Instead of letting violent students disrupt elementary classes, or calling in the cops, some schools are creating special classes that teach self-control before kids get big enough to get into serious trouble. The Boston Globe reports on a class in Lowell, Massachusetts for kindergarteners and first graders who’d attacked a teacher with scissors, threw a chair, kicked, cursed and punched.
In the Lowell program, three adults — a teacher, an aide, and a social worker — monitor the students. Each child’s desk is set more than a foot apart, and red tape on the floor marks the child’s personal space.
Like any first-graders, the students read stories, write paragraphs, and add and subtract. But they also learn how to act or speak when they are upset, instead of throwing tantrums. A weekly goal is taped to the top of each student’s desk.
When they improve, they earn points toward privileges, such as going to the gym or the art or music room, instead of having those lessons in class.
In the beginning, some students had to be restrained 16 to 17 times a day to avoid hurting themselves or others, school officials said. The adults, who are trained in nonviolent restraint tactics, subdue the children by standing behind them, folding their arms across their chests, and holding their forearms from behind, usually for a few minutes. After about 16 weeks teaching the students, the teachers rarely have to use the tactics, Dunning said.
. . . When their anger boils over, students are taken to an adjacent room, where they talk to an adult. If they do not wish to talk, they can crawl into a large box to be alone or scribble out their anger on the chalkboard. Or they go downstairs to a therapy room, where students play in the sandbox or use board games to make it easier for them to talk.
Some of the students now are able to visit regular classes; the goal is to return all to the mainstream when they’re ready.
Two-thirds of elementary schools are “starting behavior programs for elementary school pupils or looking for ways to address the problem,” June Million, spokeswoman for the National Association of Elementary School Principals, told the Globe.