We know that stress can be detrimental to adult health, but what about children? Significant research now suggests that American children are indeed experiencing stress at new levels: suicides among adolescents have quadrupled since the 1950s; only 36 percent of 7th graders agreed with the statement “I am happy with my life“; and in the past decade, using pharmaceuticals to treat emotional disorders has shot up 68 percent for girls and 30 percent for boys.1 And nowhere are the effects of stress more prevalent than in our inner-city schools.
A new program called Quiet Time is being successfully implemented in urban schools using Transcendental Meditation™. The program is now in six schools working with students and another ten working with teachers.
One of the first to take part was Visitacion Valley Middle School in San Francisco. Principal James Dierke states that in his first year with the school (2002-2003) there were 41 neighborhood murders. Every student either knew or was related to the perpetrator or the victim, and many witnessed the crimes. “Stress is the number one enemy of public education,” he states. “It creates tension and violence and compromises the cognitive and psychological capacity of students.” Research has shown that high levels of stress contribute to attention deficits, anxiety, depression, obesity, high blood pressure, and learning difficulties.3
Dierke knew that in order for his students to learn and be creative, they had to feel happy and safe. “I heard about Quiet Time, and we took a brave step forward into a new world of teaching our students how to meditate.”
TM® was chosen as it is simple, easily learned, secular (non-religious), and has a large body of evidence supporting its effectiveness.3 According to Dr. Sarina Grosswald, an expert in cognitive learning, TM® increases the ability to focus outside of meditation as it enhances brain functioning.4
Quiet Time is the first activity of the day and the last before students leave. It starts with the ring of a bell in each classroom and ends 12 minutes later. It is a full school event with a support team, an on-site leader, and Quiet Time instructors.
Quiet Time’s Executive Director, Laurent Valosek, states that research on the program indicates that the schools are experiencing marked reductions in violence, suspension and truancy, and an increase in attendance. The staff is experiencing reduced burn-out, and improved well-being. The students are showing improved psychological and physical health and improved academics.3
Visitacion Valley started Quiet Time in 2007 and since then has cut their truancy rate by more than half to 7% (compared to the statewide rate of 30%) and their suspension rates, which were equal to 13% statewide, have dropped to 6%.
Teacher Rose Ludwig praises the program and feels that students are now more manageable. “We’re giving kids a coping mechanism. The problems they face keep coming, but their ability to deal with them changes. Behaviorally, you see a difference.”
Laurent adds, “We can’t have an effective educational system if we don’t address the problem of stress. This impacts our neurophysiological functioning.” With Quiet Time, students and teachers are experiencing a deeper inner peace as a foundation for healthy development.
For more information on Quiet Time visit www.cwae.org. For more information on Transcendental Meditation™, contact their Palm Springs office at (760) 537.1006.
References: 1) Stress and Your Child’s Brain By Hank Pellissier for greatschools.org; 2) Edutopia.org; 3) Center for Wellness and Achievement in Education: Quiet Time. www.cwae.org; 4) www.Doctorsontm.org/adhd.