On Consequences, SEL & Mindfulness

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Logical Consequences: Can consequences and #EverydaySEL coexist? That’s the big question asked in the September 2018 issue of ED Leadership…and the answer is YES! Author Mike Anderson, reminds us that although “3-strike” or “zero tolerance” policies are comforting and appear to offer quick & easy solutions, they don’t actually change behavior in the long-term. However, if we take the “middle ground” and ensure more nuanced consequences, our classrooms “feel safe, orderly, & predictable.” Students will learn that “mistakes, both academic and behavioral, are part of the learning process, and that their teacher is there to support them.” Therefore, Anderson states that effective consequences must be:

  1. Related to the behavior
  2. Respectful of the student
  3. Reasonable for the STUDENT to carry out
  4. Revealed in advance (when possible)

Punishment VS Consequences: During our fall PD on #EverydaySEL, we learned how trauma affects the brain and causes the amygdala to overpower reasoning. Participating in mindfulness helps us to pause and apply strategies before the amygdala goes into overdrive. The goal is to calm our bodies and minds, allowing us to react in a manner that is both appropriate & productive.

Just as this is essential to our student’s social-emotional growth, it is equally important for us as teachers when administering consequences…after all, we are human too, and when we become frustrated with student misbehavior OUR amygdala will want to flex its muscles. If we let this happen, we run the risk of reacting with emotion (seeking punishment) rather than with reason and logic (seeking a consequence).

Take a moment to read the graphic below and reflect on a time you might have inadvertently provided a punishment rather than a consequence. Consider how the situation could have played out differently if you took a moment to pause before you reacted…

POV1

Practice & Pause: Whenever student misbehavior is discussed, the conversation quickly turns to a school’s “code of conduct” and the consequences that are included within. While this is an essential piece to promoting consistency for our students and families, we can only expect consequences to help us manage student behavior in the short-term & assist us in putting out “little fires” as they pop-up. However, one simple fact remains: consequences will not teach students the skills and strategies that they need to change their behavior…and this where our #EverydaySEL strategies come in!

In reviewing student misbehavior through our ODR (Office Discipline Referral) process, we find that outbursts fall into two categories: 1) the student responded to a stimulus inappropriately, or 2) the student just exploded “out of nowhere.” In both cases, the student is actually responding to a powerful stimulus (one external, one internal), putting the amygdala in charge. Practicing SEL & mindfulness regularly (when the conditions are right), will allow students to build their capacity to tap into these skills when they are upset and allow them to respond appropriately rather than simply reacting.

Take a moment to review the graphic below and reflect on any proactive behavior management strategies you utilize throughout the school day. How/when are you infusing mindfulness into these routines? How is this impacting engagement and student behavior? After all, taking a moment to breathe is much better than taking several moments (or more, in most cases) when a student enters fight or flight mode.

POV2

 

 

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