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What Happens When "Engaging" Becomes "Dysregulating?" Thoughts Around Self-Reg And Summer Camps.

By Aviva Dunsiger

I keep returning to a wonderful video by Stuart Shanker about Self-Reg in Summer Camps. This summer, I'm once again a Site Lead for Camp Power, and due to COVID, we're online for the second year in a row. While we've tried to put students together from the same school, due to registration numbers, there are mixtures of schools in each camp group. Having taught virtually a couple of times this past school year, I realize that you really need to modify your vocal tone and actions to engage kids, as it's harder to read non-verbal cues and softer voices through a screen. But I keep thinking about the Self-Reg component. As we look to engage students, do we always need to go over the top?

Engagement has somehow become synonymous with ...

- special days,

- loud songs,

- various dances,

- exciting experiments,

- tons of costumes,

- and a plethora of chants,

but sometimes I wonder if all of this becomes too much. When I then hear about those students that ...

- are not listening,

- are spinning around the room,

- are screaming out answers,

- and can't seem to wait their turn,

I begin to think that it might be our attempts at engagement that create dysregulation. I know that all of these creative and fun activities are done with the best of intentions and with the kids in mind, but what about Self-Reg? How do we engage kids without dysregulating them? My wonderings might have stemmed from an online summer camp, but I think that I'll be returning to these same wonderings as we return to school. Is it time to reframe "engagement?"


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