Last month, my beautiful friend and colleague, Dr. Joy, published her first children’s book called Back To Zero. It was a story she originally wrote for her own son and its purpose is to help students learn how to understand and process big emotions that can easily instigate meltdowns.  You can listen to our interview about this sweet book here:

Click on this picture to watch our BookChat!

But today, I received my own copy of Back to Zero in the mail! I joyously read it as it is a very quick read told in poetic form. In the short time it took me to read, I was very moved.  This book needs to be in all of our home and classroom libraries. Not only can students learn how to name and regulate their emotions better, it gently guides us in ways we can help them through this process, as it offers follow-up discussion questions and activities.

My Back To Zero Selfie!

3 Ways We Can Help Prevent Student Meltdowns

  1. Read this book with our kids to initiate conversation with constructive vocabulary to help students name their emotions with common language that helps us teachers know exactly what they are communicating. 
  2. Provide a space where students can go when they begin to feel their control slip. We need to model how this space is used and what it communicates to the classroom community. Add activities there that students can manipulate easily like playdough or clay or a waterbottle with beads that help them focus on something other than their anger as they champion themselves back to a calmer state. 
  3. For students who need more help in this area, with parents, form a plan of action that might include another trusted adult on campus, or the school counselor, when emotions are at a level of 7 or higher and the child knows they need help to come back down to zero, or a place of calm. The number 7 might be too high for those students, so work out the number that helps your students, individually. 

Giving Joy in the Form of Hope

The more control a young person feels, the less often they will be at a 10, or full melt-down mode. For transparency’s sake, while I implemented these strategies in my fifth grade and first grade classrooms, when students left to use the safe space, I had to teach myself not to react or exude some control.  Sometimes letting go of control is hard for us in our classrooms. But oftentimes, it’s that control and compliance that sets our students off needlessly.  We have so much to learn and do better in schools.  This is a great way to start, and help all of our students process “big emotions,” as Dr. Joy says, in a way that empowers them instead of making them feel like they don’t belong.  

Dr. Joy, author of Back To Zero

If you are interested in this awesome book, you can purchase it at and please follow Dr. Joy on Twitter at @JoyWorkEdu and

About Melody McAllister

Melody McAllister is a wife, mother of five, educator, and author. She and her family relocated to Alaska from the Dallas area in 2019.  McAllister is 2017 Garland NAACP Educator of the Year and author of the I’m Sorry Story, a children’s book about taking responsibility for mistakes and making sincere apologies.  She is also the Logistics Manager for EduMatch Publishing.  McAllister has spoken at ISTE and ASTE about equity issues in education, and writes about her journey in her blog,

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