Quiet Transformation at an Embattled School (Transcript)
James: I became Principal of Visitacion Valley Middle School in the Fall of 1999. My first day here I heard noise outside, I looked out my window, and there were two students tearing the gate off the hinges to get into the yard to play basketball. When I got out to the yard, I noticed there were some young students playing cops and robbers. I walked up to the young man, and I said, "Hey, can I look at that for a minute?" And he said, "Sure," and he handed me his father's .45.
James: In the 2002/2003 school year, we had 41 murders occur in this neighborhood. And the students at this school, either were related to the persons who did the shooting, who were shot, or were present when the shooting took place. So there was a tremendous amount of stress, and anxiety and fear for the students.
Laurent: The stress levels were so high that everyone was really functioning at a disadvantage as a result of the environment. And it was impacting their psychological well-being. And many of the students actually have not only ADHD, but PTSD.
Carlos: You take a ride down any barrio or ghetto in America, and you hear the boom boxes. You hear the shouting. And unfortunately, too many of our kids even hear gunfire.
James: I think that many urban schools today are run like jails, because the kids are out of control. And that's because of the environment they live in. We're not running a jail here. We're running a school.
Laurent: The research is showing that stress is a major problem in our educational system. We can't have an effective educational system if we don't address the problem of stress. This impacts our neurophysiological functioning.
James: In order for kids to learn and be creative, they have to feel happy and safe. So I needed to start working on the social/emotional end of things. And I heard about Quiet Time. And we took a brave step forward into a new world of teaching our students how to meditate.
Teacher: Head up. Eyes closed. Quiet Time starts now.
[sounds of breathing deeply overlaid with traffic and playground noise]
Noah: Quiet Time is the first activity of the day, when the students arrive. And it's also the last activity of the day, before they're dismissed.
Announcement: Please excuse this interruption. Please begin your Quiet Time. Thank you.
Noah: The teacher rings a bell, and that starts the Quiet Time session. There's a 12-minute time period from when the teacher rings the first bell until the teacher rings the second bell. It's really completely silent in the room. The students are meditating.
Man: How many people here meditated? Raise your hand.
Jocelyn: I'm Jocelyn. I am an eighth grader at Visitacion Valley Middle School. I live on Sunnydale. There was a day where there were people walking, and then my dad heard gunshots. Like I felt like I couldn't move. The meditation helped me. It was like a force that blocked what I just experienced.
Rose: We're giving kids a coping mechanism. The problems that you have keep coming, except your ability to deal with them changes. Behaviorally, you see a difference. Especially, I definitely saw a correlation between their behavior and being more manageable in class after they started meditating.
Carlos: If we continue to do what we've always done, we're always going to get what we always got. Is that good enough? I don't think it's good enough for the 21st Century. We need to be the outliers to try things that have never been tried, and see if they work. In education, our job is to touch the future.