Monday, October 13, 2014

I've Been Thinking.... What is really needed for student SELF regulation?

For the past year or so this blog of mine has been a lot quieter than it has been since I started writing it.  As with anything there are reasons for my silence. One reason is over the past year  I was dealing with a very challenging classroom situation in a school system that continues to fund less of the very support my students need.  It's made me question a lot of things and to be honest it's taken a lot out of me.  It's pretty tough seeing broken arms being treated with bandaids (well, that hasn't happened but it's a good idea of how many issues are dealt with).  I've been on crisis management vs crisis prevention and I feel like more often than not I am fighting a loosing battle.  It's been discouraging to say the least.  I've also been thinking and reflecting a lot.  Here is one  thing that I've been thinking about lately, self regulation.

If we really want self regulating students are we able to let go of our teacher control to get our students there?

Through out my challenging year I continued to help my students learn the skills involved with self regulation. I taught them how to recognize their need for a break and how to use their words to ask for them when they were needed.  I taught them how to grab noise reduction ear phones as required, to select where to work, and to choose the way to work that was best for them.  I set up a "check in" system to help them verbalize how they were feelings, express what they needed, and how I could help them.  All this meant I gave my students a lot of control.  There were times when students couldn't handle that freedom and it would kill me to step in and make the decisions for them but I also realize as the adult and teacher in the room it was my job as their teacher to step in from time to time.

But I wonder, how many other teachers would be willing to give their students as much freedom as I have. How many are equally as willing to have a bit of chaos to help students see what was and what is possible?  When we provide our students with seating plans (all year long), or assigned carpet spots (all year long) what skills aren't we teaching our students?  Please don't get me wrong, I do understand that there is a time and place to teach children what proper behaviour looks like during work/discussion time but do we really need to control these environments all year long?

This year, like in the past, I started with no assigned seating at our carpet and our tables. But a week in it was clear that these are skills my students still need to be taught - how to choose a work space that will allow you to do your best work, and how to sit at the carpet in a spot that will help you do your best learning.  My students have now been assigned tables to sit at, and places on the carpet to sit. But for me I hope this will be a very temporary situation as my students better understand what classroom behaviour should look like in these two situations.  Yes, I may have a student or two that will required a specific spot for a little longer than his or her classmates, but the goal for all my students is to help teach them the skills so that they are capable of making their own decisions.  Which brings me back to the idea of teacher control.  If we are controlling where students sit, or how they must work are we missing the boat on teaching them how to self regulate? To me self regulation is a life long skills and one I hope my students are a lot better at when they leave my room.  This means, however, that I need to be willing to give up more and more teacher control . That things may get messier before they get calmer.  I need to trust my gut because like my heart, it knows my students best.

What is your solution for supporting the development of  self regulating students? How do you feel you are hindering your students development in this process and how are you supporting it? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


  1. Bravo Karen! So well said and so true!
    Before school this year I removed 3 tables from my room and we're embracing no seating chart on a whole new level, not enough table space (I actually have enough chairs, but some table ore full of animal tanks, station stuff ect.). The first few weeks it was so hard to teach them how to pick a spot, where was a good one, and how to make sure they could work there. There were times I thought about assigning spaces, and was ready to give, but with my small class I stuck it out and thbe results have been amazing. Giving up the control is hard, but you're so right - the results are so worth it! Thank you for sharing your story & writing about great tools like your mood check in forms. Your posts inspire me and others to keep at it, and maybe we'll get more on board!
    Wishing you a week full of "worth it" moments!

    1. Thanks Meghan. One week in and the assigned spots on the carpet are gone for just about all of my students. I have a couple that still need to be up close to me but the goal is to let them have free choice too. I couldn't agree more re the results being so worth it.

  2. Great post! You gave me lots to think about. One area I always give them complete control is centres. They choose what and where. There could be 15 kids at Lego, but as long as they're cooperating it's all good.

    I think I'll start working on the rug assignments next:)

    1. Love it. I am still working on a lot too. I know one small step after another will get us far.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this post. This year, I did away with assigned carpet spots and am pleased with the results. Thanks for the link back to your previous post about mood check in. Are you using it this year?

  4. Thank you for this post. I had a similar year last year -- and job action just added to everything. This year I have "slowed down" my teaching. I am taking more time to check in with students, to model my own self-regulation and to make sure we are all feeling as calm, alert and ready to learn as possible.

    We are breathing more, moving more and stopping to assess our choices and how we are feeling more. It is a start and while it feels we are "losing classroom time", I believe it may just be one of the best lessons my students may learn this year -- the difference ways we feel in a day, how it affects our learning and what we can do to get back on track.

    Look forward to reading more posts in future including thos on your experiences with tech in the primary classroom. :-)