Early education in high-risk urban areas is a complex and seemingly overwhelming challenge. Often dubbed the “school to prison pipeline,” kids in troubled classrooms with negative peer influences and little family support too often end up incarcerated or repeating the cycle of poverty. Despite committed teachers and administrators, these problems are expansive with far too few resources to combat the challenges.
Typically, when young kids get in trouble, they are sent to detention where they become isolated as their anger festers. Being labeled a troublemaker and punished for their actions, they internalize a painful message: “you are a bad kid, can’t be trusted, and must be punished.” These early experiences shape young minds, which can quickly spiral down a path of lawless behavior, disengagement, and deeply negative outcomes.
Yet one school in Baltimore has taken an innovative approach to breaking the cycle. Instead of sending kids to a bare room that resembles a holding cell, they’re sent to learn yoga and meditation. The innovative leaders at Fort Worth Elementary are replacing demoralizing punishment with coping skills, trying to lift kids up though education and empowerment. A professional yogi, Ramone Brown, was hired to lead the program and help elevate the students’ young minds.
“I think it’s created this overall sense of collective here in the school and unity,” said Brown in an interview for Internet media site NowThis. “When something happens, there’s been harm in the village, right, and instead of tearing that child down and you know, isolating a child and excluding that child, you’re bringing a child back in to let them know that they are loved and they are safe, that they made a mistake, and that they are able to fix it.”
Kids now learn vital skills for coping, conflict resolution, and self-control rather than experiencing the equivalent of elementary school prison. This innovative approach to solving a difficult problem is already paying big dividends, with repeat offenses dropping dramatically and a new sense of peace ensconcing this urban school.
We all face difficult challenges in our careers, companies, and communities. Instead of gravitating toward typical solutions, let’s follow the lead of this innovative Baltimore school and explore unorthodox, non-traditional solutions. Instead of complying with the past, we must invent a better future. We must look for fresh, new approaches if we really want to drive progress and improve conditions in our lives and businesses.
The folks at Forth Worth Elementary were able to pursue an innovative solution with extremely limited resources in a complex and difficult urban environment. Think what you can do with the resources at your disposal.
There are limitless approaches to solving difficult problems. It is time to push the boundaries and discover bold, new paths forward if we want to effectuate change, enjoy sustainable success, and yes… change the world for the better.