The Director's Corner: On Conscious Discipline

Conscious Discipline, by Dr. Becky Bailey, is the model after which our school discipline approach has been designed and revised through the years. Following several training sessions on Conscious Discipline lead by local consultant Nicole Mercer, and funded by The Magnolia School for the benefit of the Tallahassee community at large, Nicole has offered her services to our school in order to help implement the missing elements of the program and build a more cohesive school community. Young students from the front room are getting to know and are learning to interact with their "feeling buddies," soft dolls 10-inches or so high located in their "safe place" and whose faces reflect different feelings. When a student is overwhelmed by a feeling, sadness for instance, he or she can retreat to the safe place, grab the "sad buddy" and go through the series of steps they have learned to let their buddy help them deal with the feeling. These tangible "buddies" take the place of what will become their inner voice when the students mature.

Middle school students are receiving weekly instruction into how different parts of their brain control different behaviors. They have been shown Daniel Siegel's hand model of the brain to locate their brain stem (in charge of their fight or flight response), their limbic system (in charge of their emotions), and their cortex, or frontal lobes (in charge of their executive skills, i.e. their reason). And students are being shown strategies to recover the use of their frontal lobes when these have been short-circuited by strong emotions or fears.

Nicole also intervenes in the back room on a consulting basis, assessing the needs for further instruction. So, compared to where we were before Nicole's intervention, this is still about the staff being understanding and compassionate when a student "looses it," but it is also about more actively teaching self-regulation and impulse control (so students learn not to "loose it" as often) and about more actively building solidarity among students, the ultimate goal being to strengthen the family spirit that makes our school special. We are very grateful for Nicole Mercer's gift of her expertise to the school.