What does it mean to be "regulated"?

Why is being "regulated" important in classrooms?

When we are calm and at ease because we feel safe, both physically (there is no threat of physical danger) and emotionally (we trust the people around us and feel validated and respected ), we experience what is called felt safety. And when we experience felt safety our body is in a regulated state.

When we are in a regulated state, we are relaxed and the rational part of our brain is online, meaning we can teach, learn, and build relationships with students and colleagues.

The opposite of being “regulated” is “dysregulated”

When we do not feel physically and/or emotionally safe, when there is a lack of felt safety, we become dysregulated. Our heart rate increases, getting ready for fight or flight; or decreases as we move into freeze mode.

When we are in a dysregulated state, the rational, thinking part of our brain goes offline. We can’t gather our thoughts and act as we would choose.

A dysregulated state

Can you think of a time when you were in a situation that was stress inducing, and afterward thought to yourself, “Why did I say that? That’s not me!”, or “I could have handled that so much better”, and then thought of all the things you wish you had said or done differently? Your body was in a dysregulated state. Something in that situation triggered your body’s memory, sending it into a fight, flight, or freeze stress reaction. When we've reached the limits of our ability to tolerate stress, the rational, cognitive areas of the brain are essentially blocked off.

Regulated v Dysregulated

Our bodies shift between varying degrees of these states throughout the day as we encounter different experiences.

Lara has an early meeting with a parent regarding a struggling student. They listen to each other's perspective and concerns and together devise a meaningful plan to support the student. After the meeting, Lara enters her classroom feeling relaxed yet energized.

Lara left her meeting in a regulated state.

Just before class starts, Lara receives a scolding email from her new principal inquiring why she hadn’t corresponded with a parent regarding a student failing her class. The tension in her shoulders increases and her heart rate is accelerating as her students enter the classroom.

Lara began class time in a dysregulated state.

Getting Back to a Regulated State

Adapted from Dr. Bruce Perry’s Sequence of Engagement

Our bandwidth for experiencing a regulated state can be thought of as our window of tolerance. Some people have a wide window of tolerance— meaning they can experience most stressors without triggering a stress reaction (dysregulated state). However, the pandemic, and all of the circumstances surrounding it, have narrowed the window of tolerance for most educators.

Through self-awareness about stress activation in our bodies and employing specific tools and practices, we have the ability to recover from these stress reactions and return to a regulated state.

The Regulated Classroom© helps educators and their students to more quickly recover from stressors and return to a regulated state.

The Regulated Classroom© 

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Why is being regulated important in the classroom?

Regulation is the foundation of teaching and learning. A regulated teacher is the foundation of academic, social, and emotional growth in the classroom.

In a regulated state we can:

  • Lesson plan
  • Sequence and prioritize
  • Assess learning
  • Deliver instruction in a manner that inspires engagement
  • Build relationships with students and colleagues
  • Provide compassionate care to struggling students

When we are stressed or dysregulated, we tend to:

  • Lose focus
  • Get stuck
  • Experience anxiety
  • Feel hopeless or discouraged
  • Act more intolerant of learning or behavior challenges