HomeRoom Out, Mindfulness In

49% of schools in our December poll of middle school principals said their schedules are changing so much so that they are starting to look more like health and wellness centers than academic institutions. Gone are the days of home rooms where Billy steals the fish from the tank and Donnie plays hangman on the chalkboard. Now, it’s mindfulness class. Fourth period study hall is out. Mental health, taught by counselors and licensed psychologists, is in. Sessions are lecture based but ‘quickly seeming more like group therapy’ says Pamela Youmans, principal for a 5th through 8th grade junior high in Tennessee. Gym, which has in recent years lost out to budget cuts, is bouncing back with structured play sports blocks that allow kids to run relays or play small games of 2 on 2 basketball. The physical and mental coursework is also forcing school boards to look at staffing, some looking at hiring trained professionals to lead these new health-like departments and many plucking staff from local psychology practices. 81% said they are likely in 2019 to find some budget to partner with a local practice to help lead these classes as well as after school programs. These are all great developments and with states, like New York, mandating some of this, policy is helping drive the trend too. I will say I miss the days when home room was a guaranteed 20 minutes of sleep before Mr. Linardo’s geometry class, but perhaps that’s the tired parent in me talking. – BC

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