Archive for October, 2012

A Quiet Transformation

This post is a summary of “A Quiet Transformation” by James S. Dierke, the former principal of Visitacion Valley Middle School. You can read the full article in the “Leadership Newsletter” here.

Developed by Washington, D.C. principal, George Rutherford, at the Fletcher Johnson School in the early ‘90s, Quiet Time (QT) helps reduce stress and fuel the desire to learn by integrating meditation into the daily routine of the school. After hearing a talk on the subject of Transcendental Meditation (TM) in October 1992 and finding success with it in his own life, Rutherford decided to integrate TM in his school hoping for similar success. You can read Fletcher Johnson School’s story here.

San Francisco’s Visitacion Valley Middle School invited 1440 Foundation Grantee, Center for Wellness and Achievement in Education, to help develop and implement the program at their school. The program launched at the school in January 2007 after receiving funding from the David Lynch Foundation.

By shortening the lunch period and using homeroom and passing periods, the school created two 15-minute stretches for QT, each at the beginning and end of each day. All students and teachers are offered training in TM, chosen for its particular effectiveness at reducing stress and supporting healthy brain development.

At first, the program was only implemented with sixth and seventh graders using eighth graders as the control group. The results were astounding. As eighth grade referrals and suspensions increased, both sixth and seventh grade saw a decrease, with overall suspensions reduced by 79 percent. Multi-day suspensions, which are given out for more serious offenses, like fighting, decreased by 43 percent among students enrolled in the QT program. The school saw a 43-percent decrease for multi-day suspensions among students enrolled in the QT program.

It wasn’t just disciplinary rates that saw improvement; QT students improved in math and language arts with the biggest improvements coming from the below-basic and far-below-basic groups. Teachers also improved from the QT program; absenteeism among teachers was down 30 percent compared to the prior year. In fact, teachers listed QT as the most impactful program in the school, citing improvements in climate, health and student engagement. Students agreed — 85 percent reported the program helped reduce stress and violence and improve focus and health.

QT showed administrators that unless the underlying stress and trauma that students deal with is addressed, it doesn’t matter how much effort is put into teaching. In a study conducted by Columbia University that confirmed this, researchers found that high levels of stress, like that experienced by students in low socio-economic status areas, impairs healthy brain function, making it even more difficult to learn. Columbia’s researchers concluded poverty leads to higher stress, which in turn leads to poorer working memory, violence, behavioral issues and impaired focus —impairing a child’s ability to learn and make good decisions.

With the implementation of the QT program, the atmosphere at Visitacion Valley Middle School has become much more positive. In the lastCalifornia Healthy Kids Survey, the students from Visitacion Valley Middle School reported the highest happiness levels in San Francisco (even though their neighborhood experienced 41 murders from 2005 to 2007).

By taking just 30 minutes out of their 1440, school administrators changed the lives of each of the students who walked through the doors of Visitacion Valley Middle School.

What could meditation do for you?

Why Today Counts

You check your phone shortly after waking tomorrow morning.

There’s a text from your bank saying, “Someone deposited $1440 in your checking account last night.  It’ll only be there today.  Whatever you don’t use will be removed at midnight.”

What would you do?

If it happened to me, I would think, “OK, this is no little thing.  I’ve got some options:

  • I could spend it.
  • I could save it.
  • I could invest it.
  • I could give it.

But there’s one thing I wouldn’t do: Ignore it.

Would you?

Surprised man holding moneyThat’s really what happens every day to each of us

But it’s not dollars.

It’s minutes.

Every day, we get 1440 minutes.  We start the day with them, and they’ll be gone when the day is over.

At the beginning of the day, we can choose what to do with them.  If we wait until the end of the day, those choices are made for us by default.

The good news is that it happens again tomorrow.

And the next day.  And the day after that.

But not forever.

So, we’ve got 1,440 minutes today (less, unless we’re reading this at midnight).  What do we need to know to make good use of those minutes?

  1. Time is limited.  There will come a day when those daily deposits stop.  So it’s important to make sure we use each day’s minutes wisely.
  2. There are no days that do not count.  Each day is unique, and provides unique opportunities.  If we ignore those opportunities today, they’re gone forever.
  3. Our future will be determined by our daily choices.
    • Good choices today will pay dividends in our future.
    • Bad choices today will make withdrawals from our future.
    • Not making any choices today gives our future away.
  4. Nobody becomes an overnight success.  Nobody becomes an overnight failure.  It’s the culmination of our daily choices.
  5. If we’ve been making bad choices (or no choices), we can change that today.  One good choice moves our future forward.

Yesterday is gone, and tomorrow isn’t here yet.  Worrying about either one will distract us from being intentional about today.

So, how will you use your 1,440 minutes today?

This post originally appeared on