Monday, 5 June 2017

Recognizing Stressors

We've been learning about how to be stress detectives in our MEHRIT Centre course - digging deeper to find those hidden stressors that are impacting our limbic system even though our Prefrontal Cortex may not even notice.  Hidden stressors can be things like lights, noise and even junk food.

I revised my original popplet to show my learning over the last few weeks (It's easier to see on the link!)

When I posted the original popplet on my blog, it was such a small post I wondered if it was even worth sharing yet it has generated some interesting discussions.  Doug Peterson and Stephen Hurley featured it as one the blogs from Ontario Educators on their podcast at VoicEdRadio.

Doug posted a comment about it on his feature This Week InOntario Edublogs 

In the category of better late than never, comes this post from Lisa Cranston.  In full disclosure, Lisa and I worked together for years, and one of the greatest groups that I had a chance to be part of was our Early Years Technology group.  I learned so much from my colleagues in that group and, when the topic came to visual mindmapping, I thought that I contributed back by showing how to brainstorm and share thoughts visually with our use of the SMARTBoard, SMART Ideas and other applications.

Well, it turns out that I wasn’t all that effective!

 I responded to Doug, but for some reason it didn't show up on his blog. Anyway, I absolutely love using graphic organizers with students and we used lots of them in the Early Years Technology group he spoke of - venn diagrams, T-charts, webs and more.  But I didn't use them as a tool for my own learning. I tended to use lists and maybe a table. But an assignment for my doctoral work required us to create a mind map for our final paper and, after much grumbling and complaining, I found I really liked it. I used iMindMap for my proposal and I've gone back to that mind map multiple times for assignments since then.  

I guess what's good for the students is good for the teacher!

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Kindergarten Graduation Alternatives

Each year at this time social media is full of ideas for kindergarten graduation ceremonies - some with caps, gowns and diplomas. There are so many reasons why my school district discourages kindergarten graduation ceremonies.  

1) They aren't graduating! They aren't leaving the school. With full day kindergarten now in every public school in Ontario they are simply going from one full day program to another full day program.  We don't graduate from grade one to grade two, so why from kindergarten to grade one?

2) Grade one is not academic boot camp and our grade one classrooms should be more like kindergarten classrooms. 

Too often, I hear adults say things to 'graduating' kindergarten students like:

"Oh, you're going to be starting big-school now"
"When you get to grade one, there's no more play.  You have to learn how to read now."

OK - no! A thousand times no.

What was developmentally appropriate in June is still developmentally appropriate when the students return as grade one students in September.  The ministry of education in the province of Ontario has provided resources and supports for primary teachers to ensure that the programs for primary students (grades 1 - 3) are more play and inquiry based; more like our kindergarten programs! 

Kindergarten is school.  Play is learning, Students in kindergarten are learning. They are engaged in all kinds of literacy learning, including purposeful, authentic, developmentally appropriate literacy activities.  Kindergarten students are already learning to read - they are developing their concepts of print, they are developing alphabetic awareness, and engaging in texts with their classmates and educators. Learning to read starts when parents and caregivers sit with a child in their lap and read to them. Learning to read starts long before children arrive at school.

3) It takes time away from kindergarten program. Instead of engaging in rich, play-based learning, kindergarten students are practicing marching into the gym for graduation, and practicing new songs to sing during the ceremony. 
4) Kindergarten graduation ceremonies are for the adults.  When asked why they have kindergarten graduation ceremonies, almost everyone talks about the adults: the parents love it, the parents ask for it, we've always done it and the parents expect it.  No one ever says it's about the kids. Education should be about what's best for kids and their learning.  

Please don't think I'm a party-pooper who wants everyone working and learning until the last bell rings on the last day of school.  I believe that celebrating transitions is important.  These rituals build community and mark milestones in life's journey.  So instead of a graduation ceremony, here are some alternatives:

Favourite songs concert: Instead of learning new songs for graduation, let's invite the kids to decide what their favourite kindergarten songs and activities are and share those. Invite parents and caregivers to come and engage in the songs and activities with the students instead of kids performing and adults watching. 

Family picnic and games:
Enjoy a picnic together on the school lawn with games, face painting, and music. 

NAEYC: End of the Year Celebrations

The parents will still have photos to post on social media and everyone can relax and have a good time celebrating all the learning and the time spent together in kindergarten.

Here is a great article with links to research if you're trying to convince your colleagues, administration, and/or parents to move from kindergarten graduation to something more appropriate:

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Creating Opportunities for Sharing

Since we know that supporting adults and students with self-regulation is so important, we were asked in our course this week to think about 'what are the barriers to supporting others in developing their understanding of self-regulation? and then to brainstorm when we might be able to create opportunities to share our knowledge of self-reg and how we can reframe behaviour as stress behaviour rather than misbehaviour, and then go about recognizing and reducing stressors for students.

In an earlier post, I shared some of the barriers, so this post we are going to look at the opportunities to support others, including parents and educators, in developing and deepening their understanding of self-reg.

Some of the opportunities we identified included:
If the teacher is able to engage in discussion, then we can talk about 'what is your goal?'  Just like our students, teachers are not ready to engage in discussion if they are dysregulated themselves. Here's an example from my work as an education consultant.  A kindergarten teacher complained that a student wouldn't sit for whole group time (sometimes called 'circle time') and he was always disruptive.  The only thing that would work was if he sat at a nearby table and played with play doh.  If she did that, he would sit, play with the play doh and listen to what was happening at the whole group.  If she tried to get him to sit at the carpet, he would run out of the room and down the hallways.
So I'm thinking, great - you've already solved this problem.  What do you need me for?  But the teacher was really focused on having him sit at the carpet.  That was her goal.  We had the discussion - why do you want him to sit at the carpet?  Well, that's what they are supposed to do.
Is it disrupting the other students when he sits at the adjacent table?  No.
Are the other students asking to sit at the table because he is at a table? No.
Is he able to listen and learn when he is at the table? Yes.
Can we try letting him sit at the table during group time for a week and see what impact it has on him and also on you?  Okay.
So we did.  And not only was he able to sit and be part of the class, but it really reduced the teacher's stress because she wasn't worrying about him bolting from the class.  She was much more relaxed when she was teaching so group time became more enjoyable for her, for Jacob and the rest of the class.

Sharing our own self-reg success stories from our personal self-reg journey may encourage others to try self-reg themselves. I have used this blog and other social media like Facebook and Twitter to share my self-reg learning journey. By articulating the stressors that we observe - how we recognize and reduce stressors in our own lives, others may begin to recognize and reduce stressors in their own lives. And once they see how self-reg works for them, they will be more willing to try self-reg with their students or their own children.  

Suggestions from others included:
Create opportunities to gently challenge a perspective or belief in a way that creates just enough dissonance for the person to feel the impact of the concept of Step 2.  This is so powerful but such a tricky 'sweet spot' to find. You want to push their thinking far enough to cause some dissonance and create an impetus for change.  I think that's the good stress Stuart Shanker is often talking about - stress that creates growth. Yet you have to be careful not push them so far that you've created too much stress and they go into 'fight or flight' or freeze.
Another suggestion is to edit language choices, protocol descriptions, etc in documents used within the school, the district and with parents. Language is a powerful yet subtle way to promote thinking and this method can be a terrific accompaniment to more overt teaching.

Opportunities to teach the science of self-reg as well as the five steps at regularly scheduled meeting as the brain science behind why self-regulation works can inspire and persuade some reluctant educators and parents.

Modelling self-reg practice for teachers and parents is another practical strategy. If we have an opportunity to show someone how self-reg can help return a child or adult to calm, then we can ignite their curiosity to learn more.  Articulating what we are doing and why we are doing it is part of this modelling practice.

Using the increase in social media attention on the topic of stress - on Twitter, Facebook and other discussion boards and blogs - to heighten interest of our colleagues. Mental health and well-being is 'a hot topic' right now.   
What strategies have you used to share the principles of self-regulation? How can we support teachers and parents with looking at stress behaviour vs misbehaviour; co-regulation instead of punishment; self-regulation instead of self-control?

Monday, 22 May 2017

Barriers to Self-Regulation

Since we know that supporting adults and students with self-regulation is so important, we were asked in our course this week to think about 'what are the barriers to supporting others in developing their understanding of self-regulation?'

I think one of the big barriers to developing others' understanding of Recognizing Stressors in The Shanker Method is the self-control paradigm and all of its accompanying beliefs and practices.  If a child is disruptive in class, and someone (the VP, the support worker, whomever) comes and helps the child by using the steps of self-regulation, this is sometimes upsetting or disappointing to the teacher who is firmly entrenched in the self-control paradigm.  It's not enough that the disruptive behaviour has stopped and that the child (and the classmates) can now learn.  There needs to be a consequence!  He/She must be punished!  It's not about digging deep to find the stressors causing the problem and then reducing them so the child can be calm and ready to learn. It's about applying the rules.  
In addition, if I am a teacher moving from self-control to self-regulation as a way of looking at classroom behaviours, then that is going to have a huge impact on my practice.  In the self-control paradigm, as the teacher I may have a role to play in terms of creating a behaviour plan and handing out rewards or consequences, but the majority of the work for changing the behaviour rests with the student.  If it's a self-regulation paradigm, that changes my work as a teacher.  I need to be a stress detective, and then when the stressors are identified, I need to be part of the solution of reducing those stressors.  If the child is stressed by all the visual clutter in the room, and the bright lights and noise, then I need to make changes, not the child.   
Another barrier is the confusion around 'what is self-reg?.'  There are so many different ideas about what is self-reg and so many different resources that teachers may feel overwhelmed or may look for a product with flashcards and posters rather than learning the Shanker method of five steps.
Other barriers that were mentioned included the disregulation of the staff, especially now at this busy end of the year time.  This disregulation doesn't allow them to reframe student behaviour. When they are feeling tired and overwhelmed, they fall back on what they know - behaviour management and control. 
Time is also a barrier - so much curriculum to cover; no time to stop and reframe, recognize, and reduce stressors for disruptive students. 
What barriers have you noticed?
The Summer Symposium this year, on July 4 - 7 at Trent University in Peterborough, is about "Bringing Down Barriers." After analyzing all the feedback about barriers our Self-Reggers have come across along their Self-Reg journey, MEHRIT centre staff identified 10 key areas which are critical for understanding Self-Reg and moving beyond some of the barriers regularly experienced when embarking on a Self-Reg journey. As well, the final day will be focused on bringing energy to your self-reg initiatives. 

Next post, we'll look at creating opportunities to support educators and parents in developing their understanding of self-reg.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Recognizing Stressors - A Beginning

In our self-reg course, we are beginning to learn more about recognizing stressors in all five domains. We are becoming stress detectives. I've created this popplet to use when charting my learning about recognizing stressors and will add to it as my knowledge and understanding grows. Using mind maps and other graphic organizers is a new strategy for me as a learner, even though I often used them with my students. I'm excited to see how this strategy will support my thinking.

A related post I wrote about exploring mind map software: Exploring MindMaps

Saturday, 29 April 2017

ETFO Kindergarten Conference - April 2017

Two days of amazing learning at the ETFO Early Years Conference: Seeing, Engaging and Empowering our Kindergarten Learners are summed up in this Storify:

Friday, 28 April 2017

Self-regulation and Lying

As a mom, I found it really hard to not respond from my limbic system when my kids would lie.  I think it was the value that I attached to truthfulness made lying an especially frustrating and stressful behaviour for me to deal with.  So the idea of lying as a stress behaviour and not misbehaviour was challenging for me. Viewing lying as a maladaptive coping strategy helps me to reframe this behaviour though soft eyes instead of judgemental eyes.  
Lying can start of as misbehaviour but when pushed and pushed to tell the truth, people can confabulate as a stress behaviour. I was always puzzled when kids or even teens and adults are caught in a lie and yet they stick to it steadfastly.  I can see where the stress of lying could push some people from misbehaviour to stress behaviour. When we respond limbically to children who lie, it only increases the stress for the child and the adult. Instead we need to reduce the stress in order to bring the child's Prefrontal Cortex back online.
I'm still curious and want to learn more about lying as a maladaptive behaviour and how we can promote children's moral growth and truthfulness.  
Here is a resource you might want to explore if you are interested in this topic:

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Resources for Poetry Month (April)

"Poems are a form of music, and language just happens to be our instrument - language and breath." Terrance Hayes, 2017

So you might ask, "What's the big deal? Why is poetry so important?" Poetry is essential for children because it is 'the best words in the best order.'  The rhythm and rhymes can help children develop a love of language - and a love of reading. Once kids begin flexing their writing muscles, poetry can spark their creativity and let their imaginations soar! 
 J. Patrick Lewis, US Poet Laureate

Poetry can be a powerful tool for writers and readers.  Writers who are reluctant to tackle a larger piece may find a short poem a less intimidating task.  The structure of some poems such as haiku, cinquain, and others provide scaffolds for emerging creative writers.  Reluctant readers may be engaged by the wordplay, rhythm and rhyme of poetry.  Here are some poetry resources you may find helpful for you and your students:

There are lots of amazing lesson plans at  Here are just a few:

Writing Poetry with Rebus and Rhyme Kindergarten to Grade 2
Composing and performing found poetry - K to Grade 2
Today is World Poetry Day Grades 3 - 12
Weaving the Threads - Integrating Poetry Annotation and Web Technology - Grades 6 - 12
Lonely as a Cloud: Using Poetry to understand similes - Grades 4 - 8

Lesson Plans using Interactive Tools
Theme Poems Using the Five Sense - Grades K - 2
Acrostic Poems - a range of lesson plans from K - 12 using an online acrostic poem tool
Diamante Poems - a range of lesson plans from K - 12 using an online diamante poem tool
Haiku Starter - Grades 2 - 5

Scholastic Poetry Resources 

Education World - comprehensive list of Poetry Month resources

Edutopia - another comprehensive list of poetry resources

Poems & Poets at - a searchable database of over 7,000 poems


Research Into Practice: Performing Poetry: Using Drama to Increase the Comprehension of Poetry 

Research Into Practice: Poetry: A Powerful Medium for Literacy and Technology Development

Ten Poems for Teachers 

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Self-Regulation and Schools

Here's a look at a twitter chat with educators about Self-Regulation in Schools, moderated by the MEHRIT Centre. The next one is May 10 at 7:30 - join us at #TMCTalks. EST.:

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Five Misconceptions about Self-Regulation

A short video blog on Five Common Misconceptions about Self-Regulation

5. It's  about stuff - exercise bikes, glitter bottles, etc

4. It's only for kids with formal identification such as ADHD, ADD, ODD

3. It's just for kids

2. We do self-regulation as a whole class

1. It's about controlling your behaviour and your emotions

View the video on youtube at

(Please excuse some of my editing errors - I'll do better next time!)

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Self-Regulation and Mindless Eating

When I was working full-time I would come home from work and, sometimes before I'd even changed my clothes, I would head to the kitchen for something to eat.  I would often just stand in the kitchen and graze - eating crackers from the box, a slice of cheese, cookies, whatever.....  If you had asked me an hour later what I had to eat, I probably wouldn't have been able to tell you.  It was truly mindless eating, and I look back now and realize I was definitely in the lower right box of the Thayer Matrix  - high stress all day at work and then coming home as a single parent to two busy teenagers.  I have no family here in the city so I was pretty much on my own for dealing with any minor or major issues with the kids, the house, the car, etc. Definitely high tension/low energy by 5 pm.
Recently the urge to snack and the mindless eating have been late at night. I had been looking at those cravings through a self-control lens but I decided this afternoon to try to look at them through a self-reg lens.  At first I thought, you can't be/shouldn't be low energy, high tension, you're retired!  But there are still stresses in life, even when you're retired:
  • after six months of working close to home, my husband has been back to travelling all the time for work since early January.  He is usually gone from early Monday morning to late Friday night, and sometimes longer if there are flight delays, etc.  This means I'm in charge of anything that goes wrong with the car, the house, etc unless it can wait till the weekend
  • since I'm retired and hubby's away at work and my kids are both away at university/college, I'm alone a lot more and that's stressful.  I volunteer, and I meet friends for lunch and all of that, but compared to when I was working, I'm still adjusting to the reduction in social contact in retirement
  • being alone at night is more stressful than during the day.  Our house is old and there are weird noises at night!
  • my mom passed away in December 2014 and there is some residual stress from that to deal with
  • my dad is on his own and has some health and mobility issues.  I'm fortunate that my dad also has support from my brothers and sisters-in-law, but there is the stress of making sure he is taken care of - shopping for groceries, cooking meals, running errands, paying bills, and worrying about his mental and physical well-being.  Every time the phone rings and I see his number come up, I hope it's not someone calling to tell me the ambulance is on the way.  It's happened before; it will likely happen again.
  • all the fun physical stresses of menopause - hot flashes, night sweats, slower metabolism, insomnia
  • I submitted the first draft chapter of a book to a publisher who said he'd get back to me in a week.  It's been three weeks.  He must hate it. What was I thinking?
  • studying for my doctorate online through Western.  It's starting to get real, the courses are getting harder, there's so much more writing, I have to defend next spring.  What if I fail?  What was I thinking?
Funny how I am getting better at looking at other people's behaviour with 'soft eyes' but sometimes have a hard time doing that for myself.  I really thought - you're retired, you shouldn't have stressors. I wonder how often people think, 'he's only in kindergarten.  He can't have stress.'  
Anyway this reflection today was very timely since I was beating myself up last night for giving in to my cravings. After eating healthy all day, at about 9 pm I had a glass of red wine and ate a very large Hershey Kiss that I bought as a Christmas stocking stuffer for my husband.  Since he hasn't eaten it by now, I'm hoping he forgot about it.  Change 'son' to 'husband' and this may be my life when he gets home!

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Borrowing Trouble

Over 10 years ago I published my first online article - a reading lesson for the International Reading Association's website ReadWriteThink.  The lesson was called A Bad Case of Bullying and is linked to the book A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon.  My original lesson was for primary grades but the reviewers and IRA suggested I revise the lesson for junior grades.  Since this was my first time trying to publish something, I revised and resubmitted and was accepted for publication.

Yesterday (March 27/17) I received a tweet from RWT saying that they had had an email request from a reader to contact me about this lesson.  YIKES!  For some reason, I immediately went to 'worst case scenario' mode.  They hate the lesson. There is something horribly wrong with it.  But wait - it was reviewed by three peer reviewers and by the staff at RWT.  It must be okay - right?

I hadn't looked at the lesson in years and when I went online to check, I had never noticed that you could leave comments.  And there were comments.  Nice ones:

So after a few emails, we were able to connect on the phone last night. Turns out, she was a graduate student studying for her Masters of Library Science in Chicago.  She is going to use my lesson in an assignment for a class she is taking and she has to teach it as a demonstration lesson while her classmates act as the students.  We talked about differentiating instruction for students with special needs, we talked about how to provide multiple and varied opportunities for assessment and how to modify the lessons for different age groups. It was a lovely conversation and I'm sure she'll do well on her assignment.

My grandmother used to warn me 'Don't borrow trouble.'  I guess ever since I was a kid I would worry about things that hadn't happened yet and, in many cases, never did happen.  Looking at this through a self-reg lens, I can see that this adds unnecessary stress to my life.  I think it will be challenging to try to break this old habit. Perhaps next time I find myself starting to 'borrow trouble' I need to stop and ask myself why and why now?  

Anyone else have this tendency to borrow trouble?  What are your strategies for catching yourself when you do and turning it off?

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

My Last 10

Doug Peterson shared a challenge from Alec Couros - If you were summed up by your last 10 Tweets or Facebook posts, what would that look like?   I've decided to just use my last 10 Tweets; I tend to use Twitter for professional purposes and Facebook for personal/education.

My last 10 Tweets:

So what do these last 10 Tweets say about me?
I follow a lot of smart people from a lot of different places, some of whom I know 'in the real world' and some of whom I've never met. I love that about social media; being able to learn from so many different people in different contexts.

Two of the posts are about A Day In The Life, an upcoming event at my former board that was part of my portfolio as a consultant. Even though I am retired, I am still like to promote important things happening at 'my board.'

Many of the posts are about kindergarten and early primary grades. My educational background is Early Years, my first teaching job was as a kindergarten teacher and my final assignment was Kindergarten Consultant. I have a passion for early years, even in retirement.

Two posts on leadership reflect my current learning as an EdD student in Educational Leadership at Western. It's a great program, challenging in so many ways, but fantastic learning.

And lastly, my most recent tweet is about some self-regulation courses coming up in Toronto. I started the self-reg courses in the fall for a number of reasons but mostly because self-reg was emerging as a key part of my doctoral Problem of Practice. What I didn't anticipate was how much learning more about self-regulation would help me in my own day to day life.

What about you? What do your Tweets, Facebook and Instagram posts say about you?

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Exploring MindMaps

I'm hoping that some of you who are far more tech savvy than I can weigh in with some helpful hints and suggestions.  Please!

My final assignment in my current online course is to create a mind map for a three chapter document that will be created as the culmination of my doctorate studies.  First, I had to decide what program to use to create the mind map.

I started with Popplet which was suggested by someone who had done this assignment last year.  I had used it just a few weeks ago with a group of Grade 3 students so I had heard of it.  It is visually very appealing and easy to use.  It was easy to insert images which helped reduce the text-heavy appearance of some samples I had seen.  But two major problems:  one, it kept crashing and it would take FOREVER to log back in. Instead it just spun and spun and spun.  Someone suggested I try a different browser and that helped.  It gave me no end of troubles in Safari but worked fine in Chrome.  But secondly, you can't add hyperlinks.  This was a deal breaker for me.

So I tried downloaded the free 30 day trial to try Inspiration.  I had used Kidspiration with students about 15 years ago when I was a learning support teacher and had fond memories of this program.  Again it was user friendly - easy to create the mind map, easy to insert graphics and you can insert hyperlinks.  But, quite frankly, I thought it was ugly.  It looked old and dated.  I'm sure that had I taken even more time and played with it longer maybe I could have made it more visually appealing but Popplet had spoiled me.  Popplet created mind maps that  looked good automatically, so I knew there had to be something better out there.

On to iMindMaps and another free 30 day trial.  It has lots of options but frankly by this time I had used up an entire morning and I really just wanted to get going so I picked out a template I liked and got started.  It looks good, it's easy to use and you can add images, hyperlinks and notes quickly.  I'm sure you can do lots of other things with it as there seems to be an infinite number of buttons and drop down menus.  Some day when I have more time, I'll explore all of those but right now I just want to finish my assignment on time.

So I've finished the mind maps for Chapter 1 and 2 and I'm hoping to finish Chapter 3 soon. But now what?  My free 30 day trial runs out shortly and then what?  It won't let me save it as anything else so in 30 days I have to pay up or lose access to my work?  I can't print it out - it's too tiny.  I've tried zooming in on sections but it's still small and it would take a whole day to zoom, cut, paste, etc.   I appreciate that this task has helped me to think about my work differently and notice connections that I hadn't seen before.  But is there a way to create a more useable document than this finished product?  Those of you who use mind maps, how do you move on from a digital format?  Or do you?

Some of my colleagues in this same class are using other programs.  One is using Popplet and has had problems with freezing and lost work.  One is using Prezi, and another abandoned the idea of electronics after spending a day exploring different programs and is using coloured pencils and paper.  I think in the future I would probably use mind maps again to help organize my work but I'm still a linear sequential, list making girl at heart.

Chapter 1 & 2 done; Chapter 3 in progress