Support students’ socio-emotional needs with self-regulated spaces

While many believe that self-regulation is a skill fully developed during elementary school, students need co-regulation support up to the age of 25 to learn how to process their own emotions effectively. So, while bringing a social-emotional learning curriculum into the classroom may help, schools need to do more to support students’ self-directed application of these skills, thereby lowering cortisol levels and enhancing the development of self-regulation. They need the added benefits of a space where they can learn to take control of their own emotional experiences.

What are the benefits of self-regulated spaces for K-12 students?

When a student experiences intense emotions and has difficulty focusing on the lesson or classwork, research shows that promoting the ability to refocus thinking through mindfulness-based strategies provides lifelong benefits. Self-regulated spaces in the classroom provide a safe, supportive place for the student to process their emotions without completely removing them from the classroom.

In these spaces, the teacher can still keep an eye on the student and the student can regulate their emotions in a safe and healthy way while continuing to feel accepted within the academic space. While students may have to temporarily stop teaching, it is easier to return to learning from a space in the classroom rather than outside the classroom.

The New York City Department of Education supports students with an example of a self-regulating space by including a double-sided bookshelf in classrooms to delineate a corner of the room. On the classroom side, the bookshelf presents the necessary teaching materials, while on the other side, the students will find resources taught in the SEL curriculum to encourage them to apply these new skills and techniques. The self-regulating space is also equipped with a bouncer or cushions where students can relax.

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These areas may also include technology, which is intended to be a useful resource rather than a distraction for students. A teacher has created a Google Slides presentation to project on an interactive screen in the self-regulating space of his classroom. The slides, which students view and use, contain the school’s RULER information and activity curriculum. For schools using Microsoft Teams for Education as their learning management system, Microsoft recently released the Reflect check-in app to promote healthy emotional development for students.

How can educators manage student self-regulation spaces?

Some districts may be hesitant to introduce comfortable furniture and secluded spaces with technology into their classrooms. To prevent students from misusing these mental health resources, partners such as CDW Education can provide professional development by helping a school build its modern learning environment.

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Professional development regarding the furniture and technology incorporated into self-regulated spaces can help educators ensure that these spaces are used respectfully and appropriately. It can also help teachers understand other uses of these spaces, as many modern classrooms have flexible furniture designs.

By integrating self-regulated spaces into the learning environments, students will experience more mental health support and developmentally appropriate spaces in their classrooms. This additional resource also supports a greater return on investment of time for the SEL curriculum by increasing students’ ability to practice the SEL lessons when they need it most. By providing students with constant access to SEL content, school districts can better support students in addressing and managing the toxic stress and trauma students unwittingly carry.

This article is part of the “ConnectIT: bridging the gap between education and technology” series. Join the discussion on Twitter by using the #ConnectIT hash.

Support students’ socio-emotional needs with self-regulated spaces

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