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Today I went for a pedicure. I love pedicures! There’s something so wonderful about getting your feet massaged, feeling the warm water on your toes, and then leaving with a beautiful new nail colour. When my mom asked me if I wanted to join her for a morning nail appointment, I was thrilled to say, “yes.” While I’ve definitely enjoyed some reading and relaxation time this summer, I’ve also been hard at work getting things organized for our Board’s Summer Learning Program: Camp Power. I am one of the site leads, and have been in and out of the Board Office these past few weeks meeting with the other team members, organizing supplies, arranging special events for the summer, and working my way through a lot of paper work. I love this summer job — especially when it comes to connecting with staff and students — but the administrative paper and organizational work can be stressful, and I definitely felt the need to just BREATHE. Imagine my surprise then when something that should have been calming turned out not to be. 

I always go for a pedicure at the same place, and today was no different. As soon as I sat in the chair though, my nose started to twitch. What was that scent? I looked up, and noticed that the salon had a diffuser plugged in nearby. Oh no! I’m very sensitive to scents and always have been. And this scent was so strong that it was making my nose itch and my eyes water. I could feel a headache coming on. I planned on leaving from the nail place to go and meet a friend for lunch, and I really didn’t want to do so with a migraine. There was no doubt about it: I was quickly becoming dysregulated. Thank goodness for the Stuart Shanker and Susan Hopkins voices in my head, which helped talk me through what I could do to feel better.

  • I tried to focus on breathing through my mouth. By not taking in too many breaths through my nose, I was smelling the scent less, and this was making me feel better. I wonder if the additional breathing was also helping me calm down.
  • I opened up the book on my iPad and I started to read. Reading is really calming for me, and I was enjoying the latest novel that I downloaded. My hope was that if I could get lost in a book, I would stop focusing on the smell. 
  • I moved away from the scent as soon as possible. Once my pedicure was over, I was told that I could wait for my nails to dry there, or I could move next to my mom at one of the manicure chairs. I noticed that these other chairs were farther away from the diffuser, so I moved there and could smell the scent less. 

As soon as my toes were dry, I happily paid and moved outside, where I could savour some pleasantly smelling air. I even kept the windows down as I drove away just to help feel better. 

This experience though made me think about the classroom. I have no doubt that for the people that plugged in the diffuser, they did so because that scent calms them. For me though, the smell changed an enjoyable experience to one that was much less enjoyable. I wonder about the impact of scents on kids.

  • How many different smells make up our classrooms?
  • How might all of the people in the room respond to these smells, and are there ways to contain them?
  • For students that don’t have the Stuart and Susan voices in their ears (or even for those educators that don’t), will they know how to self-regulate in these dysregulating situations? If not, how can we support them in doing so?

I keep reflecting back on the recent conversation that I had on VoicEd Radio with Stephen Hurley and Doug Peterson. We were talking about a blog post by Lisa Cranston (at the 19:32 minute mark), which eventually led to some thinking around Self-Reg in a classroom context. As I shared with Doug and Stephen, the hope is that students can come to make these calming choices on their own, but what might need to be in place first? 

Without my Self-Reg background, would I have known how to respond to this dysregulating scent? And would I have been able to do so in a way that still kept me in the chair at the nail salon instead of running quickly to my car? Thinking about some young children in the classroom, I wonder if the behaviour that we sometimes see makes so much more sense now. Here’s to hoping that my next pedicure appointment is a lot less smelly and a lot more calming!