Kelsey Prather
Post count: 4

As you think about using the concepts of Braindrops, Learning Tools and somatosensory regulation, what challenges and benefits do you perceive?

I have really been trying to implement interoception whenever I can in both classrooms and with individual students. There is a 1st grade class that has been in a hyperarousal state often. I noticed the teacher likes to begin the day with a “Go Noodle” video (I immediately thought of this when you referenced this the last couple of weeks in class) – two feet in. Obviously no fault of her own, the teacher wanted to honor their wiggles and thought starting the day off with a dance party would help regulate her 1st graders. However, this has not helped with regulation :). The students then have a hard time focusing and being engaged in class. The teacher starts giving instruction and students will completely ignore what she is asking, get up, and go to the coloring table, for example.The teacher then feels extremely frustrated and after a few weeks, is often in tears already at 8:30am. I came in the other morning to check in on a student and noticed the “social contagion” Bruce Perry references. When I work with classes, I often tell students that emotions and behaviors are contagious. When we are in yellow brain (Zones of Regulation reference) and very distracted, those around us begin to also become distracted. Sometimes I’ll teach with my back facing towards the students to show them how distracting that can be – if I’m feeling off and acting in an unexpected way, they will start to feel unexpected feelings like confusion, distraction, etc. Emotions are contagious! They often hear me say. Back to 1st grade – I asked the teacher if I could try something for 7 minutes. She said, “Please. ANYTHING.” I asked all of the students to sit quietly in their chairs – I asked this in a very low level voice as I started to deep breathe. I then challenged all students to see if they can sit so still so they could hear and *feel* their own heartbeat. Some blurted out “I can’t!!!” I said, “Oh, I wonder if we turn our voices off if that helps us hear our own heartbeat.” It was hard for me to not say, “Hey! Voices off!” I tried my hardest to put one foot in, one foot out, by acknowledging how challenging this task can be. Then towards the end explained how the energy felt lighter and much more calm – it was now easier for me to focus on what I need to get done.
I bring this example up because some challenges I’m experiencing are both in tier 1 and in tier 2 – regulation, interoception, etc. have it’s own sets of challenges (and benefits!!!) in both settings and environments. The benefits show themselves when I feel a classroom energy go back within their window of tolerance – AND the teacher. The benefits are when a student tells me the next day, “I taught my dad how to quietly listen to his heart beat! He says he meditates too!” I am still working on the challenge of implementing interoception when a student is extremely dysregulated and/or with a large class that is extremely dysregulated.

Understanding that co-regulation starts with us, also has challenges and benefits. What do you see as the biggest challenges, and what are your thoughts for addressing them?

I think some of the biggest challenges with co-regulation in an education setting is, well, it’s within an education setting :). What I mean is, systemically, educators and staff who work in public education are working within a system that doesn’t exactly set them up to be successful. I.e. minimal bathroom breaks, taking work home, not enough pay, working long hours, managing large class sizes, teacher shortage, all while teaching youth amidst a mental health crisis. Educators are already spread thin and we are always on – especially as school counselors, who do not have a planning period necessarily, we are ALWAYS ON. 100% always on. Even when I schedule a regulation walk for myself, sometimes the extra 3 minutes I have gets prioritized with a student I need to check in with before the day escapes me (I have been really trying to turn my regulation walks into a walk with a student who also needs a regulation walk). Believe me, I am a firm believer in true self-care, boundaries, taking time to regulate – heck, I have a Maslow tattoo. It’s very important to me. *And*. It can so easily slip away from me because my heart is so deep in my job. For me, this is one of the biggest challenges of co-regulation. Sometimes, I am not regulated and I don’t even know it. I believe that might be because I keep going and going and going at my job – I barely take a minute to pause. My justification is, “On to the next student, I don’t have all day! There’s so much to do. I just need to push through and then I can relax.” It will take lots of practice and hard work for co-regulation to really happen with educators because of the go-go-go mentality and expectation education has. It is going to take even harder boundaries with ourselves and reminders. I have thought about putting a reminder on my walkie to pause and breathe – such as, a sticker, or a textured sticky strip. A reminder to slow down. A reminder that my self-regulation is actually *helping* others. My self-regulation is how we even begin co-regulation.