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Self-Regulation Matters — Not Only for Students, but for Teachers too!

May 6, 2021

The beginning of May marks the launch of Mental Health Awareness Month, and I am again reminded of just how much children’s mental health is at the core of the work I do as a begin to ECSEL educator. All of my interactions with and responses to the children I teach comes from a place of sensitivity and understanding that each child is unique in their experiences. At times, this comes with the immense pressure that how we as educators respond to children can make a profound impact on how they handle the very experiences that shape them into their personhood. Being attuned to the emotions of children, both big and small, and supporting the in-between is critical to their development of self-regulation and ability to cope with and manage their own emotions and those of others. 

In my experience working with children ranging from 2-6 years of age, I have learned that being aware of the emotions of children, including their intensity, changes, expressions, and causes are what matters most. In doing so, I can keep the mental health of the children in my care as a top priority. This makes teaching with empathy, sensitivity, and understanding a less daunting task, and ensures that all children in my care feel heard, noticed, and important regardless of their differences. For some children, the very idea of just moving on with their day is a challenge. In my classroom full of children who handle their emotions differently, it seems like every day I observe one child responding well to taking deep breaths, another needing assistance from a regulation tool, some needing physical comfort, and others clinging to feelings of sadness, worry, anger, and frustration and holding onto them, allowing their feelings to affect their entire day, which in turn, affect mine.

It is times like these that I am reminded of my training and my inner thoughts take over: take a deep breath, listen to what you need, acknowledge what you are feeling, model the appropriate expression of that feeling, and persist to support the children you teach. I know now that when I support myself, I am more available to support, nurture, and guide my students to regulate and discuss their emotions, solve problems, and move on with their day. In doing so, I support the development of their emotional toolkit that they will carry with them and reach for throughout their lives. This is no small task, and this is where my begin to ECSEL training provided me with the skills that I needed to understand and manage my own emotions before I could guide my students in theirs. I now have my own emotional toolkit to handle every challenge thrown at me in the classroom.

Teachers need training and support to provide the highest level of care for the children we teach. At first, I didn’t realize that my training started with me and that understanding my own emotionality was the first step to providing the best support to the children I teach. My training resonated with me not only on a professional level by allowing me to handle children’s social-emotional challenges effectively and productively, but on a personal level too. 

The person I was when I began my begin to ECSEL training was completely different from who I am now. The old me was closed off from emotions. When I felt sad, angry, stressed, worried, or anxious, I would shut down because I simply didn’t like how I felt. I buried those feelings until they grew, and grew, and turned into something inescapable. The person I am now reflects on how I am feeling, on what made me feel that way, and what I can do to manage that feeling. I am able to turn negative feelings into something productive that can be handled and managed, rather than something that needs to be suppressed. As a result, I am not only capable of fully being present for the children I teach, but of being a strong communicator, of letting my feelings lead me in the right direction, of reflecting and acknowledging areas where I still need to grow, and of identifying what I need to do to reach my goals. These are skills that I carry with me in both my professional and personal lives.

This tumultuous time has revealed the importance of how we teach and how students learn and has shown what many of us have already known - the mental health of our students and our own emotional well-being impact every goal we have when we teach and when we learn. For teachers who carry out one of the most important jobs but are faced with some of the highest levels of stress (and at times, chaos), it is critical that we too are being lifted, supported, and trained in order to do our very important job. For children to receive the high level of care required to boost their mental health and well-being, we teachers, and key socializers, cannot be glanced over. Begin to ECSEL trains teachers to not only guide their children in healthy emotional, cognitive, and social early learning, but also to self-reflect, problem-solve, think critically, and acknowledge the impact that our experiences have on our responses, actions, and reactions, and on our overall mental health. 

It is more than just a coincidence that this week is both Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week and Teacher Appreciation Week. We understand how critical it is for teachers to have the training and support they need to foster their own emotional health before they lay the foundation for their students’ lifelong mental health and well-being. 

We would like to recognize and acknowledge our teachers every day, not just this week. You are doing it all and you need to be supported and trained to handle it all. Your job is exhausting, stressful, and anxiety-producing at times, and for you to model how to regulate, handle challenges, and teach your students about the importance of emotions and how to manage them, you need to take care of yourself first! 

To learn more about how Housman Institute supports the well-being of teachers everyday visit: https://www.housmaninstitute.com/teacher-stress.

To learn how our begin to ECSEL program helps lay the foundation for every child's mental health and well-being from the start visit: http://www.housmaninstitute.com/begin-to-ecsel

 

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