Foundation funded 'Quiet Time' reaping benefits
By Ken DeLaat
White Cloud is midway through a school year project that looks to impact kids in a positive manner through utilizing Transcendental Meditation.
A project that rose from the vision of one who has long known and taught the benefits of TM, a school system with the courage to give it a try, a principal who saw the possibilities of the program and a staff of teachers willing to buy into it.
To make a difference.
Few if any schools in our region are not filled with children who have survived domestic violence substance abuse, homelessness abject poverty and any number of other trauma producing events and situations. They arrive at our schools wearing the face these troubles. Problems that deeply impact their ability to learn.
Beyond those wrestling with the chaos of day to day lives are the students who might struggle for other reasons and find themselves falling short behaviorally and academically.
At White Cloud for the 30 students participating in the project it's called Quiet Time.
The Fremont Area Community Foundation funded program began last fall at White Cloud Elementary and Middle School with selected students from 5th and 6th grade.
N3 visited White Cloud Elementary at the invitation of the school and Mike Hummel the former school teacher who has long taught TM and remains an avid advocate of the benefits of its practice.
Our first stop was the classroom where 14 of students meet twice daily to practice the method they learned early in the school year. Patti Wildfong is the Behavioral Specialist for the elementary and has witnessed the commitment of the students toward practicing their TM.
“They hustle and bustle in here talking about this and that but the minute that bell rings they are in. They take it seriously. It’s important to them.”
As the students find their spots Ms. Wildfong rings a small bell that signals them to begin.
The room goes silent as the kids quickly fall into practice. For the next ten minutes each sits peacefully in their place without fidgeting, without talking and without moving.
They emerge from the practice shortly after a second bell and there is a sense of calmness compared to the level of activity apparent at their entrance.
After the kids gathered around a table I asked them about learning TM and what its done for them.
Like many in their age group they are candid about their thoughts and were willing to share openly.
“I do better on my school work.”
“I’m more organized and I know what I’m supposed to be doing now.”
“It helps make my math easier.”
“I can focus more.”
“It calms me down and I’m not so naughty”
“I used to be in trouble all the time and now I’m not.”
The answers came without hesitation and their words were spoken with a definite clarity.
It was apparent that they were well aware of the benefits of the method and easy to see why they were anxious to embrace it.
“Who would you want to have learn TM if you could choose anyone in the world?”I asked the group.
I expected a variety of replies that would involve pop culture figures or other famous people but their answers each involved someone close to them.Someone they would want to share their gift with. Someone they saw every day.
“My Dad because he’s stressed out”, My Mom so she can handle my sister better,” My brother because he’s naughty,” and “My Dad because my brother’s naughty.”
The students in this pilot group were chosen by the principal Laurie Watson and her staff for a variety of reasons including anxiety, difficulty sitting still, and other behavioral issues.
And thus far the results look promising.
“They respect it,” said Ms. Wildfong who has also been trained in the practice. “It’s been a good experience. I was admittedly a bit skeptical at first simple because it’s something different but I’m not the least bit skeptical anymore.
“ I’ve seen what it has done for this group of kids.”
“They have come so far together and have turned completely turned around previous behavior patterns.
"And the reason it's here and works here is because of (Principal) Laurie Watson. When someone comes along with something that is going to help the students in our building she is going to be all about it.”
We then met with Ms. Watson and Mr. Hummel
“When I came to the principal of the high school and superintendent they brought me to the school board to talk about the project,” said Mr. Hummel. “ Laurie was there and said ‘Wait a minute we have kids that could benefit from this.’ so we changed it around and brought it here.”
“We have a population that comes through these doors with some real struggles,” said Ms. Watson. “They arrive here after experiencing a wide range of issues in their life.The practice gives them a bit of calm and peace and they start day ready to engage in academics and tolerate working with other people.”
“It’s a great way to give them time to focus.”
Both emphasized the ability of the students to practice whether in school or not.
“The beauty of this is our kids have embraced it. No matter what may go on at home he can carry this gift and do it on weekends and all summer,” said the principal.
“It’s part of our message to our students that ‘You Matter’. Other people you don’t even know paid for you to get this gift because you are important. You were chosen because you matter to people who don’t even know you.”
“This has been a powerful tool and I believe the more we can do this now on this end when they’re young to give them what they need and what can help them the more it will help them down the road. It starts here. We want to help them now before they get into other mindsets, other habits.”
I also spoke with Superintendent Barry Seabrook who was the first person Mr. Hummel approached.
“Mike brought the idea to me and he had videos of other places where they’ve had success with this approach,” said White Cloud Superintendent Barry Seabrook. “ We set it up for him to present it to the board and he sold them on the idea for an interim pilot project that included training for all the administrators and a pretty good chunk of staff. We’re all TMers now.”
“Do you practice?” I asked.
“Yes, and it helps bring down the stress level. When Mike comes to do a monthly session with us as a staff you can feel the difference afterwards. There’s just a sense of calm.”
“In our county we have issues with homelessness, kids living with grandparents, drug and alcohol issues a lot of things that create stress for our kids and its throughout the county not just in White Cloud.
"If this method helps them to focus on school and leave behind what might have happened last night then let’s do it.”
“It’s still early in the process but I think we’ve seen enough progress and heard enough good things from the kids to try and move forward on it.”
Mr. Seabrook had high praise for the support provided by the Foundation.
"Kudos to them for making this happen. This is something we would not be able to do without their support.”
For Mike Hummel who spent a career in the education field and has long been aware of the wide ranging rewards the practice can bring there's a bigger picture. The small groups could easily become large groups of students with entire classes and much of the school engaging in the method.
“Even a classroom with 30 kids?” I asked. “ I’d think trying something like what I saw earlier might be disruptive in a large group.”
Mr Hummel smiled.
”Actually I look at it as not as disruptive as if they didn’t have it.”