Cheltenham High School near Philadelphia is spending over $600,000 on teaching “mindfulness” after a student brawl last year.
Keep calm and carry on brawling.
In early 2017 seven teachers and three security personnel were injured during a fracas at the school due to out-of-control students. One teacher had to go to hospital due to a concussion. Four female students were arrested after. Video taken of the fight went viral.
According to teachers, students are increasingly aggressive and disrespectful of authority. One faculty member wrote on an anonymous 16-page school-climate survey that:
“Students jostle each other, scream aggressively, and always seem to be on the verge of a fight. If teachers try to discipline them for this behavior, some students will verbally assault teachers, saying things like, ‘What are you going to do about it? You can’t do anything.’”
Another teacher wrote:
“I have been ‘banged around’ the hallway multiple times. I have been slammed against walls and lockers and had students run into me.”
Reportedly, nearly half of the Cheltenham High teachers said they did not feel safe walking in corridors between classes. The teachers also say that discipline problems have been an issue for years.
Philly.com acquired a copy of the anonymous survey, which had some shocking answers.
“The other day I was walking in the hall near café and people began running out of the café. A student proceeded to hit and punch another student right in front of me. This is not the first time this happened.”
“I have multiple confrontations with students and one, (Name redacted), threatened to fight me and call his brother to meet them outside. He was back in class by the next period. I also broke up a bad fight earlier in the year and the students involved hold it against me.”
“We are unaware if weapons exist in the school.”
“No consequences, admin is not addressing the inappropriate behaviors according to the handout (fighting, drugs, roaming halls, late to class, cutting class).”
“2 students had a physical fight in the classroom and did not face any consequences and still attended pep rally in the afternoon.”
Yet whilst the students are free to apparently riot as they please, five teachers from the school district were given a formal reprimand for the survey being circulated amongst staff regarding the violence. The local teachers union filed an unfair labor practice charge in response to this, according to Philly.com.
Luckily, however, the district has decided to tackle the issue of the unruly students by hiring three climate and culture administrators and two new mental health and wellness counselors to teach mindfulness and meditation.
Through a program called Positive Behaviour Interventions and Supports, or PBIS, Cheltenham High School launched a youth court where student judges and juries decide minor disciplinary cases; turned to peer mediation to resolve disputes or bullying between kids; and worked with teachers to promote “restorative measures” aimed at teaching students to behave better, rather than just doling out punishments.
Cindy Goldberg, a former second-grade teacher who became interested in meditation to reduce stress about a decade ago, earned a certificate in applied positive psychology – along with 26 other Cheltenham teachers – and began working earlier this year with students in the district’s four elementary schools, where she teaches six weekly lessons.
A typical freshman exercise with Cindy goes like this:
“[…] she asked the ninth graders to try keeping their mind on one thought for a minute. A few students closed their eyes, while others put their heads down. Only four or five said they were successful.”
Goldberg asked the kids to breathe through their noses and be mindful of each breath. “And just enjoy this moment. It’s one of the few times in your day someone is going to ask you to do nothing. And doing nothing is good for you.”
Feature image via The Daily Star