Ego Depletion


We all know children who find it challenging to follow home, classroom, playground and school essential agreements (rules). They self-check, receive reminders, and sincerely want to ‘make the right choice.’ So, why don’t they? They know the rules, why don’t they just follow them?!

While struggling to conform to social norms (adhering to other people’s rules, resisting temptation, controlling thoughts and statements) we experience ego-depletion (Baumeister, social phsychologist).  Ego-depletion is the idea that we have a limited amount of energy to exert self-control. Every time a child needs to self-regulate and suppress an emotion, they withdraw on limited resources. This means that the next time that same child needs to display pro-social behaviour, their ability to control themselves is hindered.

Imagine that a cup of water represents the mental resources children have to self-regulate. Every time a child has to sit still and be quiet, they take a drink of water to fuel themselves. Some children need a sip, some need a big glup. The next task might be to cooperate with a peer – this might require a huge gulp of water and the fuel is depleted. By the time the third self-regulation requirement presents itself, Bam! No water left. A foolish choice gets made.

So how do we help?

Research suggests that positive moods buffer the impairing effects of ego-depletion. Laughing and having some fun seem to allow people to recover faster.

Doing a quick funny energizer in class (here), watching a short comedy video (here) or laughing at jokes with a friend might help those children who need a ‘boost.’

What is most important to remember, is that these children are trying. They want to follow the agreements of the class, they want to do the right thing; sometimes, they just have no willpower left in them and they are vulnerable to foolish choices. Our job as educators is to offer opportunities for all students to ‘re-charge’ their mental resources for self-control.

How do you help your children recharge and self-regulate?







I’m Back!


Throughout the year I write different quotations up on the white board in my office which relate to what I am thinking of at the moment. These words from Maya Angelou have been up there twice this year.

I am returning to this blog after a long hiatus. I have decided to try something different – quick snapshots of what I am learning or thinking about.

Let’s see how it plays out!


Love what you do

“Opportunity is often disguised as hard work.”

– Latrese Moffitt, Olympic high jumper and recent guest speaker at our school


This school year is one of change, learning, excitement, hard work, and opportunity for me.

I have taken on a new role. I am Head of Primary Years and it is all about learning, listening, sharing, planning, inspiring, coaching, supporting, inquiring, reflecting and hard work. Sounds very much like the job of a teacher, doesn’t it? And a student. And a parent. And a friend. And an Olympic high jumper. And…(fill in the blank).

It is hard work, a great opportunity and  I love what I do. 

As Seth Godin said in his post, Turning passion on its head:

Instead of, “do what you love,” perhaps the more effective mantra for the maker of change might be,love what you do.”

Is this a possible cycle?  Hard work, Opportunity, Passion


I intend to…because…

As teachers we hear questions like this all day long…

“Can I work on writing?”

“Can I read a book?”

“Can I sketch in my art journal?”

“Can I use markers?”

“Can I go to the library?”

“Can I go get a set of headphones?”

We, the teachers, are constantly evaluating and making decisions for the students. We are doing all of the work and answering the questions with only part of the information. What if, instead, we taught our students to use,  “I intend to…because…”

What difference would it make? Keep reading. It is powerful.

“I intend to work on writing because I am almost finished my book and I really want to get it done to show my mom. I’ve been telling her about it every day.”

“I intend to read a book because I am really nervous about the swimming competition after school today and reading will calm me down.”

“I intend to sketch in my art journal because I want to practice drawing a mouth before I draw the mouth on my portrait. Every time I draw mouths I don’t like them. I need to figure out how to draw them.”

“I intend to use markers because the colours will stand out. The light in space is so bright, I think markers will  be better than pastels for this picture.”

“I intend to go to the library to get the next book in the series because the librarian told me it just arrived and I am so excited! I’ve been waiting a month for it!”

“I intend to get a set of headphones to listen to this video and I don’t want to disturb anyone else. Jack told me that this video had a lot of information about Kepler 186f, and I really want to know more about why it might be habitable.”


“I intend to…because…” is so powerful for many reasons. Here are a few:

  • The students are pro-active and take ownership of their learning, totally engaged
  • The students, not the teacher, think through and assess the reasons why they are choosing to do something
  • The teacher learns a lot about each student as they give their reasons for choosing a learning intention, their reasons are a segue into what they are thinking about and what is important to them
  • The students develop skills of self-management, critical thinking, evaluation, informed choices, and speaking with confidence

I intend to...

 “I intend to…” does not give a free ticket to do whatever.  For example, here is a possible scenario:

student: “I intend to play this Maths game because it is fun and I like it.”

teacher: “Tell me about what you are learning in the game.”

student: “I have to answer multiplication questions.”

teacher: “Is this a skill that you need to work on some more?”

student:”No, I know all the multiplication facts to 100 already! The game is easy! I always win!”

teacher: “So tell me about what you are learning in the game.”

student: “Hmm. I think I would learn more in the game about division. I still need practice with that.”

teacher: “Okay.”

If you, the teacher, are not convinced with the intention, probe (and guide) some more…

“Tell me more about the learning you will be doing.”

“Tell me about your plans to be safe.”

“Tell me about your plans to finish the assignment by tomorrow.”

“Tell me about your plans to…”

“Did you know that you could find out more about X by asking/by reading/by looking at Y?”

Asking the students to state their intentions sends the powerful message that we assume they are capable to make learning decisions. (see previous related post here)

We can teach our students to take control, contribute their full intellectual capacity and become healthy and happy leaders.

What do you intend to do?

(This post was inspired by David Marquet in his book Turn the Ship Around!)

(All examples of ‘intentions’ above were taken from the students in my Grade 4 class.)


Monsters University

Monsters University

I  donned my 3D glasses and watched Monsters University at the local movie theatre this afternoon.

As I watched, I felt like it was an endorsement for the growth mindset that we are teaching our children. Lessons like:

  • Set a goal, make a plan, and go for it!
  • It’s not easy; you’ll have to work at it.
  • Believe in yourself (not in what others may say about you).
  • Sometimes our differences are our best asset.
  • We all have different strengths.
  • Collaboration is powerful.
  • Failure is an event, not a person.
  • Failure may offer you another opportunity.

Interested in going to a school that believes in all the above? Check out the Monsters University webpage (it’s hilarious!)