Located just an hour outside of the nation’s capital, Baltimore, Maryland is one of the poorest cities in the United States. However, the entire city isn’t living in squalor; there is, in fact, very noticeable wealth throughout. Yet, as one of the most segregated cities in the country as well, inequality persists in black neighborhoods located in the inner city and western suburbs.
Within this cycle of poverty are children for whom issues at home spill over into the school environment, resulting in heightened disciplinary actions and no-tolerance policies from educators and administrators alike. Such actions lead to more aggression from students as well as a sense of apathy regarding the purpose of school, since it so often fails at addressing the needs of those who need more than punishment. Hence, a few schools in Baltimore are trying something new.
One such school is the Robert W. Coleman Elementary School. A recent article from Upworthy highlighted the school’s abrogation of detention in exchange for mindful meditation. The benefits of mindfulness include focus, longer attention spans, stress reduction and, probably most helpful, the ability to truly think about one’s actions–it encourages reflection and inspires peace.
Mindfulness isn’t new, of course. The practice has been been around for thousands of years. However this particular application is novel in many respects. The inspiration (and partnership) to create a room dedicated to mindfulness, where misbehaving kids are sent instead of the principal’s office, came from the Holistic Life Foundation, which has been offering after school mindfulness and yoga programs for kids, from pre-k to 5th grade.
Robert W. Coleman Elementary School has had zero suspensions for the last two years. The school credits the program and its holistic approach with its success. While there has been no formal study on this correlation, we can look at the results from other schools in Baltimore and those developing around the country to see that such policies are impactful.
The nature of this work is remarkable and resourceful, especially as Baltimore continues to lose students and millions of dollars in funding, the latter of which creates even worse environments for students with behavioral issues. I’m not sure whether this can be applied elsewhere as easily, without the proper resources and training. But it is something worth researching further to find out how to really make a difference.