For children, just about anything and everything could be turned into a learning opportunity. That even can include punishment.
Well, in this case, this isn’t “punishment” in the traditional sense. But the tactics this school started using this year yielded unprecedented results in addressing behavioral problems.
OK, before going into details, take a second to think about how children who act out and cause disturbances in class should be handled.
If you’re like most people, you probably thought about how discipline is normally handled. For the most part, when a student acts up in class, the teacher will send that child away to detention or use some other form of punishment that restricts them. So now, a student who acts out is put in a room with other students who act out and they’re expected to learn how to behave. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that’s a little bit ridiculous, isn’t it? Expecting a child or teenager to learn respect from a room full of troublemakers is nothing short of absurd. And yet, that’s how it’s always been.
As a kid who was constantly sent out of the classroom for being a “disturbance” I can say firsthand I rarely spent detention “reflecting on my poor decisions”. Instead, I let my mind wander in an effort to kill time. Essentially, detention simply became a place for teachers to stick kids they didn’t feel like dealing with for one reason or another. Not a whole lot of personal development going on in those quiet rooms.
Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in Baltimore, Maryland is taking a completely different approach in how administrators deal with kids who misbehave and the results are astounding. As someone who has spoken to a shrink his fair share of times, I can only imagine how beneficial something like this is for those kids.
Instead of punishing a disruptive student with a trip to the principal’s office, children are sent to the “Mindful Moment Room” (sounds pretty nice, if you ask me). The room is full of lamps, pillows and other decorations to instill a sense of calm in the kids. Inside the room, kids participate in meditation, breathing exercises and other activities to “re-center” and settle down. That’s a drastic shift from having little Billy sit and copy the dictionary until the bell.
The meditation room isn’t the only major change Robert W. Coleman Elementary has made in regards to student behavior. For more than a decade the school has worked in cooperation with the Holistic Life Foundation, offering after school programs where kids from pre-K to fifth grade can learn to meditate, practice mindful exercises and even do yoga!
The program has apparently been incredibly beneficial for the students. The elementary school can boast that in the last two years not a single student has been suspended. In fact, the foundation’s co-founder, Andres Gonzalez, told Oprah that parents are wanting their kids to teach them about meditation.
“We’ve had parents tell us, ‘I came home the other day stressed out, and my daughter said, “Hey, Mom, you need to sit down. I need to teach you how to breathe.”‘”
The after-school program “Holistic Me,” started by the foundation over 10 years ago, provides the kids with tutors as well as opportunities to learn about the environment and to give back to the community. The kids spend time cleaning up local parks, visiting local farms, and building gardens just to name a few of the activities.
Other schools around the country are starting to implement these practices and are reporting positive results as well. Just down the road, Patterson Park High School has been using the mindfulness programs and has seen attendance increase and suspensions fall. It’s hard to argue with results like that.
Hopefully these programs become a regular thing, as people of all ages could benefit from a few minutes of mindfulness a day. Even as an adult, finding a few quiet minutes to reflect and deeply think could have a profound impact on our day-to-day lives.