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Moscow, ME: "More and more children in pre-K-third grade coming to school regulate their emotions"

June 2, 2018, South Portland (ME) Press Herald: Maine schools promote programs that help students manage emotions When students enter the reset room at Moscow Elementary School, their hearts might be pounding in anger. Their fists might be clenched in frustration. They might be worked up because of all the noise their classmates are making. Sometimes, they just need a break. In the reset room they reflect on what they’re feeling. They learn to calm down and get control of themselves. They learn how to reset themselves. Marcy Melcher, the sole social worker within School Administrative District 13 in Bingham and Moscow, and Bethany Szarka, a special education teacher at the elementary school, devised the reset room as part of a solution to a problem cropping up for educators all around Maine: More and more children in pre-kindergarten through third grade are coming to school unable to regulate their emotions. … Students are exhibiting defiance at a new level, educators say. Many have trouble listening, sitting still and doing what is asked of them. Some run away from the classroom and try to hide from their teachers within the school building. The behaviors also manifest as physical aggression, with students threatening to harm themselves or others. Physical outbursts sometimes require whole classrooms to be evacuated to ensure student safety. Over the last five years or so, area educators have been tracking not only the emergence of an increasing number of students who display these behaviors, but also the intensifying severity of the breakdowns. In part, schools and teachers are doing a better job of identifying the needs of students today than they did in the past and kids are now getting help for behaviors that may have gotten them kicked out of school 30 or 40 years ago. But many see the problem as a reflection of today’s society and culture, including change in the family structure, drug addiction and the prevalence of technology, even though the behaviors aren’t necessarily determined by socioeconomic status or found within a particular demographic…. Many of these children don’t qualify for special education services, but often they still require the attention and resources that a student in special education receives. Without those resources, educators spend their teaching time diffusing disruptions caused by afflicted students. However, some school districts are investing in programs, such as the reset room, that aim to teach students the skills they need to regulate their emotions, and in turn will help restore a teacher’s primary focus to educating rather than dealing with disruptions…. Melcher said the reset room is now primarily used for when students feel they’re getting worked up and just need to take a short break from whatever is frustrating them…. MSAD 13 district social worker Marcy Melcher inside the “calming room” in the Moscow Elementary School reset room, where stressed students can be alone to relax and refocus. The students selected for the program are children for whom educators have exhausted all other resources. … Other schools were called, not just in Maine, but across the country, to find out what works for these students. Columbia said district staff spoke with principals at schools in Texas and North Carolina who work solely with students with behavioral challenges. They learned about some of the mistakes these schools had made and the parts of their curricula they believe will work well in RSU 9…. While some districts are investing in solutions, others are fighting to maintain the resources they have so that the behavioral challenges don’t worsen. Jen Morneault, a first-grade teacher at Winslow Elementary School, says she spends about 90 percent of her time dealing with the few students who exhibit severe behavioral challenges. “It takes longer to do our lessons, and I often don’t get to do the things I’ve planned,” she said. In turn, the disruptions take her away from the rest of the children who are able to function well in the classroom….

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