Meditation Instead of Detention

by Meghan O.

In our normal school system, when a student misbehaves, they are usually sent directly to detention. Typically, this means sitting in a classroom and watching the clock tick by as frustration continues to build. In detention, you are told to think about what you have done or even worse, do school work and not think about what you have done. In this type of strict environment, there is no attempt for any kind of dialogue about the behaviours that led to detention. It is these students that repeatedly return to detention. With no effort to talk about negative behaviours and its implications, there will be no growth or learning for these students in detention. It is nearly impossible under these circumstances. These students need to understand the implications that their behavior have on their own lives and the lives of others. Acting out in school may be a cry for help for many students. It is important that schools recognize that behaviors need to be well understood so change can occur. Insanity has been described as doing the same things over and over again while expecting different results. If schools are finding the same students back in detention, new ways of dealing with behaviour problems need to be tried.

An elementary school in Baltimore has recently decided to make a change with respect to the way behavior is corrected in school. With help from the Holistic Life Foundation, this school has created a “Mindful Moment Room”. The coordinators of this foundation created this room as a place where misbehaving students are encouraged to go and learn how to deal with stress and anger through the practice of mindfulness. They provide instructions on how to practice breathing and meditation to help calm down and create understanding. Another aspect of this room’s structure is to ask students to talk through why they felt they needed to practice mindfulness. When I first came across this idea, I thought that there was no way that young children would be able to sit still and actually practice mindfulness. The Holistic Life Foundation says, ” You wouldn’t think that little kids would meditate in silence but they do.” The results seem to back up the perceived success of this project. This elementary school has not had a suspension since 2015. They have also received positive feedback from their students. Students say now instead of getting angry with someone, they remember to breath instead. There is much research that suggests positive impacts from students practicing mindfulness which include strengthened attention and concentration abilities, reducing anxiety about tests and improving classroom participation (Schoeberlein & Sheth, 2009).

So, whether or not you are in agreement that detention is serving a purpose, mindfulness definitely has a place in schools. It is an amazing idea to have a mindfulness practice take the place of detention. I strongly believe that all students could benefit from being more mindful as there are many long-term benefits that come from practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is a life long skill which requires much practice. I cannot think of a better place to start this practice than in school.

References:

“Mindful Moment Program.” Holistic Life Foundation. N.p., 2016. Web. 5 Nov. 2016.

Rutherford-Morrison, L. (2016). This School Replaced Detention with Meditiation and Hasn’t Had One Suspension Since.” Bu, N. p., 26, Sept. 2016. Web. 5 Nov. 2016.

Schoeberlein, D, & Sheth, S. (2009). Mindful teaching and teaching mindfulness: A guide for anyone who teaches anything. somerville: Wisdom Publication.

 

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8 Responses to Meditation Instead of Detention

  1. Darrion S says:

    Great article! I fully support the idea to revolutionize a more constructive use of disciplinary actions in school. Detention is a time where students are forced to be silent and unproductive for their behaviour, typically time in detention does not even allow for adolescents to be constructive by studying or doing their homework. Therefore, the practice of forcing students into silence gives them no voice or tools for growth. Typically, the students placed in detention are those of which are classified to be in the lower socioeconomic status, or may exhibit untreated mental health issues. These are the students who need to be listened to and given opportunity rather than forced into an unforgiving environment within their school, during hours of their free time. Meditation has been proven to lower anxiety and improve emotional wellness at all ages.
    Speaking from personal experience, I would not say that detention has ever had a significant impact on how I perceived my actions or changed my behaviour. I was not a student who was frequently found in detention but I whole heartedly believe that if I had learned what mindfulness was at a young age rather than as an adult I would have benefited majorly from it. When I was a child sometimes I would not have a quiet, peaceful place to come home to; if we understand that a child’s behaviour can be the result of unseen circumstances, I believe that it would be beneficial to teach mindfulness practices to children as a coping tool. As an adult I have taken up yoga and mindfulness exercises, they have been very constructive in dealing with anxiety and the stressors of everyday life.

  2. rachben1 says:

    I strongly agree with everything said in your blog post. I am taking a Mindfulness course right now and I wish I had have started this practice when I was much younger. Mindfulness is a difficult skill to learn and takes a lot of practice. Teaching kids this practice in early stages of development will likely help them establish positive coping mechanisms for any problems or stressors that arise throughout their lifetime.

    I agree that kids constantly receiving detentions are likely dealing with mental health issues or other family/friend related problems and that detention is the “cry for help.” Detentions offer no benefit for youth development. Sitting in a classroom staring at homework in silence is not teaching kids any beneficial behaviours. It is of no surprise that schools constantly see the same kids getting detentions and suspensions. I think that teaching kids the positive benefits of talking through challenges and their reasons for certain behaviours is a great idea. A mindful technique that I have learned is called “STOP” and involves stopping, taking a few deep breaths, observing and proceeding. This would be a great practice for kids to use before acting out in negative ways. Kids adapt habits of reacting immediately when a problem arises or something is making them upset/angry. The breath is a key tool to help calm the mind and help make reasonable and appropriate decisions before acting. I really hope to see more schools start to offer meditation practices rather than detentions. This approach will help schools develop successful youth who can cope and deal with issues appropriately and confidently.

    Rachel Bennett

  3. nicolaunb says:

    Awesome post Meg!!!

    This was so interesting to read and I would have never thought of this idea of meditation among youth! I completely agree with your statement regarding the negative connotations of detention; “in this type of strict environment, there is no attempt for any kind of dialogue about the behaviours that led to detention.” To me, detention was always seen as a place for all of the “bad kids” to meet up and be supervised in silence for an hour while they wait to leave. This does not help teach kids the wrong they did or teach them any lesson on how to behave otherwise. Growing up, kids who were put in detention were one’s who have had a history of being there. School systems should have realized it was time for a change as no improvements to these children’s actions were being made.

    When I first read the idea of meditation instead of detention, as Meghan did, I thought it wouldn’t be very useful for children as they wouldn’t be able to sit still or understand the meaning of it. As Meghan explained the positive outcomes it has for youth, I understand that this type of “punishment” is way more beneficial as it teaches youth to control their emotions and resist lashing out. To this day, I use meditation to calm myself down when my emotions are uncontrolled and I find it improves my overall mood. I believe this would be a healthy introduction to school systems as well as day care centres or youth centres to introduce the breathing technique early. I believe organizations should use this technique for children that are in need of “naps,” also known as rest time for children that need to rebuild their energy in a peaceful setting. This will improve their mood, refocus them helping them gain healthy energy, and give them time to clear their mind.

    Overall, very interesting post Meghan; it is a great idea to resist the negative connotations that are associated with detention.

    Nicola S.

  4. jwaye1 says:

    Great Post Meghan!

    I completely agree with the new approach to detention. Mindfulness is a great practice and encouraging youth to practice meditation instead of sitting blankly in detention definitely has its benefits. Just like you Meghan when I first came across the idea of practicing mindfulness meditation instead of detention in schools I didn’t know how the kids would react and if they’d be able to stay still. With my experience with they have so much energy so engaging their energy into something positive like mindfulness will have so many great benefits. For many students that are spending time in detention they are forced to sit in silence and think about what they have done, this has no benefits because for the most part it’s the same people getting detention. Personally, I’ve always had negative views on detention. I was never one a student that spent their noon hours or afternoons in detention. I’ve always seen these students in detention as a the “bad kids” and this is where they spent their time. The whole phenomenon of detention is negative but if every school system made the change to mindfulness detention instead of regular detention just like you said Meghan there will be less suspensions and detentions happening also it might create more of a positive environment of detention. Mindfulness is a great method that these kids can escape from their busy lives and just stop and breath.

    Jessica W.

  5. akenny1 says:

    Awesome job Meg!

    I love the idea of changing detention to a meditation experience. Personally, I have never got a detention but from what I remember from grade school, it was always the same individuals that were finding themselves in detention. Normally, my classmates that were constantly in detention came from troubling backgrounds or households. It was obvious that these students weren’t getting the proper attention at home that they needed and as a result acted out at school. I remember having a classmate that I would only ever see at the beginning of the school year because by second week of school, he would have already landed himself in detention after some kind of stunt he would pull. I remember one day in class he threw a french dictionary at our homeroom teacher because she asked our class to take our books out and read. I know this individual came from a troubled home and maybe didn’t the proper resources to deal with his anger. I definitely think he could have benefited from meditation. From practicing meditation, he could have learned ways to appropriately deal with his anger management, which he obviously had a problem with. I hope in the future, more schools adopt this philosophy in effort to help particular individuals such as the student in my class.

    Amanda K

  6. sportandrecenthusiast says:

    Good post, Meghan!

    I strongly agree with your last point that school is a good forum to promote the practice of mindfulness. A school setting would provide the largest target audience of youth, because attending school is mandatory. Also, many positive benefits of practicing mindfulness are linked with increased academic performance, such as increased attention span and ability to focus. In the class I am taking “Coaching Healthy Behaviours”, we watched a TED talk presentation on mindfulness training. This presentation focused on a study done on fourth grade students, in a low-income school, mindfulness training increased emotional regulation, pro-social behavior and academic achievement. In this presentation, it was also noted that the number one predictor of dropping out of school was behavioral issues.

    Although the benefits found above were within a school environment, the benefits of mindfulness training can translate to many situations, such as within a job setting. Self-care and the ability to cope with stress is often neglected and not taught in school or in job training. However, managing stress properly is an essential part of being successful both academically and within your career.

    Given the increasing amounts of research and positive findings related to mindfulness training, it makes you wonder why it isn’t part of the current school curriculum. Hopefully schools in New Brunswick with pick up on it soon; I wish I would have learned about mindfulness training sooner!

    Megan C.

  7. Alex Watts says:

    I saw this article the other day but I did not have the time to read it! I thought it was a very interesting idea, also great post. This idea could have definitely come in handy for myself when I was coming up through the ranks of grade school. I was not the most troublesome student, however I certainly had my moments. We currently practice mindfulness at the beginning of all of my Ethics classes, which is the first class i’ve ever had that actively attempts to get students thinking about mindfulness. I will admit I was also skeptical with respect to how the youth would respond to practicing mindfulness, however I am pleasantly surprised with this school’s success in implementing this program. I think that if I was successful in completing my B.Ed. next year and started teaching, I would like to somehow implement mindfulness in my classroom. I think the earlier that we can get youth to “take a deep breath” and relax for a moment, our entire society will reap the benefits.

    Alex W.

  8. dpelkey1 says:

    Solid post Meg! I think this is a great idea and that more schools should try incorporating this. From my experience, especially in middle school, it was always the same children going to detention time and time again. In our detentions in middle school all you were supposed to do was sit and be quiet, a lot of the time copying out a sentence over and over again. for instance, “i will not skip school again” or something like that. Im currently in mindfulness class and i have noticed that the practice itself has made it so much easier for me to calm myself down, be less anxious, and be less aggressive. If these children were taught how to take a deep breathe, and relax for a moment, it might help them not do the things that make them end up in detention in the first place.

    Dexter P.

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