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Research School Network: A Reflection on Emotional Regulation for Teachers. Like many other professionals in the education sector, I have found the last 20 months extremely challenging.

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A Reflection on Emotional Regulation for Teachers.

Like many other professionals in the education sector, I have found the last 20 months extremely challenging.

by Billesley Research School
on the

Like many other professionals in the education sector, I have found the last 20 months extremely challenging. At times, a sense of hopelessness was almost overwhelming. How could I make a difference? How could I possibly be good enough to make up for all the lost learning time our pupils have encountered? The familiar little voice in the back of my head persistently told me that I could not. Sadly – I believed it.

As a school, we have adopted recommendations from the EEF guidance report, Improving Social and Emotional Learning in Primary Schools.’ Evidence indicates that the benefits to our children of this approach are fundamentally important in their ability to engage successfully with the world as adults. A key component of explicitly teaching our children how to do this is to model effective positive self talk. Realising this was something I clearly found difficult, I decided to explore this aspect further. If I could have a more successful and positive relationship with myself, could I improve my performance and create a more positive environment for my pupils?

Jantz (2016) asserts that our self-talk can all too often be negative and our brains are hard-wired to remember negative experiences over positive ones. It becomes a routine behaviour to accept these negative ideas leading to the cycle perpetuating itself. This resonated and it was clear that I had been in this position for most of my adult life. As part of our SEL in school, we encourage children to check in’ and identify their specific emotional state. The rationale is logical. If we can identify something, we are more empowered to work on improving it. My process started with checking in’ with myself each morning. It took time to cultivate an honest response but it led to a sense of control. The next step was how to address my responses.

In their 2019 article for the publication Child Development’ Thomaes et al make the distinction between ability and effort self talk. Ability self talk related to perceived performance in a task (e.g. I will do well) whereas effort self talk pertained to how hard someone would try. They found that children who focussed their self talk on effort were able to perform better on mathematical tasks than peers who used ability talk. Could my perceived lack of competence be overcome by simply telling myself I would do my best? It seemed too simple.

Each day, alongside acknowledging how I was feeling, I would tell myself that I would do my best. I can honestly say that detaching self talk from performance has improved my ability to function effectively. The EEF guidance report also makes explicit reference to how SEL can improve outcomes for teachers. It states, Teachers reported lower stress levels, higher job satisfaction, better relationships with their children, and higher confidence in their teaching.’

In the classroom, I feel more resilient and better equipped to deal with challenges. Our relationship with ourselves is the only one we have that lasts a lifetime. If we can get that right, it can only benefit those around us. When that negative voice creeps into my head again, I am ready to greet it like an old friend and politely tell it that I am too busy doing my best to listen.


Helen Griffin

Bessel Van Der Kolk MD (2015) The Body Keeps the Score – Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma’

Gregory L Jantz PHD (2016) Overcoming Anxiety, Depression and Fear’

Sander Thomaes et al (2019) Effort Self-Talk Benefits the Mathematics Performance of Children With Negative Competence Beliefs’ SRCD Child Development Volume 91 Issue 6

Education Endowment Foundation (2019) Improving Social and Emotional Learning in Primary Schools.’

Michael Mellinger (2021) Self Talk During Sport – Advantage or Detriment.’ Published on www.believesport.com

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