Thursday, October 20, 2016

Detention Vs. Meditation: And The Winner Is…

[Alternative Daily] In many schools across America, detention is the go-to punishment when a student misbehaves. The offending child is often told to go to the principal’s office, where a form of detention is assigned. For minor offenses, it is often lunch detention. For more serious, or pattern misbehavior, after-school detention is likely the verdict. 
Of course, school systems vary greatly, but the concept of detention for in-school punishment is widespread. Kids are often told to sit quietly and do their homework. They are not allowed to talk. They can’t do any “fun activities” so that they will feel the weight of their punishment. However, is this method of discipline effective?
Whether or not detention is effective may depend entirely on how instructors and principals handle it. As Teresa Gemellaro, a teacher in Queensland, Australia, wrote for Quora:
“A detention where a teacher has a restorative conversation with a student about how things can be improved can be very effective.”
This makes sense. If teachers and principals take the time to talk to students about why they acted out and get to the root of the problem, they can discover constructive solutions. Maybe the student is having trouble at home, or trouble with peers. Maybe the course material is difficult for the student to understand, and this is leading to aggression or distracted behavior.
Having an open dialogue with a student when they misbehave can bring these sorts of issues to the surface. It allows teachers, principals, students and parents to work on improving them together. If root causes are addressed, the “problematic” symptoms of student misbehavior may be positively resolved.
In many cases, however, detention is not a place where open dialogue between students and teachers is created. Many schools simply have students sit quietly as punishment, and this may be largely ineffective for many students. As Gemellaro points out:
“A detention where the teacher makes the child write out lines, or some other activity that has no bearing on the problem and does not cause the student to reflect on the effect of their behavior is much less likely to be effective. It will work for some students, simply because they do not want to waste time on similar detentions in the future. However, in terms of increasing the maturity of the student to reflect on their own behavior, and make better choices as a result of good decision making, it is not so effective.”
As an alternative to standard detention, Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in Baltimore, Maryland is trying something revolutionary: sending kids to a meditation room. If a student acts out in class, the teacher directs them to the “Mindful Moment Room” instead of handing them a detention slip.
The Mindful Moment Room is adorned with zen decorations and comfy pillows. There, teachers guide students in breathing exercises and mindfulness. This allows them to calm down and get their feelings into perspective. Additionally, instructors encourage students to talk through the situation that occurred, and get to the root of why they acted the way they did.
The Mindful Moment Room was put into place with the help of the nonprofit organization Holistic Life Foundation and it has been a great success. According to Kirk Philips, Robert W. Coleman Elementary School’s Holistic Me coordinator, the school had no suspensions last year — and none this year so far either. At a nearby high school which has a similar mindfulness program, attendance rates are up and suspension rates are down. Read More