Oct. 26, 2018
A CALMING EXPERIENCE — Teacher Jadine Laniado works with a group of students at Francis W. Parker School 56 on expressing their feelings in the school’s Amygdala Reset Room. Inside the Reset Room, below, is a welcome sign along with tools used to help students self-regulate and find their center.
Sometimes we all need a place where we can go to reset — a calming space to release emotions (anger, fear, stress) or simply to stop and think.
Francis W. Parker School 56, one of four Montessori schools in the IPS district, offers a place to do just that for both students and teachers. It’s called the Amygdala Reset Room.
The one for teachers boasts a recliner, a padded nurse’s cot, scented lotions, magazines, and a soothing noise machine. There’s also a charging station for a breathing app.
“It’s a place for teachers or instructional assistants to leave on a break or on a prep before or after school to have some rest time for themselves if they need that,” said Christine Rembert, principal at Francis W. Parker. “It’s not the teacher’s lounge, where everyone is talking. This is a place where you can be quiet and contemplative and think, refocus and reset.
The student room has a different look and feel.
Inside Room 28 is colorful and fun. Although it looks like an oasis for kids, looks can be deceiving. The yoga mats, balls, games, coloring books, Legos and Hula Hoops all have calming effects.
“While these are activities enjoyable by students, they serve a deeper purpose,” said Jadine Laniado, a special education teacher who’s also in charge of the Reset Room. “In order for the amygdala to come back to baseline after it’s been fired up, students need to practice building skills that can calm themselves. … All of these activities will create new neural connections in the brain around coping.”
What is the amygdala? It’s the grey matter in your brain that regulates your emotions. Students study this, along with the prefrontal cortex (thinking, logic, reasoning) and the hippocampus (the center of emotion, memory and the nervous system) at Francis W. Parker.
If students lose control of their emotions — or are on the verge of doing so — they visit the Reset Room.
Once inside, students assess how they’re feeling, make a calming choice (which are all brain-based and research-based), set a timer for 15 minutes and see how they feel afterward. At Francis W. Parker, the Reset Room replaces the In-School Suspension Room.
It seems to be working.
During a recent small group meeting with Laniado, four students sitting and bouncing on exercise balls took a few moments to write in their journals before taking turns pulling words from a sensory board and placing them on cutout figures in the areas where they felt it in their bodies.
“Sometimes when I write how I’m feeling it calms me down,” said Taylen G. “We use the board to tell how we’re feeling and where we’re feeling it. The yoga helps as well.”
Taylen admits she doesn’t always use the techniques she’s learned in the Reset Room at home, but she’s working on that. “At home, when I get upset I listen to music because it helps me calm down.”
The idea behind the Amygdala Reset Room is to help brain development or help brains respond and react in ways that are safe and healthy.
“This is the really challenging work. We’re changing the way they think and the way they react,” said Laniado. “Students are beginning to hold themselves accountable, with many serving as accountability partners to others — teaching each other to breathe.”
Even the boys are opening up — talking more about their feelings. “They’re like, ‘Oh my God,’ you mean I can actually talk about my feelings,” said Lanaido. “In my experience, the boys usually talk more than girls and I think it’s because they’ve often been told historically and culturally that this is not what boys do.”
To say that Laniado is passionate about this work is an understatement.
“The reason I’m passionate about this is that self-awareness and self-management is one of the best things that you can teach someone,” said Laniado. “If you can teach a kid what their triggers are, I think that’s just an amazing gift.”