Now from the farmhouse to the schoolhouse. Which comes first, dysregulated and dysregulating students who disrupt the learning environment or the environment that causes some children to tip into dysregulation. Let’s look at a few important aspects as we consider this puzzle:
- From (and even before) birth, each of us is in the process of developing a range of capacities, including the 5 domain model articulated by Shanker. Some capacities “come on line” earlier and others later. It is a life long journey; never a straight-line progression. We all have moments when our capacities are activated in powerful and positive ways. There are also other instances, where more primitive and basic drivers take over. CSRI extends Dr. Shanker’s 5 domain framework by adding three other capacities: Perspectival, Inspirational and Aspirational (see diagram below), based on the work of other leaders in the fields of psychology and social sciences;
- we know we are all as unique as individual snowflakes or fingerprints, based on the assets and challenges we were born with and those that develop through our interactions with our world. Therefore, it is impossible to create an environment where “one size fits all.” Schools were organized on that factory and conveyer belt model from the way courses were constructed to the shape of the school day and the student timetable. For many kids, it didn’t work – and for lots of those kids, they were labeled as the problem;
- the ability to activate capacities and develop potential is, from moment to moment, influenced by what’s in our personal “backpack” that we carry throughout life’s journey. Are there tools and nourishment there, allowing us to navigate difficult circumstances? Is the backpack filled with rocks, slowing us down and draining energy? The youngster with a backpack full of assets is often able to smoothly and nimbly overcome challenges; his classmate who is toting big rocks has significantly more difficulty. He might display as being rattled, overwhelmed or disruptive. He is often identified as the problem;
- for a long, long time, the schoolhouse was organized as a place that kids were required to fit in for their own good. One result of that industrial model/compliance and control approach to education was that the students with the asset-filled backpack (based on life experiences, home circumstances, nurture, nature and other variables) could address and overcome stressors. They navigated quite easily or made the necessary adjustments when required. They recovered quickly from tough moments and were ready to deal with the next ones. Doing that led to them being acknowledged as resilient. When the student two rows over seemed to be responding inappropriately to the same conditions and spiraling downward, there were labels re. lack of willpower, poor self-control and even judgments about good kid/bad kid. In a world where students had to fit school, we didn’t factor in what was in the backpack and its profound influence on outcomes. Fit and win; don’t fit and lose; and,
- from curriculum design to classroom layout to school schedules, we have begun to remedy old school rigidity and its inadequate approach to supporting learners. Today, we focus on building capacities and creating situations where every learner can experience success. Problem behaviours cause us to ask Why rather than to simply initiate sanctions. Students with challenges are invited to work in partnership with their teacher as detectives, exploring what led up to an incident and figuring out how some of those conditions could be mitigated. Co-regulation leading to self-regulation is part of the learning design as is increased choice and variety. In short, we have moved from requiring the student to fit the school to having the school – and all of its components – fit the student. We get it right when every learner’s journey is individually scaffolded with supports, some obvious and other subtle; some basic and others intricate and complex.
Back to the riddle: chicken or egg?; behavior or environment? By encouraging more curiosity and less old school certainty, our kids are supported to explore their assets and we get closer to fulfilling our mandate in education: We Build Human Capacity.