As a kid, I was no stranger to detention. It's not that I was bad. I was just…energetic. Detention was designed for you to take all of that energy, squish it up into a tiny little ball, and repress it so far down inside that it later manifests as a seemingly rootless resentment and bad case of ulcerative colitis.
The preferred method of public school punishment dictates that you sit still in a room without stimuli, staring at the clock, and presumably thinking about what you've done wrong (but more likely thinking up a good explanation for why you were late coming home that day).
A little advice from experience: Don't tell your parents you're involved in some made up extra-curricular activity. It's a lot of work keeping up that lie for a whole school year. I convinced my parents that I was on the swim team but, of course, then I had to come home in goggles and speedos every day just to sell the whole thing. Not worth it.
The point is, detention is a tremendous waste of time and not all that powerful a deterrent for repeat offenders. But what if detention wasn't a complete waste of time?
This novel question drives an innovative program at the Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in Baltimore. In partnership with a nonprofit group called Holistic Life Foundation, Coleman Elementary has replaced detention with meditation.
According to CNN, “Students who are disruptive in class are sent to the Mindful Moment Room by their teachers. There, foundation staff members encourage them to talk about what led to their dismissal from class, and then they sit down for some breathing exercises. They're instructed to close their eyes and inhale and exhale deeply.”
Teachers have reported tremendous results from this program, observing that students return from meditation to class in a calmer, more reflective and generally more zen state of mind. The innovative disciplinary approach is yielding particularly compelling results among students from disadvantaged backgrounds, providing young learners with strategies for coping with the challenges that surround them, both in school and in life.