Brighten Youth Education Centre

 

 

 

Most of us are familiar with early-morning sight of groups of people gracefully practicing tai chi and qi gong. It always looks like such a good idea, and we make plans to work yoga and meditation into our weekly schedules. Few of us ever make good on these promises, and it is no coincidence that those early-morning groups are almost always comprised of older people. Why is this? Why do we reject self-care in favour of boasts about being overly busy and working very long hours? Surely we should be working self-care practices into our schedules as early as possible? Well, one school in the US is doing just that, and it’s an approach that is proving particularly helpful for trouble children.

The Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in Baltimore has started offering kids who misbehave time in the Mindful Moment Room, a lamp-lit, decorated riot of purple pillows and silence. Kids are told to sit and go through breathing or meditation exercises to help them calm down and re-centre before being encouraged to talk through their behaviour. At a recent Christmas party, children were expected to meditate before receiving their presents. The space was paid for by the Holistic Life Foundation (http://hlfinc.org/), a non-profit organisation that tries to get kids between pre-K and the fifth grade interested in mindful exercises and yoga. The organisation also aims to teach children how to be mentors, tutors and conscious of environmental issues by getting them to build gardens, clean local parks and visit farms. Youngsters are also encouraged to co-teach in the classroom and run yoga sessions. This approach to classroom management is becoming increasingly popular. The Mindful Schools Projects has similar aims in the UK (https://mindfulnessinschools.org/about/about-us/), and Mindful Schools also works in the US (http://www.mindfulschools.org/). Both organisations offer tips on their websites about organising your own mindful classroom. There are also an increasing number of books on the subject, including Marneta Viegas’ Relax Kids: Aladdin’s Magic Carpet, which blends fairy tales and meditation exercises.

While the scientific proof of the benefits of meditation remains inconclusive, the Robert W. Coleman Elementary School reported zero suspensions this year and a recent article in the Guardian citied the positive personal experience of a newly-employed primary school teacher working in a school with a poor reputation in an underprivileged area (https://www.theguardian.com/global/2016/sep/14/meditation-made-my-students-calmer-kinder-and-more-focused). The teacher in question reported that the approach was particularly successful when students were allowed to lead exercises for their friends, instilling self-confidence and focus as well as mindfulness. Even if it doesn’t change the world, what harm can there be in encouraging children to breath, calm down and visualise on a daily or weekly basis? Now if you’ll excuse me, following the lead of these mini yogis I’m off to go and spend a few minutes getting centred.

 

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