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The other day, I had a period 4 prep. It’s only one day in a five day cycle, where due to the timing of my prep, I will be re-entering play when I return. This period 4 prep is an interesting one, as my teaching partner, Paula, is also on her lunch during this time, so we’re both walking back into the classroom in the midst of play. It was during the last period 4 prep time that I realized how much Self-Reg plays into this day.

As part of our COVID protocols and to support educators in building their own connections with kids, we’ve been asked to leave our classrooms during our prep time. This totally makes sense to me. The one available room during this time is the staffroom, so I go to sit in there and work. The other day, I went to leave the staffroom about 5-10 minutes before the end of my prep. A couple of colleagues that were in the room at the time, and one teacher asked me where I was going: with almost every place in the school being used, there were limited options. I mentioned that I was going to “stand outside of the classroom.” Why? This is when I replied to the teacher with, “It’s part of my Self-Reg plan.” She wasn’t sure what I was talking about, so I explained.

Walking back into play is not an easy thing to do, especially when you’re not there to see it evolve. Did children just begin with these materials? Have they been using them for a while? How are they interacting with others? What might they do next, and how might we extend their play as part of this “next?” The urge to intervene and interrupt play is huge at this point, as every educator has a slightly different tolerance for noise and movement, even within our COVID restrictions. But sometimes we need to get a feel for the play instead of interrupting it, and sometimes if will resettle nicely with just a little bit of time. This is why I need to prepare myself for what to expect. I know that I quickly feel overwhelmed if I attempt to prepare myself in the midst of the play. Then my dysregulation can cause kids to be dysregulated, and this quickly becomes a vicious cycle. So I stand near the door and I watch. Occasionally kids notice me, but usually they don’t. Usually I can use these few minutes of time to observe, to breathe, and to develop a little game plan in my head, which makes me feel a whole lot better when opening the door.

My Door View From A Previous Class

This approach doesn’t work for Paula. She usually goes home for her lunch, so she returns at a different time, and comes right into the classroom. But in her own way, she also takes the time to take in the classroom. She tends to go and sit at the back of the room or over at the side on the counter space and just listen and watch. It’s her “door time,” but in the midst of the room, and it also helps her decompress, observe, and figure out what to do and where to begin.

If nothing else, this door time reminds me that Self-Reg is not just for kids. Sometimes as adults, being even more intune with our stressors, not only helps increase our calm, but lend our calm to others. Do you have a “door strategy,” and what is it? Just as children do not always transition well on a bell, neither do adults.