By the way, what is self-regulation?

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Director’s Leadership Series – Early Years Strategy launch. The highlights included an address from Dr. Chris Spence about the importance of intentional inquiry and a presentation by Prof. Shanker on self-regulation in the early years.  I feel the need to share this as it struck me how timely his presentation was, as we were all assessing students on their “self-regulation” for report cards. Although we are provided with some examples of what self-regulation is, such as “Sets own goals and monitors progress towards achieving them,” it may be difficult to apply this statement to a 6 or 7 year old and their opportunities for self-regulation in the classroom.

“Self-regulation is not self-control,” said Dr. Shanker during his animated and engaging presentation. However, he suggests that many of us see the child that does as he/she is told as the one that is most able to self-regulate. Instead, it is the child that uses less energy to deal with external stressors and is able to be calm but alert – the optimal state for learning. By stressors, he is referring to auditory and visual stimulation that children may be sensitive to. They become focused on the stressors, use energy, zone out, and then aren’t able to follow what they should be doing. It also begs the question for us as teachers, how to provide an environment with less stressors for the children and how can we help our students find strategies to deal with their emotions and support them in self-regulation? This ties in with many of our early discussions on our blog about Tribes and inclusiveness, since creating positive energy supports the students ability to learn, whereas a negative energy drains them. It also ties in with our discussions about the importance of the classroom set up, as Dr. Shanker suggests we consider what type of a classroom environment will enhance energy (a calm energy for learning).

I found this professional development opportunity connected well with what teachers are grappling with right now. Dr. Shanker touched on behaviour, anxiety, as well as  ADHD and Autism and their relationships with self-regulation. My class is currently discussing the big idea, “What is Well-Being” so we are explicitly discussing what distractions there are, what helps us to be calm and alert, and what can we do to self-regulate throughout the day. This afternoon after coming in from the yard at recess, on of my students asked, “Can we do the rainstick thing?” ~ a little mindfulness for a minute seems to be working for us as a first step to discovering how to self-regulate.



iDirector’s Leadership Series – Early Years Strategy.

  • An address from our Director, Dr. Chris Spence
  • Presentation by distinguished Professor Dr. Stuart Shanker on self-regulation in the early years




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