Posts Tagged ‘Quiet Time’

MindShiftKQED: How we will learn: Amidst Chaos, 15 Minutes of Quiet Time Helps Focus Students

February 9, 2012

Amidst Chaos, 15 Minutes of Quiet Time Helps Focus Students
February 9, 2012 | 10:36 AM | By Tina Barseghian
Filed Under: Culture, Learning Methods
Students at Visitacion Valley School in South San Francisco
observe 15 minutes of quiet time every morning.

By Kyle Palmer

On a recent morning at Visitacion Valley Middle School in South San Francisco, Principal James Dierke looked out over the school’s auditorium at more than 100 eighth graders. A restless din filled the large room. Bursts of laughter and errant shouts punctuated the buzz. Most of the students seemed disinterested in Dierke’s announcements about the spring’s impending graduation, upcoming field trips, and recent birthdays.

Then, Dierke struck a bell and said, “Okay, it’s quiet time.”

And just like that, a hush fell over the auditorium. Students straightened their backs and closed their eyes. Some bowed their heads. Others rested them on the backs of their chairs. The once-boisterous hall became silent and remained so for the next 15 minutes.

“Visitors are always amazed,” Dierke said afterwards, “but it works. It really is quiet time.”

“Quiet Time” isn’t just a slogan but a daily regimen at Visitacion Valley. The entire school—faculty, staff, and students—spend the first and last 15 minutes of every day in silence. Students are encouraged to use the time to meditate, but Dierke says students can simply clear their mind, think about schoolwork, or even sleep. Just as long as they are quiet.

“I’ve found that it makes people—students and teachers—more joyful,” Dierke said, “To have that time to reflect and be still is important.”

That is not always possible for his school’s students, Dierke said. He said the neighborhood around Visitacion Valley can be rife with violence and crime. “These kids hear gunshots on their way to and from school. That kind of stuff makes it hard to focus on algebra,” he said.

Besides dealing with problems outside school, Visitacion Valley faces challenges in school, too. Nearly 90 percent of Visitacion Valley’s students are classified by the district as socioeconomically disadvantaged and more than 40 percent are English Language Learners.

Dierke, who has been principal at the school for 13 years, said things reached a turning point about five years ago. “We were looking for a way to get kids to relax,” he said. “We saw kids with real post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. I noticed a lot of them missing school, fighting, and getting angry a lot. They couldn’t concentrate on school.”

An assistant principal suggested the idea for quiet time after she saw Hollywood director David Lynch speak about the program and the accompanying benefits of transcendental meditation. Lynch runs a non-profit foundation that promotes meditation in schools and also sponsors meditation retreats for under-served students.

With the help of the David Lynch Foundation and the San Francisco-based Center for Wellness and Achievement in Education (CWAE), Visitacion Valley trained teachers on how to conduct Quiet Time sessions in their class. CWAE specialists counseled students on meditation techniques and five full-time staffers remain on campus to help maintain the program.

Since beginning Quiet Time, Dierke said things have improved: Daily attendance last year was more than 98 percent, and there have been fewer suspensions and higher test scores.

Angelica Mahinay, Visitacion Valley’s 8th grade student body president, said Quiet Time gives her more energy. “I get to school at 7 a.m. for softball practice. It helps me not be so tired during school,” she said.

Eighth grader Art Parkeenvincha moved to San Francisco from Canada in the middle of this year. “I can be really hyperactive,” he said. “I had never done meditation before, but now I do Quiet Time. I think of my mantra, and it helps me calm down.”

Bob Roth, Executive Director for the David Lynch Foundation, said meditation is not just a way for students to relax but has real cognitive benefits. “Meditation strengthens the areas of the brain that control our ‘fear center’,” he said. “It helps kids reduce anxiety and increase their ability to reason and concentrate.”

Principal Dierke said, as a result of Quiet Time, the school’s image is changing. “This school used to be known as the ‘fight’ school,” he said. “Now, I have other principals asking me about Quiet Time. It feels good to have that reputation.”

Two other schools in SFUSD have begun their own Quiet Time programs and a district spokesperson said other schools have begun asking questions about Visitacion Valley’s success.

Visitacion Valley also got attention from actor Russell Brand, who visited the school just before Christmas on a trip sponsored by the David Lynch Foundation. “That was crazy,” Angelica, the student body president, said. “I got to sit right by him and the whole school meditated with him.”

In addition, Dierke said regular Quiet Time has also helped teachers relax. “Only two teachers have left in the past five years, outside of retirements and district layoffs. That’s amazing for an urban middle school,” he said. He attributes that to higher levels of job satisfaction.

Physical Education teacher Barry O’Driscoll agreed that Quiet Time has helped improve the staff’s quality of life. “I was very reluctant when it first started,” he said. “I thought it was just another fad. But now I meditate twice a day, and I do it at home. I think it’s helped my golf game, too.”

Visitacion Valley still struggles with significant challenges. This year, the school has had to integrate more than 100 new students onto campus after another nearby middle school was closed by the district. Likewise, test scores have increased in recent years but still remain low compared to other SFUSD middle schools.

“We’re not perfect,” Dierke said. “Quiet Time is just like an umbrella. When you have it up, it keeps the rain off, and you can focus on trying to build a culture with kids. That’s what we’re gradually doing here.”

The payoff might be most evident in students like Angelica Mahinay, who says, “Man, when I hear students getting an attitude, or they’re saying they’re going to fight, I say, ‘Hey! Just meditate!’”

Related articles: The San Francisco Examiner—Meditation program mends troubled Visitacion Valley Middle School and Meditation for Students: Results of the David Lynch Foundation’s Quiet Time/TM Program in San Francisco Schools, New research shows Transcendental Meditation improves standardized academic achievement, Breaking the “predictive power of demographics”: SF principal talks about how TM helps his students. And here’s a wonderful report from the The George Lucas Educational Foundation (GLEF): Edutopia: SF School Uses TM to Overcome Problems.

Third Annual David Lynch Foundation Benefit Gala

December 5, 2011

Third Annual David Lynch Foundation Benefit Gala

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Ellen DeGeneres, Russell Brand, Russell Simmons, David Lynch and more.

Meditating stars, leaders of veterans groups, and top scientists and educators gather to raise funds and celebrate the success of the David Lynch Foundation’s many outreaches to help people in need overcome traumatic stress and transform their lives from within. For more information on DLF empowering veterans, underserved youth, and other disadvantaged groups to overcome traumatic stress through meditation visit Watch News Conference View Event Photos.

Watch a replay of this Benefit Gala, and other past events, at the David Lynch Foundation website. Also watch a replay of the David Lynch Foundation Launch of Operation Warrior Wellness Los Angeles, and related media coverage: David Lynch gives $1M to teach vets meditation. And WSJ: Russell Brand Interviews Quantum Physicist At David Lynch Foundation Gala. Leslie Hendry reviews David’s talk in How Hippie Meditation Helps Us All. See People Magazine photo of Katy Perry and her dapper husband Russell Brand make a cozy pair at the Change Begins Within benefit gala in Los Angeles on Saturday, and another one where Perry popped up at the David Lynch Foundation’s Change Begins Within benefit celebration in Los Angeles on Saturday. See Ellen DeGeneres and Russell Brand raise awareness about TM for overcoming traumatic stress.

Pathways Magazine: Taking Care Of The Student – The Forgotten Element In Education

February 18, 2011

Taking Care Of The Student – The Forgotten Element In Education

The surgeon general said that America is swimming in an ocean of stress. If this is true, our children are drowning in it. ~ Robert Roth, Vice President of the David Lynch Foundation

A teacher of a Montgomery County high school describes the 7:30 AM morning: kids with hoods pulled over their eyes, practically sleepwalking. At their desks, students are slumped over, exhausted – sleep deprived.

A school counselor describes a student whose deep anxiety constricts her ability to understand a basic math concept, and another student whose pressure to succeed is so intense that anxiety escalates into insomnia, depression, and feelings of suicide.

In most schools in our country, the student himself, and his instrument of learning – his physiology – are being ignored. We are experiencing – possibly promoting – epidemics of sleep deprivation and stress in our schools, and in the general public. Not only do we not pay attention to students’ physical health, we do the opposite: impose physical and mental strain – sometimes to the breaking point – often with serious, long-term results for both physical and emotional health.

In this article, we look at some recommendations and programs addressing this problem. We begin with refreshing our understanding of the goal of ideal education. Next we look at sleep deprivation, stress, anxiety, and related problems of ADHD and depression, and the impact on student health and learning. Next, advice by professionals who work in this field of stress and adolescence will be presented. Finally, we look at promising examples where recommendations are successfully implemented: a school in D.C., the Ideal Academy Public Charter School, experiencing remarkable results by incorporating “Quiet Time” into the daily routine; and breakthrough research on ADHD and “Quiet Time” from several middle schools.


All that lies before us and all that lies behind us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. ~ Emerson.

Education comes from the Latin root ‘educere’, meaning to ‘draw out from within’ or to ‘lead forth’. ‘Education’ means something other than filling up the mind with information. Socrates said, “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” It involves cultivating the
student’s inner genius, innate intelligence, creativity, consciousness.

Quite clearly the two great things for which we aim are the improvement of intelligence and the deepening and the extension of the feeling of friendliness and love. ~ Aldous Huxley

A student truly being educated is not merely learning information. He is cultivating the quality of his awareness: becoming more awake, clear, creative. He is developing his character: virtues of friendliness, helpfulness, compassion. And cultivating a love of learning and sense of vitality: feeling interested, enthusiastic, capable, confident.

The qualities we often find in great people – flexibility, curiosity, energy, receptivity to new ideas, and lovingness – are first found in children and then maintained through adulthood. ~ Dr. Melanie Brown, Attaining Personal Greatness: One Book for Life

But what are we doing to cultivate these qualities in our students? It seems clear that we often forget the meaning and goal of education.

Click on the above title for a Google docs quick view of the entire article, including photos, and/or download the PDF of Taking Care Of The Student – The Forgotten Element In Education, originally printed in the Winter 2009 issue of Pathways Magazine, Washington, DC.

Russell Simmons visits “Doc” Rutherford’s Ideal Academy Public Charter School (K-12) in Washington, D.C.

May 18, 2010

Posted by: Russell Simmons 5/17/2010 | 8,821 Views

By Russell Simmons
I just had a very blissful experience. Last Thursday, I meditated with 150 students at the Ideal Academy Public Charter School (K-12) in the heart of downtown Washington, D.C. I experienced silence—not just an absence of outer noise—but a deep “inner silence” that activates the brain, solves problems, awakens self-confidence, removes stress, and promotes health.

I believe the experience of silence is the birthright of every human being. But more than that, it is an absolute necessity to survive—much less succeed—in today’s insane world. Yet so few people ever achieve it—particularly young people.

Instead, a kid lives in a relentless state of pounding noise and stimulation. Louder and louder and faster and faster. Do we really think that such stressed-out, wigged-out, crazy-minded kids are ready to learn algebra or history?

They aren’t ready—and they don’t learn.

But it’s a different story at the Ideal Academy—and in hundreds of other innovative, highly successful schools in the US and around the world. These schools have implemented what they call “Quiet Time.” They have set aside two 10- to 15-minute blocks at the beginning and end of each school day for kids to settle down into their own quietness—as a preparation to learn.

During Quiet Time, like a miracle, the frenzy at schools stops. At Ideal Academy, you can walk the halls and hear a pin drop. Quiet Time is mandatory at Ideal, but what a student does is voluntary. A student can read silently or just sit still, but most everyone chooses to meditate—to practice Transcendental Meditation. Why? Because the word is out—and the research is in—that this meditation allows a student to easily experience, each and every time, stillness and silence. And the best part of it that there is no philosophy or belief required to experience your own inner silence.

When I visited Ideal Academy, I met with the principal, Dr. George “Doc” Rutherford, a great man who has been an educator and principal of schools in the toughest areas of the District of Columbia for over 46 years. Doc says that Quiet Time is the only thing that has worked to improve academic performance in his schools. He says it has transformed the lives of his students and created a rare climate of calm that is conducive to learning. After Quiet Time, teachers say their students are more alert and engaged. Parents say their kids are easier to get along with at home. And students say they feel less anger, less stressed, even happier.

But talk is talk—the proof of Quiet Time is in the research. Decades of studies conducted at top medical schools and universities have found great benefits for education. Grades and test scores go up, as do graduation rates. Stress levels, behavioral problems and drug and alcohol abuse go down, as do suspensions and expulsions.

Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog on the work of the “Bent on Learning” foundation to bring yoga to students in the New York City schools, many of which have no gym classes, much less gym teachers. (Can you imagine sitting at your desk in class for seven hours, with just 15 minutes for lunch, and no break for exercise? No wonder schools breed so much stress.) For no cost to the schools, and requiring only that the kids move their desks to the side of the room for a few minutes a day, thousands of students get to practice yoga, relieve their stress, and get happier doing it.

If we want our kids to learn properly and to live healthy and be successful, they need holistic development. Kids need to eat right. They need physical exercise and they need mental exercise—they need mental resilience—they need to meditate.

I left Doc’s school feeling inspired and determined to do what I can do to bring Quiet Time to as many kids as possible. But I also left quite frustrated. How can there only be hundreds of schools with Quiet Time and not hundreds of thousands worldwide? It’s cruel and inhumane that so few kids have access to such simple, effective tools for heath and success.

As a board member of the David Lynch Foundation, I am working to change that. The Foundation has been instrumental in helping to bring Quiet Time to hundreds of thousands of students, and we are doing everything we can to inspire more. In his book, “Catching the Big Fish,” David says, “Quiet Time is not a luxury. For kids who are growing up in a stressful, frightening, crisis-ridden, violent world, it is a necessity.”

I appreciate everything David is doing with his Foundation, but after visiting Doc’s school, I would make David’s words even stronger. To me, it is criminal that Quiet Time is not in more schools. Just as it would be a crime to withhold a safe medicine that could prevent and treat a terrible disease, it is criminal to withhold from kids a safe antidote like Quiet Time that we know can prevent the terrible stresses that destroy the lives of millions of kids and their families.

For their sake, it’s time not to sit back and be silent. It is time to act; it’s time to be bold.

Click here to see video:

For more information, please visit or write me at


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