A New Zealand Narrative

 In Self-Regulation Institute Blog

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend and share at a three day conference in Toronto in May 2018.  The conference was centred around Stuart Shanker’s seminal research on the development of self-regulation.

Attending conferences provides us with many learning opportunities, but what is often undervalued is  the ‘lasting learning’ that can be gained within the conversations and the opportunities for building new relationships, that occur during the comfort breaks within the daily programme of a conference.

The mix of teachers and parents attending this conference was made up of teachers from early childhood through to tertiary, this broad scope led to some amazing insights being shared and questions being asked.  The following query – shared by an elementary school principal to a panel made up of the speakers is worthy of note: “Because I have both a responsible and very busy role – it could help to have a list containing the most relevant suggestions or directions which I could follow.”                 

As each of the presenters tried to carefully address this query, the very clear message appeared to be suggesting that ‘self-regulation strategies are not taught’ – they are either modelled for us in our early years or discovered by each individual in their later years.

For those readers who have read Stuart Shanker’s books or studied his research suggestions, you may identify with this desire to have a clear ‘how to list’, even when the message Stuart is highlighting is ‘how the individual person’s journey towards developing self-regulation skills could be through their own discoveries.’

Stuart Shanker is suggesting that educators should challenge the present ‘conceptual framework’ within which our present theories surrounding human development and learning are constructed. His main reason is ‘as individuals we may need a change in our general outlook, or social habits, or the circumstances which have formed our present thinking and learn to embrace the relational perspective on self and emotion.’

The emotional energy required by an educator to ‘develop a change in their present general outlook’ may cause many anxious feelings.  So learning to identify how ‘anxiety’ perceived in a positive light could create ‘energized determination’ will be very important.      

Energized determination will allow individuals to activate and engage with their own amazing mind. Stuart Shanker’s invitation to educators is to explore and discover the joy and excitement that is connected to observing the ‘unfolding of innate personal potential’ which neuroscientists are predicting we all have, but so many people have not had opportunities to search for and find their personal gifts and talents.

Revisiting my notes from the presentations and  the notes I recorded as I listened to the conversations that took place; has left me with one very meaningful comment that I would not only like to remember, but one I would also like to share.  It came from a Mother who is studying through the Foundation Courses offered by TMC:

You can change your life on the outside by beginning to know and value yourself on the inside.  As you begin to identify your feelings it will help you to become the best version of YOU. Give yourself emotional attention – by having full access to all of your feelings both positive and negative.  You must know what it is like to feel hurt, warmed, angry, frustrated or overjoyed. It is vital to connect with how you are functioning both intellectually and emotionally on a daily basis – not to become perfect – but to become the best person you are capable of becoming by keeping in mind, that a sincere human connection can move a person from being ‘reactive to being receptive’.  Human nurturing connections can calm the nervous system of both people.

I am not sure if this is a quote that she had memorised, but it has certainly left me with the desire to remember the way she expressed her present understanding of Stuart Shanker’s research.  Which in many ways is both simple and profound. This then reminded me how very fortunate we are to have access to the deep and meaningful learning contained within Stuart Shanker’s five domains.

The five Domains:  Biological, Emotion, Cognitive, Social and Pro-social are all connected to each other and explain the importance of the need we all have to develop ‘a personal sense of well-being and self-efficacy’ from infancy and throughout our lifetime.  Incorporating these five domains into our daily professional practice requires teachers to develop a deep and meaningful effort to share their knowledge. By having comprehensive:

  • Knowledge of biological/physical well-being  encouraging them to offer all children opportunities to grow as happy and healthy individuals.
  • Knowledge of emotional well-being will  ensure that all children have many opportunities to feel loved, valued and accepted not only by their family but within their wider community.
  • Knowledge of intellectual well-being will offer all children opportunities to explore their own wonderful mind and develop a desire to utilise their talents for creativity and discovery.                                                                                  
  • Knowledge of social well-being will provide all children with opportunities to develop a sense of belonging to their culture and the society they live within through healthy attachments and development of personal resilience strategies.  
  • Knowledge of pro-social well-being will enable  all children to experience opportunities to develop their spiritual and personal values, through a framework of trust and empathy of self, others and the natural world.

Teachers across Canada are becoming fully immersed in Self-Reg and  appreciate the opportunity to begin their journey to ‘become the architect of their own experiences’  which in turn is encouraging them to think outside the pedagogy of education and to incorporate and embrace how the ‘scientific perspective’ can build a complete picture of our human transformational process; this process provides a better understanding  of how each human life is lived from the view of their ‘lived experiences.’

Nurturing the nature of the developing individual does not require a parent or teacher to become a scientist, but it does require them to reflect on how human beings develop and learn throughout their lifespan, from a scientific perspective.                   

For teachers this may mean discovering the deeper meaning embedded in the concept of ‘secure and trusting relationships.’   As well as keeping in mind how neuroscientists perceive TRUST; as a whole body system that taps into what ‘our mind, body and spirit connections tell us.’ The study of trust from the perspective of ‘relational health’ allows a better understanding and appreciation of who we are, and what we require to allow us to move forward with trust in ourselves and the ability to trust others.             

Within many conversations there was general agreement that the deeper meaning of ‘secure and trusting relationships’ is only now beginning to be fully appreciated, so as an educator or parent how essential is it that we learn to reflect  daily on our own level of emotional and intellectual well-being?


Shanker, S. G. (2013). Calm, Alert and Learning: Classroom Strategies for Self-Regulation. Toronto: Pearson Canada Inc.

Shanker, S. G., Barker, T. (2016). Self-Reg: How to help your child (and you) Break the Stress Circle and successfully engage with life. New York, NY: Penguin Publishing Group.

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