A Maryland school made headlines in 2016 when administrators replaced detention for unruly students with meditation. The results were remarkable. Outward aggression was quickly transformed into peaceful self-reflection.
As an alternative to traditional detention – basically, jail for kids and the teachers who have to monitor them – Robert W. Coleman Elementary School set up a special place for disruptive misbehaviors called the Mindful Moment Room.
In traditional detention, upstart pupils are instructed only to do their homework assignments and left on their own while their “guard” grades papers or catches up on administrative paperwork. Young minds wander fruitlessly, without direction, and learn only boredom and resentment.
Not so at Bob Coleman Elementary. The Mindful Moment Room is decorated with bright colors, plush pillows, mandalas, and bright purple yoga mats. Essential oils scent the air. Misbehaving students are encouraged to sit in the room, yoga-style with crossed legs, and taught calming techniques such as focusing on breathing and meditation.
The kids catch on quickly and chill out fast. They completely regain their composure before returning to class – avoiding a side trip to the principal’s office.
Trained staff members teach meditative breathing and lead students through yoga poses which strengthen and tone the body while destressing the chattering “monkey mind” that can lead to heated exchanges.
I’ve written many times before about the extraordinary benefits of mindful meditation and walked my Dear Readers through the simple steps to inner peace. Many educators are now embracing this ancient way to redirect the destructive energy of a child into a helpful force:
“Experimental programs around the world are showing that meditation may help troubled students who act out disruptively to resolve their inner turmoil. Teaching our youngsters how to meditate in school is very effective in reducing violence.”
One little boy who pushed and name-called another student who had made fun of him described his experience in the Mindful Moment Room:
“I did some deep breathing, had a little snack, and I got myself together. Then I apologized to my class.”
How cool is that??
A young girl taught the others how to breathe in slowly with closed eyes, hold the breath, and breathe out fully and completely. Her face beamed serenity. Afterward, she said:
“I just start to feel really happy because I got that meditation.”
Dacari Crawford, aged 9, gave his approval to the school’s new approach to resolving conflict between peers:
“When I get mad at something or somebody, I just take some deep breaths, keep doing my work and tune everyone out. It gives you good confidence when you need to do something important.”
The Baltimore administrators don’t punish the good kids by holding out on learning self-control through introspection. Nor do they wait for undesirable behavior to crop up. Students begin each school day with 15 minutes of guided meditation and stretching in the gymnasium.
Principal Carlillian Thompson remarked:
“The students having an opportunity to meditate. It deals with them looking inside of themselves – taking energy that’s negative and refocusing it into something that’s very positive.”
Jamar Peete is an instructor from the Holistic Life Foundation, a social services nonprofit based in Baltimore, who teaches students at Robert W. Coleman Elementary School. According to him, self-discipline is the best kind:
“So, rather than get suspended or sent to the principal’s office for a referral, they [disruptive students] are sent to us where we can help them self-regulate themselves.”
Other schools have partnered with the Holistic Life Foundation. A 10th-grade student at Baltimore’s Patterson High School explained how the program helped her adopt a more mature and philosophical attitude in tough social situations:
“The program helped me get over what people were saying about me and just…move on.”
Each student is paired with a Mindfulness Instructor. After five minutes of targeted discussion with active listening, the two practice 15 minutes of self-awareness. The goal is to defuse the student and de-escalate their emotions.
Patterson High School Principal Vance Benton gave his nod to the new behavioral solution:
“The mindful moment program has had a very positive effect on Patterson High School. Students are conscious of the need and are open to the Mindful Moment practice.”
Meanwhile, over at Robert W. Coleman Elementary School, there have been no student suspensions since their program started four years ago.