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Blog: Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

Calm, Alert and Learning

By Dr. Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

My visit to Terry Fox Elementary last week, confirmed my general impression about how far we have come in this district with social-emotional learning. It was just a few short years ago that we invited Stuart Shankar into the district to share his research about the importance of self-regulation (i.e. the extent to which learners are empowered to carry out their roles in personally responsible, self-reflective ways). A number of our staff bought his book (Calm Alert and Learning) and began to implement various strategies to support the diverse learners in our schools. Others received training in zones of regulation, and implemented strategies from there. Some have used Mind Up with similar success. At the district level, we invested heavily in this work by creating an SEL team (Terri and Leslie) who have been tremendous support for schools in terms of training as well as classroom resources.

Now when I visit schools, not only do I see the evidence in the classrooms, but teachers routinely tell me about how learning about self-regulation has changed their practice, advanced students learning, and in many cases personally helped them with their own regulation.  One of the big ideas that Stuart shared with us about a few years ago was that the self-regulated classrooms started first with the self-regulated adults. It has been nice to see this connection play out in our schools, as we all learn more about this concept.

One of the interesting phenomena of our implementation efforts has been the extent to which our elementary schools quickly adopted these approaches, and with encouraging success. Over time, middle schools have started to utilize some of these approaches, in large part because they were successful for students coming into grade six.  Students from self-regulated classrooms have a greater understanding of their physical and psychological needs, have more effective strategies to regulate themselves, and have some expectation that they can continue to use these strategies as they mature.  I have begun to see more middle school classrooms with various seating arrangements, specialized furniture, differential lighting arrangements, and direct instruction related to mindfulness.

How will this play out at the secondary level? Among the cornerstones of our soon to arrive graduation program are personalization, voice, and flexibility.  As well look to creating more engaging opportunities for students there will a great need for students to take responsibility for their own learning. This will require them to have a deep understanding of their learning styles and profiles and to have the skills to put themselves in position to realize their learning goals. Like anything else, it is necessary for us to teach them to intellectually, emotionally and physical regulate themselves. The fact is that they will leave our schools and go to post-secondary or careers where this will be simply expected of them.

In addition to creating the structures for them to practice this, we must all invest in teaching them to successfully self-regulate. Their success here and beyond will depend on it.

By Dr. Kevin Godden
Dr. Kevin Godden
Dr. Kevin Godden

By Dr. Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

Kevin has been the Superintendent of Schools for the Abbotsford School District since July 2011, overseeing some 19,000 students and 2,500 employees. Kevin is committed to student success in all forms and envisions a school district that can nimbly respond to the ever changing needs and interests of its students.