We all need a peace place. We need a little corner, some space – even if it is just in our own minds – to calm ourselves down and to get ready to go back to work, parent, or just face the challenges of life. Regaining peace is hard as an adult, so it is particularly important that we teach children and youth strategies to manage their emotions as well.
The goal of the “Don’t Laugh at Me” Program’s Peace Place classroom lesson, the last in the Expressing Feelings theme, is to provide a little corner or area for students to go when they are too upset or angry to focus, work or learn—or when they are beginning to feel that way. This is not like a time-out when being asked to go somewhere separate from the group may feel like a form of punishment. Going to the Peace Place is not a punishment. It is a place to go, a physical space, to calm down and get ready to go back to work and join the group.
Creating a peace place is one strategy for helping our students regulate their emotions, often called “self-management” in the context of emotional intelligence, and is an empowering way to engage students in setting the classroom climate.
We often hear people say, “but that’s the way I feel.” That comes from a misunderstanding of the belief that all emotions are good (which they are). The misunderstanding comes when people extend that to say, “so if they’re good, then it’s ok to express them without thinking them through.”
Yes, negative emotions – like anger, sadness, fear, etc. – are good because “Acknowledging the complexity of life may be an especially fruitful path to psychological well-being,” says psychologist Jonathan M. Adler, in a Scientific American article. In fact, they are critical to our overall well-being. But spontaneously expressing negative emotions does not allow us to think about why we are feeling what we are feeling and whether we might consider other ways of looking at our reaction. Thinking, “I feel like punching him,” is a far cry from doing that after thinking, “Is violence the best way to handle this situation?” This is all about teaching the power of emotional self-management, having strategies to calm down and think before we act.
We need this education for children, young people and, dare we say, adults too. Which is why at Operation Respect we have a relatively new area of our work in Personal, Professional Leadership Coaching and Restorative Practices, both areas that help us as adults to clarify our vision for education and learning and to prepare us to contribute in more effective and fulfilling ways.
So, we hope that you do the Peace Place lesson with your students and take it to heart. We all need a peace place. How do we create it for ourselves?