Since the program started, not a single student has been suspended.
As a conventional method of punishment, most students are sent to detention, subjected to undesirable after-school activities, or even suspended when they do something wrong. That’s how a Baltimore elementary school, Robert W. Coleman, used to do things before they discovered a new, healthier way to approach “discipline.”
Partnering with the Holistic Life Foundation, the school now employs the Mindful Moment program to instead teach kids to wind down, reflect, and breathe in tough situations. When students are misbehaving, they send them to the Mindful Moment room for “individual assistance with emotional self-regulation.”
The room is equipped with staff that has the necessary training to help students with anxiety, stress, headaches, and more issues that can cause them to act up or feel the need to stop by the room on their own time. For students that are referred there by teachers, the specialists spend 5 minutes in targeted discussion with them and then 15 minutes doing appropriate mindful exercises to help them; this can range from breathing exercises to simple yoga.
In this troubled neighborhood, the mindful moments help them to not only decompress but to also overcome the trauma they might have faced that’s causing them to act out. Ali Smith, one of the masterminds behind the program, said,
“They see people get murdered, they see violence, they see all types of things and it is all kind of building up inside them never actually had a way to kind of be aware of it and release it, so we are kind of giving them the tools to be aware of it and let it go.”
What’s amazing about the program is that it’s not only helping the students at school but in their home life as well. Many of the children are bringing back what they’re learning by telling their own stressed-out parents to breathe as a way to alleviate their tension.
Since the Mindful Moment room’s inception last year, not a single student has been suspended, proving that the program really works to motivate students to pause before making a bad decision. Rather than stewing in their own anger or stress in detention, the students are gently pushed to deal with the underlying cause of their behavior and instead turn it into something positive.
In addition to the special room for students in need of assistance, the school also plays a Mindful Moment audio file over the loudspeaker every morning and afternoon to start their day off right and send them off calmly. The 15-minute exercise in breathing, meditation, and focus helps the children to recalibrate.
Studies show that meditation can relieve pain, enhance creativity, relieve stress and boost immune systems. Regular practice can increase left frontal activity in the brain, which is associated with positive mood, and decrease activity in the amygdala, the area related to stress and anxiety.
This practice at the Baltimore elementary school, and other schools employing the program, is groundbreaking and proving to be very effective. More schools should consider an alternative approach similar to this to promote positivity rather than strict punishment, especially in areas that are high in crime.
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