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Mindfulness Room Creates Safe Space for Students at Hoech Middle

SEL students at Hoech Middle play games with each other.

Jan. 31, 2023 - Comfort, safety, and resolution. These are the three areas of focus for students who utilize the Mindfulness Room at Hoech Middle School. Located in the Ritenour School District, the room was created during the 2022-23 school year to expand support for social-emotional learning (SEL). It’s a space for students to address and overcome any challenges they may be experiencing. 

“SEL is a life-long process of getting to know ourselves, learning to manage our thoughts and behaviors, and growing the skills necessary for developing successful relationships with others,” said Melanie Ziebatree, social-emotional behavioral effective specialist (SEB EPS). “Hoech is doing great work in supporting SEL. The Mindfulness Room allows all students an opportunity to reset, use regulating tools and strategies, and talk to a caring adult outside of the classroom before returning, without penalty, to academic tasks in class.”

Some classrooms have visits to the Mindfulness Room built into their schedule, while others are referred to by teachers to visit during a class period. Jessica Chambers, Mindfulness Room teacher and SEB interventionist sees anywhere from 10-20 students a day. Students may stop by to overcome peer conflict, lack of work stamina, or to seek out a quiet space to reset. 

“It differs from student to student, but those are some of the main reasons,” said Chambers. “When students arrive, I have them go to what’s called a talking corner. I ask them what emotional zone they are in, address present issues, and then we come up with resolutions. It’s a space of comfort and a safe haven.” 

Deep breaths, reflection, coloring sheets, journaling, calming music, and playing games while having tough conversations are all SEL strategies that Chambers uses with her students. When executed properly, Ziebatree says SEL can lead to increased academic success, decreased bullying and depression, and increased prosocial behaviors. Elijah Harris and Jasper Gilley, 6th graders at Hoech, have both seen the benefits of the Mindfulness Room firsthand. 

“Even if someone comes into the room upset, the room will get calm again in a short amount of time,” said Gilley. 

“Whenever I’m trying to focus, I go to the room,” said Harris. “It’s a very trusting place.” 

All of the 800+ students at Hoech Middle School can take advantage of the Mindfulness Room. Ziebatree is excited to see the positive impact that honoring safety and connection has on everyone building-wide. 

“Thank you to Hoech Principal Alex Terrance for acting quickly to secure a room, hire staff, and build a system that allows students to access the Mindfulness Room beginning day one of the 2022-23 school year,” said Ziebatree. “Hoech is experiencing an exciting shift in their data.”