Two of my most popular posts have been about Dr. Stuart Shanker and his work; each post has received well over 10,000 views. To recap, the first post in November 2010 is here and the second one here was written in April 2012.
West Vancouver is part of the first wave of school districts in British Columbia, along with Bulkley Valley, Coquitlam, Greater Victoria, Nanaimo and Surrey, who are working together on a project to implement and monitor the impact of self-regulated instructional models. One of the greatest contributions to date has been a one-stop shop for resources on Self-Regulation (here).
Dr. Shanker’s work is clearly providing inspiration around the province, and we are seeing that in each of our schools in West Vancouver. While the work models may look slightly different in each school, the impetus of having students in their zone for learning is district-wide. A number of recent blog posts by some of our district educational leaders support this influence:
Westcot Principal, Liz Hill describes her school’s work with The Zones of Regulation:
We often make the assumption that children know how to identify their emotions, but akin to teaching reading, writing and math, emotional literacy is a skill that needs to be taught to our children. The Zones of Regulation framework teaches the language of emotions. This helps children understand how one’s state of regulation impacts one’s ability to be calm, alert and ready to learn. Using this framework, students develop their own personal toolkit of strategies and learn when, how and why to use strategies to help them be “good to go” or “ready to do their best learning.” These self-regulation tools may include breathing techniques, stretching, exercising, reading or simply getting a drink of water.
West Bay Principal, Judy Duncan, describes her school’s efforts to look through a lens of self-regulation:
Self-regulation spans all five domains (biological, cognitive, emotional, social, pro-social) and is really about the burning and recovering of energy. As Shanker states, “optimal self-regulation requires a child to match his or her energy levels to meet the demands of a situation in a maximally efficient manner.” More and more research is linking how well students do in school to their ability to self-regulate. We are seeing this firsthand at West Bay, thus the excitement to improve our practice.
Our school’s Self-Regulation Team meets regularly to discuss how teachers and students can be supported in the quest to maintain self-regulation in the classroom. The team shares its work at staff meetings and in informal conversations; our teachers are keen on deepening their understanding of self-regulation and are open to trying new strategies to support their students. If you were to wander into our Grade Two classroom, you might see some students wearing noiseless headphones, some using cardboard study carrels (they call these “force fields”), others sitting on wiggle cushions, while others may be perched on stools at the side of the classroom. These seven-year olds are beginning to figure out what they need to help them learn. This metacognition piece is key. As one little girl blurted out the other day, “I need to self-regulate!” Being aware of your own emotions and what you need to achieve a state of calm is very powerful!
Lions Bay Vice-Principal, Jody Billingsley, describes a number of ways they are fostering self-regulation including a series of classroom management techniques:
Classroom management techniques that have the children thinking about their levels of arousal when in a lesson. We have “check ins” where the student self-assesses as to whether she is calmly focused and alert. We call this level 4 – directly stemming from Shanker’s stages of arousal. If they are at the level 3 stage (hypoalert) of arousal, they may be daydreaming, whereas at level 5 students may be over-stimulated and not able to focus (hyperalert). If we see a child that is not at level 4, we give a friendly reminder to “check in” with themselves, or “give themselves a hug” as a way to think about where they are with being calmly focused and alert. The idea is to have them see when this is occurring, reinforce behaviour with a verbal or non-verbal cue, and eventually watch how the students do this independently.
Irwin Park Principal, Cathie Ratz, has her school focussed on MindUP™ to help students be calm, alert and ready to learn:
It is a family of social, emotional, and attentional self-regulatory strategies and skills developed to cultivate well-being and emotional balance. Based on the notion that intellect does not exist in isolation from emotions, connections to others or the rest of their bodies, the MindUP™ program is designed to address these components of learning for all students.
By teaching our students about the brain we make them more aware of their own thoughts and emotions. It can also help them to develop the ability to think about thinking, or metacognition. That awareness would then give them better control over their own mind—directing their attention more appropriate, or calming themselves down—in ways that could improve learning.
These are only four stories, but there are stories like these in every school in West Vancouver. It is often a lament that schools and those who work in them, are slow to change. Where, three years ago, there was hardly a person in our district who could describe the power and importance of self-regulation, this research now influences how we teach, organize our classes, and how we think about our buildings in every corner of the district.
Finally, I encourage you to spend some time with the wonderful resources being collected as part of the newly revamped website in support of the Canadian Self-Regulation Initiative.