Helping Kids Transform by Turning ISS into Mindful Meditation

This past week I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about ways that kids could really benefit from things changing in their schools—for example, how they’d do without homework completely or if they were to get more free time outside instead of being cooped up all day in a classroom. Yet, what I wound up thinking about the most was about what happens when kids get in trouble and have to go to detention or in-school suspension (ISS).

Well, what does happen? Let’s break it down: 1) Kid gets in trouble for (let’s say) getting angry at their teacher and then won’t do their work; 2) Teacher tries to talk to said child but sometimes these things don’t work and thus the teacher is left to threaten the kid with ISS; 3) Kid gets even more upset and throws a tantrum and an administrator then has to be called to escort the child to ISS; 4) Child sits in ISS for the rest of the day with limited social interaction and does their class work.

And that’s essentially it. So what’s the problem here? Well, for me the problem is that we’re not even addressing the issue that put them there in the first place. Not only that, but after school the child goes home and is probably still angry about it (cause kids can hold some serious grudges guys) and then takes all that pent up anger and emotion back home with them where they probably let it out on their parents or siblings or whomever takes care of them. That then causes a problem at home.

And that’s a problem for me. At some point I feel like we have to step back for a minute and think could we have done something different at some point to prevent this string of things from happening? I honestly think so, and that’s why today I’m going to be an advocate for making ISS a thing of the past and instead replacing it with mindful meditation.


Photo cred.:

I’m sure last year you saw a few stories come about on Facebook and Twitter that talked about how some schools are indeed taking detention or ISS and turning that into meditative practices. And hey, it’s been working. So why not employ this in every school? It’s been scientifically proven that meditation can help ease psychological stressors such as depression, anxiety, and pain in adults, and while they’re still in the early stages of studying meditation’s effects on children, it looks to me like it’s working just the same for them, too.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at a story CNN did last year featuring the Robert W. Coleman Elementary School’s meditation room in Baltimore, Maryland.


Video courtesy of CNN

Now, I honestly feel like these kids are actually getting the opportunity to sit down, calm themselves to a rational point, and think about whether their choice was a wise one or not. In ISS, you don’t really get that chance.

My mom, Lori, is a principal at an elementary school in Salisbury, North Carolina, and she, too, wants to implement mindful meditation in her school instead of sending her kids to ISS. Her problem with ISS currently is that “it doesn’t solve the problem, it just removes them from the situation.” Which is absolutely true. Kids who go to ISS don’t get a chance to take a step back and think about things. All that happens is they get put in a room that they know is used for punishment and I think that just makes things worse.

“The whole idea of mindfulness in meditation and yoga is that it calms you and when you’re clear headed it’s easier to make good decisions,” Lori says. “I think that we make bad decisions in the heat of the moment and unfortunately our students don’t know how to escape their anger.”


Photo cred: Mark Mahaney,

My mom really wants her kids to understand that while everyone makes bad choices, we need to reflect on those choices to make better ones in the future, and a child just can’t do that when they’re simply thrown into ISS and not given the time or means to think about things calmly.

“They need a strategy, whether it’s their emotions or anger, they need a strategy to calm down instead of just react to something,” my mom tells me. And that strategy would be to give them a space to do some mindful meditation where they can calm down and potentially even go back to class to finish out their day instead of being locked in ISS for the rest of the school day.

I then decided to ask my mom whether she would consider this to be a part of transformative education—she’s a huge proponent for it and would love to be able to truly implement it in her school. “I think that it can be when used correctly,” she tells me.

I wasn’t quite sure what she meant so I asked her to elaborate for me: “Number one, it has to be more than one person in a room doing it. Teachers have to remind students about taking a breath before getting angry. Teaches also have to remember not to just get angry [themselves] and use the mindfulness as well. It has to be a school-wide thing, not just dependent on the teacher or person in the meditation room.”

And I absolutely agree with that. It’s a community effort, just like everything else in transformative education, and while it might take some time for kids to adjust to, I think it’s a worthwhile investment for them and for staff. So, here’s my question for you: what do you think about replacing ISS with mindful meditation? I’d love to hear your comments so please go ahead and message me. If I want to do anything with this blog it’s to get a conversation going about what does and doesn’t work in schools right now.

So go ahead and write me a message. I’d love to hear your thoughts, but I’d love even more to know you want to engage in conversation that can potentially help transform education for the better. Their future is in our hands, and I think we should really start to talk about what that means.



One thought on “Helping Kids Transform by Turning ISS into Mindful Meditation

  1. I am a huge advocate for mindfulness in all aspects of life! If mindful meditation were to be implemented in all the schools, I believe not only would it resolve the current issue the children face at the moment, but it would help provide the children with valuable tools to minimize issues in their other aspects of their lives and as they get older.
    Also, I firmly agree with you and your mom on the point of it needing to be a school wide effort and not solely reserved for the meditation room. The reflect moments and the breathing techniques will help everyone figure out how to interact better with each other and, when disagreements do arise, they will be better equipped to respond appropriately. Most times all it takes is a few seconds of silence and reflection before responding to prevent regret.

    Liked by 1 person

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