At one time, Visitacion Valley Middle School in San Francisco was one of the toughest schools in the nation. It suffered from a lot of crime and violence, along with a severe drug problem. Kids who attended the school were stressed, overwhelmed and scared. At one point, kids were finding dead bodies in the schoolyard. In 2006, there were 38 killings in the neighborhood around the school. The school’s head of physical education, Barry Driscol said, “the lives of his students were infected with drugs and gang violence.” Fights would happen on a daily basis and people were scared. Then Quiet Time was introduced and it brought some hope.
Using Meditation to End Violence
“When I first heard about it I thought it probably wasn’t going to work,” said O’Driscoll. “We get thrown a new thing every couple of years so I didn’t put too much faith in it.”
Then something special happened during spring. In April, kids were introduced to meditation and that’s when things began to change. The behavior of students changed for the better and shocked teachers.
“Students seemed happy,” said O’Driscoll. “They worked harder, paid more attention, were easier to teach and the number of fights fell dramatically.”
Mediation gave children a way to cope with the stress in a healthy, non-violent way. It gave the kids hope and the vision of a better life. In the first year of Quiet Time, 500 students were in the school and 45% participated. These children now attend highly academic schools like Lowell. And surveys have shown the children in Visitacion Valley Middle School are the happiest in San Francisco.
Now more schools are taking on the practice. Mainly in Calilfornia’s Silicon Valley which is backed by big investors looking to help more students. Before students learn to meditate, they are trained by the Quiet Time program. It requires all staff are trained in the practice of TM. Driscol was skeptical at first but after seeing the results, his mind has opened. He even meditates now and says the practice helps him stay focused and feel less stressed.
The biggest issue Driscol is facing now is to get kids to be comfortable with their eyes closed. “They thought their classmates would be making fun of them, staring at them, maybe possibly even hitting them,” said Driscol.
More On Quiet Time Meditation
Driscol then went on to talk about leadership, which is very important for this program. Leadership is fundamental to the start of an effective program like Quiet Time. He believes it’s much healthier to start small and then build from there. As he put it, “Don’t just throw it into 2,000 schools. Start with one class or year and let it grow from there.”
As for the students at Visitcon, the area around the school is still very violent. But the kids are no longer afraid or affected by it anymore. The last fight at the school was more than three years ago. The kids who attend now are happy, healthy and very peaceful. Meditation in school is something that is proven to work. The UK has already begun talks about adapting it into their school systems. The main concern officials in the UK had was the fear people would feel they were being pressed into a religion. Hopefully, they can find a way around the issue so more schools can start adapting meditation into their curriculum.