Self-regulation: What’s missing from the conversation?

This is the first of a three-part post on self-regulation.  It could be alternatively titled – Self-regulation: Beyond Environmental Accommodations and Social-Emotional Programming.

Self-regulation is THE buzzword in my (and likely your) professional circle right now.  What is it? What can we do in the classroom to strengthen it?

Stuart Shanker is the self-regulation darling and it’s not difficult to find abstracts of his writing online. Asking around in your PLC is guaranteed to find you a copy of Calm, Alert and Learning to leaf through.

The Shanker effect, whether intended or not, is one of environmental accommodations.

Gongs and gentle music.


Dim lighting.


Fidget toys, therapy bands and exercise bikes.


Reduction of clutter.


A variety of sensory experiences available to students on an as-needed basis.

The intention behind these accommodations is for kids to have an easier time “up-regulating” or “down-regulating” in order to be able to respond to expectations in a more effective manner. Namely, to help students become/remain calm, alert and learning.

While Shanker’s legacy might be an exercise bike and yoga mats in every classroom, the discussion around self-regulation needs to advance beyond environmental accommodations.

Environmental accommodations and “strategies” give kids opportunities to regulate their emotions.

But what if they need more than opportunities?

What if they need a return to the building blocks of regulation? 

I can be given all the opportunities in the world to write a Master’s thesis in Calculus, but it’s not going to happen. Not unless I return to 10th grade math for a better foundation than 15-year-old me developed.

For the kids who end up in the hallway or office all the time, or in behaviour classes, self-regulation is Master’s level Calculus.

So how do we move forward in the self-regulation discussion?

By ignoring Shanker, or just focusing on the environmental accommodations? Quite the opposite.

By looking closer at his work (and the work of others, specifically Dr. Karyn Purvis, Dr. Ross Greene, Dr. Jean Clinton, Dr.  James Garbarino).

By looking at the actual process and the building blocks of emotional regulation.

In part 2 of this post, I’ll discuss this process and it’s implications for the classroom, hallway and beyond.

One thought on “Self-regulation: What’s missing from the conversation?

  1. I’m eagerly awaiting Part 2 of this post! After reading Shanker’s book just over a year ago, I became way more aware of self-regulation and the impact it can have on student learning. With the recent #selfreg2015 Symposium, I’ve been involved in lots of recent Twitter chats on this very topic, and have even blogged recently (and will likely blog again soon) on self-regulation. I’m curious to hear what you’ll discuss in your next post, and how you see the ideas of all of these different individuals merging together to help students.


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