Mindfulness has been especially positive for Mason, according to Evans.

“When he was in first grade, he was having horrible temper tantrums. He would be pouring sweat. He would be screaming, I had to get him out in the hallway,” the principal says. “I had to take him outside, and he would scream and throw himself on the ground.”

The new lessons about emotions didn’t take at first.

“We were doing mindfulness and he would scream at me, ‘I don’t want to do mindfulness!’” Evans says.

For the next two years, Mason still had fits, but by the end of third grade, the outbursts became less frequent and less aggressive, and he could talk after them and reflect on them. Mason started using words he learned during mindfulness lessons to describe what he was feeling. Now as his fourth grade year winds down, he has only had two big breakdowns this year.

mason and principal
Evans and Mason share a laugh outside of her office.

“He still gets a little worked up, but he doesn’t try to engage, [and] he doesn’t scream as much,” Evans says. “I had him come into my office. He put his head down and said, ‘I’m not ready to talk yet, I need to do some of my mindfulness first.’ He knew that that’s what you do: Get yourself in control, recognize that I’m not well, and instead of me doing something I’m going to regret and get in trouble, he knew he had to stop. That’s what you want.”

Mason also recognizes the role that mindfulness practice has had in his life and his growth at Rivermont.

“I just take deep breaths, and if that doesn’t calm me down, I just try to keep on doing it until it makes me feel better,” Mason says of his newer approach to his emotions. “And then when it makes me feel better, I’m good, and I just put it in the past.”

Mason has benefited from the mindfulness program at Rivermont. When he was in first grade, he had emotional outbursts and spent a lot of time in the principal’s office. Now, when he gets upset, he says, “I just take deep breaths, and if that doesn’t calm me down, I just try to keep on doing it until it makes me feel better.”

It’s a big step, but in Evans’ eyes, it’s just the beginning.

“We can’t make kids’ lives perfect — we can’t,” she says. “I can’t control what happens outside in his life — I can barely control what happens inside of these four walls — but we are giving him the tools he needs.”

“Mason would be a student who would have very easily gotten tagged as a ‘problem child,’ and likely would have been suspended perpetually for fighting, because he could not control his anger,” Evans continues. “But he has remorse, and he would say, ‘I don’t like getting in trouble, I don’t need to be a bad kid, I don’t want to do this, I didn’t mean to.’”

“We as a collective, what we did for Mason — I really think we changed the trajectory for him.” ⚡

post-it notes
The handwritten question from the teacher on the top of the poster says, “What can YOU do to help yourself in 5th grade this year?” One answer from a student stands out: “Be more mindful.”


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