Self-regulation and our “emotional wake”

I have a problem with self-regulation. This is not a true confession over my gambling, nicotine or drinking addition. I actually have none of those. What I do have is a problem wrapping my head around the concept of self-regulation. I am trying to understand it as an educator and as a parent too. As a mother of four boys, self-regulation is of interest to me. I think therein lies the challenge.  I am trying to find its place in my own life as well.

What is self-regulation? Understanding self-regulation and its application in our profession can be a little tricky. According to Stuart Shankar, “In the simplest terms, self-regulation can be defined as the ability to stay calmly focused and alert, which often involves – but cannot be reduced to – self-control.” He expands more in the full article here.

Wikipedia (see here) does a good job of defining Self-Regulation in Learning and then gives examples of self-regulation in practice in the classroom.  For example, “In the area of literacy instruction, educators can teach students the skills necessary to lead them to becoming self-regulated learners by using strategies such as reciprocal teaching, open-ended tasks, and project-based learning.” It also connects to assessment. This is useful. This is important for teaching.

The concept of self-regulation is not just important for learners. As professionals, it has implications for us as well. I am reading Conversations for Change: 12 Ways to Say It Right When It Matters Most by Shawn Kent Hayashi. This book comes highly recommended by Nancy Hinds, the former Profession Development Coordinator for the BC Teacher’s Federation. It is a key reference for our joint work with the Surrey Teachers’ Association in a project called Continuing the Conversation. The author of the book is clear that our ability to be emotionally intelligent is dependent on our ability to self-regulate. She asks: What is the “emotional wake” we leave people feeling with? At the end of a staff meeting? In a hallway conversation? On the phone? Are others excited about moving forward on a project? Do they feel discouraged? Not heard? How do we read the social cues of others? Can we see and read their emotional wake? She challenges the reader to learn how to manage their own emotional wake and that of others to influence organizational directions positively. “Being aware of the emotional wake we are leaving with others creates better working relationships. When we know what motivates others, we can focus on creating conversations that will inspire and move toward creating the results we desire” (p. 18). It is all about creating conversations for change. I want to be intentionally creating positive “emotional wakes” in my organization.

The ability to self-regulate, whether you are a professional or a student, is critical for success. Shankar believes that, “So compelling is this vision that one might go so far as to argue that if IQ was the major psychological construct of the 20th century, in the 21st century it will be self-regulation…” (manuscript pending publication). On August 24th Stuart Shankar will be in our district to explain the concept of self-regulation and its practical application in the classroom.  Hopefully, my problem with understanding self-regulation and how it applies to my world—as an educator, professional and mother—will be resolved. This is a life-skill for all of us; I have much to learn.

Leading expert, Stuart Shankar is speaking on Calm, Alert and Learning: Classroom Strategies for Self-Regulation, on August 24th in Surrey, B.C. It is open to all interested participants. For more information or to register, click here.  2012-08-15

2 responses to “Self-regulation and our “emotional wake”

  1. I hit a key I shouldn’t have just as I was about to write about mindfulness….how mindless of me!
    I attended Stuart Shankar’s session in the Spring and attended a MindUp educators workshop in Aspen. I am studying 3 books on mindfulness: “Mindfulness” by Ellen Langer, “Gesture of Balance” by Tarthang Tulku and “The Emotional Life of Your Brain” by Richard Davidson PhD and I subscribe to an online newsletter “Mindfulness Research Monthly”. Do you have to be self-regulated to be mindful or mindful to be self-regulated? Either way, I believe it takes practice and the MindUp curriculum is a good start for children Grades K-8. It is not about compliance or work ethic. And, I would add “happy” to Stuart Shankar’s definition of self-regulation….calm, alert, focused and happy. Oh, and I’ve started a blog to help me navigate through the tons of information on mindfulness and improve my digital profile at the same time.
    Debra Aronson
    Aboriginal Helping Teacher

    • Hi Debra,
      Where is your blog? I’m trying to find readings, guidance, etc as an adult, as a parent of a 9yo boy, 6yo girl, and 4yo boy, as a member of the “Parent Education Committee” at our school (Elsie Roy Elementary). And the Vancouver Public Library was not too helpful, neither was google.
      I did find the MindUp Curriculum at
      Have you looked at the Social Thinking Curriculum for the slightly older age group and/or those with social skills delays? See

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