First U’s theme for March is balance. Scroll down for thoughts about balance for children, from Director of Religious Education Beth Moss.

March 4

  • Regularly scheduled RE

March 11

  • Chalice lighter dedication during services
  • Regularly scheduled RE
  • OWL at First U: Sexuality, Social Media, and the Internet, Bullying and Bystander Responsibilities
  • RE Council meeting 11:15-12:00

March 18

March 25

  • Regularly scheduled RE
  • OWL at Hobart: 16 Abstinence and Lovemaking
  • Mystery Friends sign up continues – First week for exchange is April 8!

April 1

  • Class for Middle School
  • Children’s Chapel for younger kids
  • Mystery Friends sign up ends today – First week for exchange is April 8!
  • Easter Egg hunt after class

Questions? Please contact Beth Moss, our Director of Religious Education, at dre@firstuchicago.org.


On Balance

Believe it or not, balance is a pretty hot topic in schools right now. Check out the video from a school in Baltimore that has “replaced detention with meditation,” after this article. While some would argue this isn’t right for every child in every situation, this is an import step in the right direction. Why? What’s the big deal about school suspensions?

A suspension isn’t just a simple punishment. This type of discipline has far-reaching consequences, and those consequences are disproportionately applied to students of color. According The Brookings Institute, as of 2017, black students were 3-4 times more likely than their white counterparts to get suspended, which is unacceptable. While one may say, “Well, that”s not great, but still it’s only a suspension,” the problem goes deeper than just a simple day out of class.

According to Nelson and Lind, as of 2015, “those students who have been suspended are more likely to be held back a grade and drop out of school entirely.” Worse, Nelson and Lind went on to say that, “students who have been suspended or expelled are three times more likely to come into contact with the juvenile probation system the following year than one who wasn’t.”  This leads to part of what is known as “The School to Prison Pipeline.” If reading the words school and prison in the same sentence makes your heart sink a little, then you understand the importance of reducing out-of-school suspensions.

The principal of the school in Baltimore noted that after they implemented the mindfulness program, the significant number of out-of-school suspensions was reduced dramatically. The old way didn’t work: Sending kids home, away from the safest place in some kids’ lives, wasn’t the way to help them understand the consequence of their actions. Nor did the old model help the kids learn the self-regulation skills they needed to control their emotions. Rather than just telling to kids to do better, meditation and other mindfulness work can give kids the tools they need to thrive. These types of activities can help kiddos who are struggling, but they can also prepare any child for stressful situations they have yet to face as well.

Want to know about how to implement  mindfulness work with kids? Check out this article from the New York Times to get started. And here is a piece from WBEZ describing policy changes at CPS aimed toward reducing suspensions.

All best wishes.


Resources

Bloom, Deborah. 2016. Instead of detention, these students get meditation. CNN. Retrieved February, 2018: https://www.cnn.com/2016/11/04/health/meditation-in-schools-baltimore/index.html.

Gelles, David. (n.d.) Mindfulness for children. New York Times. Retrieved February, 2018: https://www.nytimes.com/guides/well/mindfulness-for-children.

Loveless, T. 2017. Racial disparities in school suspensions. Brookings Institute. Retrieved February, 2018: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2017/03/24/racial-disparities-in-school-suspensions/.

Nelson, Libby & Lind, Dara. 2015. The school to prison pipeline, explained. Justice Policy Institute. Retrieved February 24, 2018: http://www.justicepolicy.org/news/8775.