Room for Stillness
It began with a parent's question: "Have you given any thought to making room for stillness?"
I had, actually. I was well aware that our middle school day packs more into it than seems possible, and that our students, although responding beautifully, believed there wasn't enough time for them to "be a kid."
I brought the idea of scheduled quiet time to our middle school team. They loved the idea; however, finding dedicated time in the team schedule wasn't to be. So, I decided to make time in my Humanities 7 class. But questions came up, writers needed conferences, books needed discussing, and our time for stillness got lost.
Weeks passed. Students wouldn't let the matter go. They even e-mailed me research about their need for naps. Finally, I realized I had to make the time. One day, when the students seemed particularly frustrated, I announced that we were going to have 15 minutes of quiet time at the end of the class. They could read, meditate, nap, or just sit and think. They could not go on e-mail or do homework.
In no time, the room was silent. That afternoon, almost half the class e-mailed me thank-you notes. We now make room for stillness.
I asked the students to reflect on their experience with quiet time. Here are some of their comments in response to my questions:
Why do you need quiet time?
"Middle school life is so fast moving, and it is easy to leave yourself behind and become a robotic being that follows directions."
"We get really tired."
"We need to be able to reflect on our day."
How do you feel before, during, and after quiet time?
"Before quiet time I feel kinda stressed because I am nervous that I won't get all of my homework in on time, and all of that schooly stuff."
"During, I feel relaxed, and after quiet time, I feel re-alived."
What can help quiet time be successful?
"We should have quiet time more often."
Would you recommend other schools institute a quiet time period? Why or why not?
"Studies show that middle school students need at least 9 hours of sleep and most of us get at least 6–7 hours."
"It would really help all the kids get better grades and pay more attention."
In a discussion on AMLE's MiddleTalk listserve, middle level educator Patti Kinney shared a link to an article in the San Francisco Examiner about how meditation can help troubled youths. It seems making time for stillness is worth the investment.
Quiet time is good for all of us. Try it!
Bill Ivey is middle school dean at Stoneleigh-Burnham School, a day-boarding school for girls in grades 7-12 located in Greenfield, Massachusetts. E-mail: email@example.com
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