CPS students find calm in the classroom

October 26, 2009 10:06:43 AM PDT
Program trains teachers to incorporate peaceful routines into their lesson.Chicago Public School students and teachers in four elementary schools and one high school now have a new way to deal with their stress during the school day -- the Calm Classroom program. Using research-based techniques, teachers lead students through breathing, concentration and stretching exercises to help students remain focused, manage stress, effectively complete assignments and smoothly navigate transitional periods as they go from one subject or classroom to the next.

"We're always searching for ways to help our children to be in control of themselves," said Melody Seaton, principal of Gompers Fine Arts Elementary. "Many of our children have a lot of anger and hostility that they bring into the building. Sometimes the school just reeks of it. We want our children to be peaceful throughout their school day, so we decided to try something totally out of the box -- Calm Classroom."

Developed by the Luster Learning Institute, a non-profit organization based in Highland Park the Calm Classroom program allows teachers and students to perform a series of stress-relieving, self-regulatory exercises within the classroom setting. The exercises are gentle and last from thirty seconds to three minutes.

"Each day, the teachers and administrators of the Chicago public schools are challenged to educate students in classrooms hindered by violent behavior and emotional instability. Under these conditions, even the best teachers are challenged to educate, and the best students struggle to learn," says Jai Luster, founder of the Luster Learning Institute.

"We can no longer afford to only pay ineffective short term attention to personal, family and community violence during moments of dramatic extreme circumstance, Luster adds. "We need long term proactive preventive strategies that are shown to be effective and easy to implement. Public schools are the perfect environment to support these preventive strategies."

The Luster Learning Institute provides teachers and school administrators with on-site training during a three-hour professional development workshop that prepares them to direct students through Calm Classroom techniques. The techniques are in step with the Illinois State Board of Education guidelines for the development of social and emotional learning and can be easily implemented while standing or seated.

The techniques are also age appropriate, take into account a classroom's current situation, and aid teachers in their classroom management strategies.

Demonstrated student results include improved concentration, homework compliance, emotional stability, high self-esteem, and a decrease in stress, disciplinary referrals, disruptive behavior and test-taking anxiety.

"The Calm Classroom program helps the student's focus their minds and control their breathing which leads to a more calm emotional state," said Luster Learning Institute Founder and Executive Director Jai Luster. "A calm emotional state provides a solid foundation to help teachers and students cope with and solve seemly insurmountable obstacles."

Currently, Gompers Fine Arts Elementary, Shoop Math and Science Technical Academy, Dumas Elementary, Ortiz de Dominguez Elementary and North Lawndale College Prep use the Calm Classroom program. Five more CPS schools have committed to implement the program in 2009 and nine additional schools are in the planning and budgetary exploration stages.

The Chicago Public Schools is the nation's third-largest school system. It includes more than 650 schools and serves about 405,000 students. To date, Calm Classroom has affected more than 25,000 students, and 1,800 teachers in over 50 public schools in the Chicago area.

"This program has demonstrated its ability to help relieve the distressed state of students, teachers and administrators in the Chicago Public Schools," Luster says. "We believe that more focused, self-aware and emotionally calm students will lead to a long term reduction in community violence, and more successful students and adults."

More information about the Calm Classroom program and the Luster Learning Institute call 847-748-7482 or visit www.lusterlearning.org.

Here is a partial list of CPS schools that are using Calm Classroom as a core program for classroom management and the development of social and emotional skills within their students.

  • Copernicus Elementary - Lynn McGinnis-Garner
  • Countee Cullen Elementary - Mrs Draper
  • Eli Whitney Elementary - Jorge Ruiz
  • Grissom Elementary School - Mrs. Kathlene Orr
  • Gothe Elementary - Mrs Kargas
  • Kanoon Elementary - Juanita Saucedo
  • Mays' Academy - Patricia McCann
  • Parkside Elementary Community Academy - Dorothy Thompson
  • Samuel Gompers Elementary - (CPS) - Mrs. Seaton
  • Schmid Elementary School - Deborah Williams
  • Shoesmith Elementary - Patricia Watson
  • Shoop Math-Science Tech Elementary Academy - Lisa Moreno
  • Vick Early Childhood & Family Ctr. - Cathy Lawton
  • Wadsworth Elementary School - Velma Cooksey
  • Kilmer Elementary - Miguel A Trujillo
  • McCutcheon Elementary School - Dr. Carol Ann Lang
  • Roque De Duprey Elementary School
  • Schubert Elementary School - Elba M Maisonet
  • Stone Elementary Scholastic Academy - Joyce Nakamura
  • Stowe Elementary - Dr. Charles Kyle
  • West Park Elementary - Saundra D Jones
  • Yates Elementary - Harry Randell
  • Christopher Columbus Elementary

About Jai Luster

Jai Luster is the founder and president of the Luster Learning Institute, NFP. During the last 32 years Jai has been publicly teaching workshops and seminars in the Chicago area and throughout the United States that specialize in training both children and adults to control and concentrate the mind, enhance alertness, improve physical stamina, decrease stress, and find greater personal satisfaction. He is member of the faculty at National Louis University and offers a graduate level course in the Calm Classroom.

He has designed, conducted, and contributed to many teacher training programs. He was certified to teach yoga in 1971 by the Integral Yoga Institute and is accredited by Yoga Alliance with a 500 hour training certification. In addition, Jai was a senior executive director at Mesirow Financial in Chicago, where he served as an institutional hedge fund money manager for over 20 years. He retired from his corporate career at Mesirow Financial in 2000 to begin the process of establishing the Luster Learning Institute, NFP. He attended primary and secondary schools in the Chicago Public School system, and graduated from the University of Colorado in 1969.


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