by Dr. Rick Robinson
We recently shared information regarding a vital self-regulation and self-care strategy– intentional breathing. Well-developed intentional breathing skills are foundational tools in an educator’s toolbox. Rounding out the skills in our toolbox can help us manage times during the school year where stressors are on an upswing; doing a lot of little things well can turn into a big thing.
A time to practice new tools for our toolbox will present itself shortly. This school year, the calendar has provided us with that unenviable situation where Halloween falls on… a Wednesday. The fun and excitement of the holiday are accompanied by disrupted schedules and routines, sleep patterns, diet and so on-for students, their families and for educators.
Given this “opportunity” we thought it might be a great time to highlight several strategies that can be used at school, to help us with our own regulation so we can help our students with their regulation:
• Morning Space– In the few minutes before students arrive we are often tempted to busy ourselves with last minute tasks, hurriedly prepping materials, responding to emails or squeezing in a phone call or text. While important, these last minute attempts to get organized can be dysregulating for us, just as we are about to begin our first contact of the day with students. Instead, consider creating a morning space where, for several minutes, you intentionally focus on quieting your mind and body.
• Natural Scenery- At lunch, during prep time, or perhaps after you have escorted students to lunch or specials, look for a spot that allows you to focus your attention on natural scenery. For those working in rural areas, this can be a relatively easy find. Even in urban schools, we can look for landscaping, trees in the distance, or an interesting sky on which to focus our attention.
• A Brisk Walk- Walking at a pace that gets your heart rate-up, and where you begin to break a sweat can be very helpful in metabolizing stress hormones. Whether at a lunch break, with your students (for example during their warm-up for PE) or at the beginning of a staff meeting in a partner “walk and talk,” a brisk stroll can be very settling. Make sure and have a big drink of cool water afterward.
• Focus on “one thing”– As a survival mechanism through the ages, focusing on sources of threat has been functional in helping us stay safe. However, when this mechanism is deployed in the face of day-to-day challenges we may experience stress at a level that is harmful to us in a number of ways. To assist you in managing this mechanism, take a minute at the end of the school day and focus your attention on one positive, productive thing that happened. No event is too small; a student de-coding a word for the first time, a brief smile or eye contact from a reticent student, or your own ability to calmly and flexibly respond to a student’s challenging remark all fit the bill.
We hope you find these day-to-day strategies helpful in the critically important work you do each day with our children…