Meditation has been around since the beginning of mankind, offering a myriad of benefits to all that practice it. This ancient practice is the easiest and quickest way to calm the body and mind, release tension, reduce stress, and improve the function of the brain.
Meditation strengthens the mind-body connection, promoting healthy behaviors, and is believed to be of help in the treatment of chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Studies have shown that this centuries-old discipline benefits people of all ages, but experts maintain that meditation as a part of a school’s daily routine improves the lives of students.
It dramatically improves mental well-being, academic skills, and social abilities in students. And several middle and high schools in San Francisco decided to give it a try.
Quiet Time, the stress reduction meditation strategy implemented there helps students to clear their minds. If San Francisco schools Superintendent Richard Carranza has his way, Quiet Time could well spread citywide.
In 2007, Visitacion Valley Middle School became the first public school nationwide to adopt the program. The neighborhood is accustomed to violence, and murders are so frequent that the school employs a full-time grief counselor.
The students were out of control, fighting in the corridors, cursing, scrawling graffiti on the walls, with the highest absenteeism in the city. The school tried everything from counseling to peer support, sports, and tutoring, but nothing gave positive effects.
Worn-down teachers often called in sick.
Nowadays, students are dramatically better. In the first year of Quiet Time, the number of suspensions fell by 45 percent.
Grade point averages drastically improved, daily attendance rates climbed to 98%, and within four years, the suspension rate was among the lowest in the city.
About 20 percent of graduates are admitted to the elite Lowell High School, and in the annual California Healthy Kids Survey, these middle school youngsters recorded the highest happiness levels in San Francisco.
The program gave similar results in the other three schools that adopted it, grades rose, achievement improved, and students report significantly less stress and depression, and greater self-esteem than nonparticipants.
On the California Achievement Test, twice as many students in Quiet Time schools have become proficient in English, compared with students in similar schools where the program doesn’t exist.
The gap is even bigger in Math. Teachers also declared that they’re less emotionally exhausted and more resilient.
Quiet Time took years to develop. Its origins are in the 1990s when two Silicon Valley investors, Jeff Rice and Laurent Valosek, developed a program to teach meditation in public schools.
The idea came after the tragic Columbine high school massacre. They set up the privately funded non-profit Center for Wellness and Achievement in Education (CWAE).
The program, introduced to all ages, asks students to sit for 15 minutes of meditation twice a day. Classes take place at their desks after the qualified TM teacher rings a bell.
Students then repeat a personal mantra in their heads until they reach a deep feeling of relaxation.
Superintendent Carranza says:
“The research is showing big effects on students’ performance. Our new accountability standards, which we’re developing in tandem with the other big California districts, emphasize the importance of social-emotional factors in improving kids’ lives, not just academics.
That’s where Quiet Time can have a major impact, and I’d like to see it expand well beyond a handful of schools.”
In low-income urban schools, traumatic stress is a reality for millions of children who grow up in an oppressive climate of poverty, violence, and fear.
Stress impedes learning and harms their mental and physical stress. High stress levels also damage teachers and educators, leading to extremely high burnout rates.
Therefore, even though a single program cannot solve all issues in the broken education system, Quiet Time is definitely a game-changer for many students.