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the learning experience. Fighting was prev- alent in our school throughout the day, so much so that we were known as the “fight school” in the district. Fear, sadness and tension dominated the school climate. At this point we looked for options that

would directly address stress. We came across a program known as Quiet Time, an innovative, high impact stress reduction and readiness-to- learn initiative that integrates medi- tation (yes, meditation, not media- tion – we already had that) into the daily routine of the school.

A break from pressured activities Quiet Time was developed by

Washington, D.C. Principal George Rutherford at the Fletcher Johnson School in the early 1990s. I spoke to Rutherford, who told me that after he implemented Quiet Time, the fighting at his school diminished significantly and his students started learning more. So I invited the Cen- ter for Wellness and Achievement in Education, a local non-profit that teaches meditation to students, to help us develop and implement the Quiet Time pro- gram at our school. Our teachers voted to adopt the program, with 95 percent in favor. We applied for funding from the David Lynch Foundation and launched the pro- gram in January of 2007. For QT (Quiet Time) we created two

mini class periods of 15 minutes, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. We used our homeroom class period and a few minutes from lunch and our passing peri- ods to create these two class periods. In QT, our students get a break from all of the pres- sured activity in their lives – 15 minutes of total peace and decompression. Every morning after the teachers take

role, an announcement goes out to every classroom: “Teachers and students, please prepare for Quiet Time.” Then teachers have students clear their desks, face front and a quiet bell is rung. The students close their eyes and for the next 15 minutes, an effulgent peace engulfs the school. No noise anywhere – safe, quiet, peace. Afterwards, the students move into their

academic classes more settled, clear and ready to learn. All students and teachers are offered

training in an evidence-based meditation technique called Transcendental Medita- tion. This meditation was selected because comparative research indicated it is particu-

dents went down 43 percent relative to the non-QT controls. Fighting in PE in the sixth and seventh grade dropped by about 60 per- cent. It stayed the same in the eighth grade. We also observed that during the STAR

testing, the sixth and seventh graders were remarkably focused, while the eighth grade

larly effective at reducing stress and sup- porting healthy brain development. In QT the students either meditate, or sit

quietly and rest. The teachers watch over the students and maintain a safe environment. The teachers themselves meditate before school, during their prep periods, or after school. When we first started QT, we imple-

mented the program in sixth and seventh grades, with the eighth grade as a control group. Over the next four months we ob- served remarkable changes. The first thing we noticed is that the sixth and seventh grade referrals went down and the eighth grade referrals increased.

Multi-day suspensions down 43 percent Similarly, when we looked at suspen-

sions, we noticed they were dropping in the sixth and seventh grade and rising in the eighth grade. When we looked at multi- day suspensions, which are associated with more serious, usually fighting-related in- fractions, there was the largest differential. The multi-day suspensions for the QT stu-

Actor, writer and producer Russell Brand joins 400 students in meditation at Visitacion Valley Middle School in December 2011.

was more rowdy, consistent with our nor- mal experience. When we received our test results, we looked at the QT student scores relative to the prior year, compared to the non-QT students. We found that the QT students improved much more in math and language arts than the controls. The biggest gains were in the below basic and far below basic groups. This data was the first sign that Quiet Time was helping us overcome the predictive power of zip codes. The other thing I noticed as the end

of the school year approached is that our teachers were absent less. Usually anywhere from two to 10 teachers would be absent in spring as the wear-and-tear of the year took its toll on the staff. But I was noticing many days where no teachers were absent. When we looked at the data, we found that teacher absenteeism due to illness went down 30 percent over the prior year. In year-end school surveys our teachers

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