by Debra Em Wilson
In education, we don’t write books for fame or fortune—that aim is best left to the J. K. Rowlings of the world. We write because we have something important to say. As an educator for more than thirty years in the field, I’ve observed the ever-increasing demands placed on teachers in classrooms. The internet is rife with articles about teachers leaving the field due to burnout, disillusionment, frustration, and compassion fatigue. Teachers enter the field to teach, yet it often seems the classroom is expected to serve more as a mental health clinic than a place of academic learning. This leaves us feeling like our skill sets are inadequate and we’re “not enough” when it comes to meeting the diverse emotional needs of our students.
As teachers, we love to witness all students engaged, motivated, and thriving in the classroom. This begins with understanding learning as an embodied experience involving the bi-directional loop between the mind and body. In my book, The Polyvagal Path to Joyful Learning, I share the science that underpins regulation, resilience, and academic buoyancy in a practical way that is within the skill sets of teachers and leads to the ultimate goal of optimized learning for every student. Along the way, I integrate Polyvagal Theory with concepts familiar to educators including academic resilience, fixed and growth mindsets, cognitive load theory, extended mind science, and Martin’s Wheel of Motivation and Engagement.
We don’t need yet another curriculum—heaven help us! We need a better understanding of what it means to be a regulated human in a dysregulated world. We need to see the joyful messiness of our classrooms through a polyvagal lens of hope, curiosity, and possibility. It’s only from a state of regulation that we create a transformative space for change and can see preferred or alternative futures. I invite you to come on a journey of discovery with me as I explain Polyvagal Theory and its classroom implementation through stories and metaphors, while tossing about a bit of humor in the process—something we can all use more of these days!Continue reading “Polyvagal Theory: What Is It and How Can Teachers Use It?”