appropriate manner were part of what I previously understood self-regulation to be about. Clearly it goes beyond a sense of control. Self-regulation requires self-awareness and knowing which stresses are triggers that cause a heightened reaction. Shanker developed 5 steps for self-regulation:
1. reframe
2. recognize the stressors
3. reduce the stress
4. reflect
5. respond
I think that in my role I've done this with kids, perhaps not in this order and not so intentional so as to name these steps but I think there is value to structuring conversations with kids more along these lines. Often, I told teachers that they should be naming the various teaching strategies they are using with students so that students can make connections and apply that strategy in other learning situations. It makes sense to teach kids more explicitly how they can self-regulate. Let's face it - this can work for adults too. I've already posted the handout with these steps in my office as a daily reminder of how I can keep my various stresses in check.

Often times I wonder if one of the main stresses that kids feel at school is a lack of control, so their behaviour will at times reflect that. How much choice, really, do kids have in a classroom on a daily basis? Do kids feel that their voice is being heard, that their opinions matter?

One key learning I took away from today's session is learning to discern between misbehaviour and stress behaviour. A child "misbehaves" when he or she has the capacity to know how to behave differently and typically will respond to consequence. In the case of stress behaviour, a child has lost the ability to process because the stress is so great, as is the reaction. If we can't tell the difference between the two we impact the likelihood of repeat behaviour. If we punish stress behaviour, trigger levels escalate and behaviour worsens. Makes sense to me.


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