Back when I was at school (in the “olden days”, as my kids would say), if you did something wrong, you got detention. I may have had a few myself – all misunderstandings, of course. They generally involved either sitting in a classroom staring at the walls or, if we were lucky, walking around the school picking up rubbish. I didn’t really learn anything from detention, and they sure didn’t stop me from doing the same stupid stuff over and over again.
But Robert W Coleman Elementary School in Baltimore, USA is trying something different. It’s replacing detention with meditation. Children who are being disruptive are sent to the Mindful Meditation Room, where they are encouraged to go through breathing exercises or meditation, which help them to calm down. They are also encouraged to talk through what happened and why they did what they did.
Rather than looking like a regular classroom, the Mindful Meditation Room is filled with lamps, decorations and plush purple pillows. The entire atmosphere is designed to help kids re-centre and relax.
And the results speak for themselves. Robert W Coleman Elementary School has had no suspensions last year or this year, since the program started.
But this success isn’t just limited to one school. Schools all over the world are starting to latch on to the calming benefits of mindfulness. In the UK, the Mindfulness in Schools Project is teaching adults how to set up similar programs at their schools. And here in Australia, my children’s primary school in Brisbane has recently introduced a Smiling Mind program, which they practise at school. They’re also encouraged to choose mindful activities they like to practise at home.
As this mindful practice spreads, we are sure to see a new generation of children comfortable in their own skin, mindful about their actions, and more thoughtful in their interactions with one another.