Dear Kid Whisperer,
I have a corner in my 7th grade classroom where I send students who cause problems over and over. They have to stay there until I come talk to them, at which point, I find out if they can come back. They have to fill out a reflection paper that requires them to describe their feelings and a strategy they used to calm themselves down. If they fill out everything correctly and they seem calm and ready to return, I let them return. The problem is that many refuse to fill out the form, some shut down and won’t talk to me, and some won’t go at all. In short, it works great for the students who don’t need it in the first place. How do I get it to work with the students who actually need it? - Victoria, Terra Haute, Indiana
Everything you are doing here is wrong, and it isn’t your fault.
After using Mindfulness Centers in my classrooms for many years, and working with teachers and schools on how to correctly create, maintain, and use these spots in classrooms, and writing about them in my behavior management manual, I can tell you that you need to change what you are doing if you want to achieve what I think you wish to achieve.
As far as I can tell, you are trying to give your students a place to self-regulate away from the stimuli of the classroom. That’s great.
What you are accidentally doing, however, is trying to investigate how many power struggles you can create with a student who may already be trying to fulfill their control need in an unhealthy way. You are setting students up to fail by trying to take control from them just when they need it most. I write about how to do proper Mindfulness Breaks in my book, and I’ll show you an example of how to do it correctly here in your class. Notice that I give away control and build the relationship instead of hoarding the control and hurting the relationship.
Kid walks into 4th period clearly agitated about something that happened in 3rd period.
Kid Whisperer, Greeting students at the door to give all students eye contact, a smile, physical contact, and to say each student’s name, whispering: Dude. Yikes. Are you OK?
Kid: MAN! Mr. Jones is awful and he’s always messing with me!
Kid Whisperer: (still whispering) Dude. I hear you. Yeah, you should see him in staff meetings. I get it. You can go chill in Arkansas, and slowly realize that you are in my class now, and that I am awesome and nice. Sit this one out if you want to. I’m not mad at you. You’re safe here. Come back when and if you are ready, or don’t go there at all. Our class is better when you are in it. We need you when you’re ready.
Kid Whisperer then ignores Kid until he comes back, at which point he is treated as if he never left.
A Mindfulness Center is for chilling, relaxing, and coming back to the learning environment when kids are ready. It doesn’t have extra stimuli, is just a plain old chair, and it is used in tandem with Real World Workshop so kids can’t get functional avoidance of work. It lets kids know that they have a place to go to refresh their brains and come back stronger than they were before. It also lets them know that they are strong, capable, and that they can handle and regulate their own emotions!
Scott Ervin is an independent facilitator of parenting with Love and Logic and The Nine Essential Skills for the Love and Logic Classroom. He is a parent and behavioral consultant based in the Miami Valley. Online: www.ervineducationalconsulting.com.