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Why #WeAchieveTogether: Wellness Rooms

October 23, 2019 - Student Success

Why #WeAchieveTogether is a weekly blog from our Achievement Schools. It highlights the outstanding work of our staff and the high quality programs that help our students succeed.

Life can sometimes be stressful for our students and that can have an impact on their success in school. This year, several of our Achievement Schools including James Elementary and Memorial Middle, have created student wellness rooms—a comfortable and safe place where students can get emotional support and work through feelings that may be getting in their way of learning.   

“When I come here at first I feel sad and mad, but when I get relaxing and I leave—I feel happy,” said Tianna, a James third grade student.

Wellness Specialist Greta Woolley launched the Wellness Room at James to give students like Tianna a calming space to identify how they’re feeling and why emotions may be impacting their behavior.

“I tell them this is a place of peace, healing and restoration,” said Woolley. “The goal of this program and this room is that it is a quick reset. You come up into the best part of your brain, so you’re ready to learn again.”

“I leave happy and ready to get back to work,” said Lamar, a James fifth grade student.

Students who have been identified based on behavioral issues spend less than 20 minutes in the Wellness Room. It’s filled with activities like art therapy, mindfulness and breathing techniques, yoga and a reading area with a rocking chair and puppets.

“We have a lot of sensory items and aromatherapy. A lot of things they can do with their hands,” Woolley said.

Tianna’s favorite way to let the stress drain out of her is to grab the kinetic sand and feel the granules run through her hands.

“This just makes you calm down, and you just play with it,” said Tianna.

Woolley says students learn to self-regulate and choose activities that are most calming to them. She helps students replace less effective behaviors with more successful strategies and tracks their progress.

“It helps me focus on class, because of the type of stuff she has to calm people down,” said Jayden, a James Elementary fifth grade student.

“They deescalate. They talk it out and do a plan with me for some strategies, and then we talk about how can you have that successful re-entry back into the classroom,” Woolley said.

Woolley believes teaching students about social emotional learning and managing behaviors will translate into success in the classroom for students.

“If I am able to work out this interpersonal stuff, express what I need, reduce the number of incidences, so I have more time learning—that’s going to start to have a really positive impact on my school grade,” said Woolley.

“This is the BEST room I ever saw,” said Tianna.

Student Success Coach Kimberland Jackson also created a Wellness Room at Memorial Middle School. Teachers can refer students to the Wellness Room, students can request a visit or school leaders may identify a need based on a student’s behavior.

“We noticed that we have a lot of kids who are dealing with a lot of trauma, and sometimes they don’t know how to deescalate,” said Jackson. “We set up this room to help them bring themselves back down to balance, so they’re able to continue with the rest of their day.”

“I was just worried about my mom. She had something wrong with her heart, so I come here sometimes to help get relief. It helps,” said Jorge, a Memorial Middle eighth grade student.

The dimly lit room has flexible seating where students can relax for 10 to 15 minutes in a bean bag or chair, even sprawl out on the floor.

“We have books for them to read. We also have a coloring book. We have Mind Yeti that we use, which is an online program for mindfulness,” said Jackson.

The Mind Yeti audio track eases students’ anxiety by focusing on coping techniques and practicing gratitude, empathy for others and kindness toward themselves.

“If I’m mad I come in here or I just need to calm down from people,” said Mesralia, a Memorial Middle eighth grade student.

“Usually, students are coming in frustrated. They may not know how to communicate that. It looks like anger, it may look like screaming, it may look like crying. Ultimately, once they go through the mindfulness program, they’re able to walk out and usually I say, ‘How did that feel?’” Jackson says students typically respond with a sign of relief and exclaim, “I needed that!”

Schools know it’s not just students who can feel stressed and need a calming space—James and Memorial also set up Wellness Rooms for staff.

This is Why #WeAchieveTogether.

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