Self-Regulation in the Age of Distraction

Written by: Jordan Tinney

Published On: June 25th 2012

I went to a workshop today. This is always a tricky thing to do in the middle of the day. While I was there, my mind (I am sure like everyone else’s) was flying around not only on the workshop but on the email threads I was following on the side, the phone calls I was receiving, and my own thoughts of the tyranny of the urgent back at the office. As I time-spliced my way through the session, I was again reminded of how we don’t really take the time to grapple with complex things that need our attention. The workshop was thoughtful, engaging and posed interesting questions. The questions posed were worthy of follow-up but how do we make that happen?

When I am at workshops I tend to scribble down random thoughts. These thoughts are sparked by something speakers say but often are completely in a different direction to the speaker’s main point. The topic today was technology, education and change.

As I listened, I scribbled the following notes on my pad of paper:

  • What is the role of self-regulation in the daily life of a district-leader?
  • If we believe self-regulation is important for children, do we believe it needs to be taught to adults?
  • Are we entering a new age of innovation and creativity in education as a result of the tools that we are placing in the hands of children and the power of these tools to connect and create?
  • What role does cloud storage play in the new way we look at mobile technology for students, teachers and district staff?
  • What is my personal plan to connect (online and face to face) to those who work in schools in my district?
  • If we believe that we can define a new set of skills that we should be teaching our children in a 21st Century Curriculum – then how are we teaching those skills to our incoming leaders?
  • What role does this new skillset play in our hiring and support of new teachers and Questionsleaders?
  • What does a hiring, development, evaluation, and succession plan look like as we head to the next decade?
  • Are we using the right leadership competencies in hiring for the decade to come?

I often write notes like these above and then use the notes for future blog articles, presentations or simply for my own personal reading and professional development. But once again, I was reminded of how these thoughts were inspired by a presentation and I feel like I should actually do something with them. Now I will, and others will, head back to the office and the daily work and what will become of what I think are important ideas? Will they be pursued or will they simply fall off the end of the desk?

When I have thought about this in the past, I have felt that one should never attend a workshop unless you are willing to devote equal time post-workshop to grapple with what to do with the information you’ve received. I know of course it doubles the cost in terms of time but, on the other hand, we know that drive-by professional development doesn’t work for anyone. Unless you purposefully structure time to grapple collectively with material, formulate a plan for next steps, and then pursue that plan, then we all know the end result. When we are considering system change, the cost of no progress simply is too high.


What I decided to do today was to take my notes, do a blog post to see if anyone else has the same experience and then at the very least, the thoughts are down for the future and I can reference them again. I know that for me, the issue of taking the time to think of what a curriculum of self-regulation for adults might look like is the next step.

Perhaps as I found my own calm and focussed time to at least think of what happened today, it’s my first step in making plans for what’s next.

So, to pose a question for comments – for anyone who engages in pro-d in an ongoing way, what strategies do you use to devote time after workshops for a “what now” session or do you struggle with the same issue of finding time to follow-up?