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Students regain calm in Willson meditation room (VIDEO)




For Shaunangelo, a third-grader at Willson School, concentrating on class work can sometimes be hard. His mind wanders. On this day, he is angry because his football team lost its game the day before.  

"We lost because none of us were really trying,” he said.  

But instead of getting in trouble for not doing his work, Shaunangelo has a place he can go to regroup.  The meditation room at Willson is a quiet and safe space where students can go to deal with their emotions.   

This is the brainchild of physical education teacher John Dorotics.  He says instead of removing students from class for up to a full day, causing them to miss vital instruction time, the school lets students come to the meditation center to regroup.  

“We were finding that a lot of the kids couldn't handle different stressful situations,” said Dorotics. “For example, when their work wasn't perfect, when they were told not to do something, rather than handling that in a constructive way, they were having emotional reactions. So, we were looking at different ways that we could service our children in a more positive fashion.” 

The room has several different stations from yoga to mindful meditation. There is always soft music playing, and the lights are covered with colored paper to darken the room. It is all to set a calming mood.  

Shaunangelo feels more relaxed when he comes to the room. “It feels like the more I breathe in, the more my body calms down,” he said.

Dorotics says rethinking how teachers handle children and their emotions has really reshaped the mindset around discipline.  

Rochelle Hester, a planning center instructional aide says she has seen an immediate difference.  

"When children come, they are angry.” she said. “Before, that meant they were going to spend either half a day or a whole day in the planning center. So, the teachers are really now on board.  A child is only in here for five or 10 minutes, so it's making a difference.” 

The meditation room is just one way the school is trying to make a difference in the lives of the children, their parents caregivers and the community.  

Principal Dawn Hayden says the school has a washer and dryer donated by Basheer Jones, Cleveland City Council member for Ward 7. The school also has a "care closet" full of toiletries and clothes, a food pantry and a fitness center that are available to the community and students.  

“We are a part of the community and we want to be of service as best we can,” said Hayden.  “We're not just here to take care of your children. We're also here to take care of what's going on, because you matter to us as well. Everyone matters because this is our community.” 

Hayden says she is starting to see results. Willson’s grade improved from a F to a D on its new State Report Card. She believes it is due to the fact students' and their families’ basic needs are being met.  

Back in the meditation room, Shaunangelo stays for only 10 minutes and then is back in class ready to take on the rest of his day.  

"I am going to do my class work and go to lunch, he said.   

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