Leading With Grace: When Children And An Administrator Teach You About Self-Reg

Self-Reg for parents, photo of man and son sitting on the grass together

In our classroom, we talk about Self-Reg a lot. Children share when they’re stressed. We discuss triggers. My teaching partner, Paula, has even spoken to the class about the brain, and kids use words such as the amygdala and the pre-frontal cortex, when talking to us about their emotions and their actions. I share this, for it was during one of these class discussions that I had an epiphany.

Usually students like to share about their own moments of being triggered, but on this day, a child share an observation about someone else. She spoke about a time that she saw an adult triggered. This adult started to yell at a group of children, and she felt that it was because of the actions of the kids — who were laughing and talking at the time — which caused this adult’s stress response. While neither Paula or I are totally aware of all of the details involved in the story, as we were not privy to the experience, the interesting thing about this discussion is how the child interpreted the adult’s behaviour. At no point did she identify this yelling as “misbehaviour.” She saw and appreciated the adult’s stress, and felt that it resulted in her actions. Our five-year-old student mentioned that maybe this adult needed a “deep breath or a break” to feel better. Wow!

This made me reflect on a couple of times in our classroom: once when I felt stressed and once when Paula felt stressed. For me, it was a perfect storm of moments that piled up on top of each other. When I then needed to call the supply secretary about something, I could hear and feel the stress in my voice. I hung up, and went to take a couple of deep breaths, as this always makes me feel better. A child nearby asked me, “Do you feel stressed?” She recognized this feeling in me. I did, and I told her that. She said to me, “Do you want to sit down and take a breath?” I did. And this made me feel so much better!

For Paula, the stress was over tidying up, and some lack of action in getting cleaned up. As she was sitting down across the room from me and helping students get their materials organized, a child nearby asked if she was stressed. He offered to rub her back. “Does that make you feel better?,” he said. It’s interesting how the ways that we try to help sooth and support students were the ways that they tried to help sooth and support us.

My epiphany came when I considered all of these moments together. Not once, did any student place blame on the adult or see the adult’s behaviour as intentional or misbehaviour. “Stress behaviour” was always considered first. Which made me wonder: do we as adults (i.e., educators, administrators, parents, grandparents, coaches, etc.), give children the same grace that they give us? If not, is it time to make some changes? Our principal, Tracy, regularly leads with grace, and her actions and reactions to students, educators, and colleagues, prove this time and time again. In my monthly goal to observe (and reflect), I think there’s a little something more that I can learn by following the lead of our three-, four-, and five-year-olds and an incredible principal. What about you?

Our Co-Reg Community Facilitator, Aviva Dunsiger has been an active Self-Reg blogger for a number of years. She has taught everything from Kindergarten to Grade 6 and enjoys blogging about her teaching and learning experiences. She blogs professionally on her blog, Living Avivaloca.
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