Monday, September 17, 2012

Two-day anti-bullying summit kicks off in San Francisco

Lyanne Melendez | ABC Ch. 7



A two-day anti-bullying summit kicked off Thursday in San Francisco and organizers say the goal is to provide a safer environment in schools. ABC7 News anchor Cheryl Jennings is moderating the event where thousands of students have taken a pledge to stop bullying. 

The San Francisco School District decided it was important to take some students out of class Thursday to show them a movie, so they bused about 3,000 middle and high school kids to four different theaters. The goal is to change the culture and make kids understand that bullying is not acceptable.

"I like learning, but I have trouble making friends," says one character in the film. Those words have been uttered by millions of kids around the nation. The students packed theaters to watch the 90-minute film called "Bully." The movie's director, Lee Hirsch, has been showing it to students as part of a national campaign to end bullying. "We're hearing about it more. We're understanding about it more and people are feeling empowered to tell their stories," he said.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee admitted he was once on both sides of the fence. "At the same time, I think it was natural of me to turn around to see who I could find who that was weaker than me, to left off some steam, and then realizing... put myself in that person's position," he recalled.

The mayor and the superintendent of schools in San Francisco, Richard Carranza, pledged to create schools that are safe, but acknowledged bullying and harassment go beyond the school yard. "It's not the physical one-on-one bullying anymore. What you are seeing are incidences of cyber-bullying," he said.

U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California Melinda Haag also joined the campaign Thursday saying changes are coming. "It's capturing everyone attention. It's capturing the hearts of legislators. They're the ones that can change the laws," she said. But it's the students who were most affected by the movie.

"I'll stop it because there is no purpose of watching someone get hurt over nothing," student Delvon Carter told ABC7 News.

"People should be a bigger person and stand up for themselves and be nice to each other. Bullying is not the right thing to do and it should be stopped," another student Katherine Trejo said.

Beginning on Monday and over the next two weeks, Oakland Unified School District will take every middle school and high school student in the district to watch the movie. That's roughly 13,000 students.

SAN FRANCISCO: Thousands of students watch documentary on bullying

 KTVU.com

SAN FRANCISCO: Thousands of students watch documentary on bullying. Watch at KTVU.com

School bullies beware: San Francisco won’t tolerate that behavior

By Jill Tucker | SF Chronicle

Documentary film director Lee Hirsch huddled in the darkness of San Francisco’s Herbst Theatre as hundreds of city middle and high school students watched his movie, “Bully,” Thursday morning.

As students alternately applauded, cheered and sniffled through tears as the film documented the devastating impact of bullying, Hirsch recorded the audience sounds on his phone, his face beaming.

“This is a film for the underdogs and boy are there are a lot of them,” Hirsch said.

About 2,800 city students were bused to see the film at four local movie theaters, a movie initially rated R because of language. The film also addresses the suicide of two children, including an 11-year-old boy who was bullied.

Marina Middle School eighth grader Pooja Singh, 13, cried during the movie as she watched a student tormented on a school bus as other children watched without helping.

Thousands of San Francisco students watch the movie "Bully" Thursday. (Liz Hafalia/The Chronicle)

“I felt like it was really inspirational,” she said after the credits rolled. “I feel like at our school we can work together and stop it.”

The film is being shown at schools across the country and inspiring thousands of students to form clubs or hold rallies to battle bullying.

The issue will also be highlighted at a Friday conference on bullying in San Francisco with Bay Area education and law enforcement officials as well as federal civil rights staff from the U.S. Department of Education.

In San Francisco, Superintendent Richard Carranza required all administrators, principals and assistant principals to see the film before the school year started.

On Thursday, he encouraged the hundreds of students in the Herbst Theatre to tell an adult if they are being bullied or see someone bullied — a teacher, librarian, custodian, teacher aide, counselor, parent or principal.
And since the film highlighted adults elsewhere who failed to help the bullied children, Carranza gave the students one more option.

“If nothing gets done, you email me, you call my office and we’ll get something done,” he said to loud applause.

For those who want to take him up on that, he’s at richardcarranza@sfusd.edu or 415-241-6121.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Superintendent Richard Carranza On The Classroom, Why Money Matters And Finding Inspiration In SF

By: Carly Schwartz | Huffington Post
 
Superintendent Richard Carranza

Who: Richard Carranza, Superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

Years in SF: Four.

Neighborhood: Ingleside Terrace.

Current Gig: After serving as San Francisco's Deputy Superintendent of Instruction, Innovation and Social Justice, Carranza assumed the role as the district's head honcho this past July. Since he began working on behalf of San Francisco schools, Carranza has made closing the city's "achievement gap" -- providing all the district's students with equal access to quality education -- his top priority.

And it's working. San Francisco public schools saw a rise in standardized test scores across almost every subject this year, and the city's most underperforming institutions have all shown signs of improvement.
Carranza, who grew up in Arizona, entered his own school system speaking no English and spent more than a decade in front of the classroom as a high school teacher before crossing over to the administrative side. He caught up with The Huffington Post just in time for Back to School to discuss his goals for the new year, why money really does matter and where he finds inspiration during his down time.

What brought you to San Francisco four years ago? The school district. It was very impressive; the strategic plan was engaging to me...the notion of really focusing on closing the achievement gap. I was drawn by the integrated way the city works, the way of living in SF, the political climate, the environmental climate. Everything about San Francisco was truly appealing to my family.

Do your own kids attend San Francisco schools? I have two daughters in the SFUSD. One is a sixth grader and the other is a high school junior.

What are some of your biggest goals for the district? The achievement gap is our critical area of focus. Our goal is to increase access and equity for all students. The fact that a large urban school district in the United States has called out the achievement gap is a breath of fresh air. Most school systems will allude to an achievement gap but won't address it directly. It's really a social justice issue.

How do you measure the achievement gap? First and foremost we measure what our students are learning. I'm not a proponent of testing for testing's sake, but its one variable we have to look at. We're looking at our data very closely and asking, are students starting to catch up?

And are they? The data is starting to show that students of color are starting to make up some ground without sacrificing the improvement of other students. Students of color are starting to accelerate. That's really exciting. Our work is to identify why these students are showing this increased acceleration. What's behind it? How can we replicate it? It's great teachers, a specific and rigorous curriculum tied to state standards. It's having coaching for instructional practices, it's providing intervention for students who are not successful.

Can you describe the ethnic makeup of San Francisco's student body? Off the top of my head, I believe it's 33 percent Chinese, 12 percent white, 24 percent Latino, 10 percent African American, nine percent Asian [non-Chinese], 12 percent other/declined to respond. We dont have any one ethnic subgroup in San Francisco that dominates. It's pretty heterogeneous.

What's the one biggest challenge facing the student population? Funding is absolutely critical to us. We've never funded schools the way we should have funded schools. And funding really does make a difference.

How so? It takes funding to be able to provide better classroom instruction. We're proving that point in San Francisco. Students come to school with lots of needs. They may be homeless, have nutrition issues, have health and dental issues. The schools serve as the hub for those students and their families to access broader services. iI takes funding to have people on staff be able to make those connections. We are proving that we can make a difference when you use funding in a strategic, well-defined way.

A common criticism among San Francisco residents is the lottery-based system in which students are placed in schools. How do you respond to those criticisms? The school assignment policy is a work in progress; it's an evolving process that the Board and I will continue to look at. We're dealing with multiple opinions and examining the data, and it will be a continued conversation.

What about the families who threaten to move to the suburbs as a result? The ironic part is that SFUSD is the highest achieving large urban school district in California.

Do you ever miss being in front of a classroom? I loved being a teacher; I went kicking and screaming into administration because I was tired of complaining. I still miss the classroom. I consider myself a teacher who happens to sit in the administrator's chair. I love what i do as a superintendent; it's an important role only if you keep the focus on the classroom. I like to think thats what my focus and my legacy will be here.

Outside of the schools, where do you find inspiration around town? I never get tired of looking at the Golden Gate. I find peace when I see it. The ability of the human race to build these magnificent structures goes beyond me. To think at one time or another all these people were in school! I grew up in Tucson, was the son of a sheet metal worker and a hairdresser. I never thought that one day I'd be responsible for 55,000-plus students in a city like San Francisco, and I'd be able to ponder my job while looking at the Golden Gate. That spot really conjures gratitude for the blessings I've had.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Perspective: Restorative Practices


Download audio (MP3) | KQED

 
Amy Merickel learns a better way for adults to help kids resolve disputes.
By Amy Merickel
 
When my daughter started Kindergarten, I volunteered as a recess monitor. In between the peals of laughter, I noticed something that bugged me. Students who cut in line, grabbed a ball out of turn or caused other trouble were getting benched. Some of them were being cast as "troublemakers."

As an education policy researcher I worried they were on a path to underachievement. As a mom I wondered if there might be a better way. I found it in something called Restorative Practices.

It's a framework for community building and conflict resolution, and is predicated on high expectations with high support to meet them. In education, Restorative Practices emphasizes building trusting relationships and learning from conflict. It helps put the kibosh on bullying.

Say a kid grabs someone's ball and a tussle ensues. A traditional approach would be to intervene, take the ball away, and give the perpetrator a time-out. The new approach turns that whole process on its ear.
When everyone has calmed down, you ask a simple question: "What just happened, and what were you thinking as it happened?" The answer could be "I wanted to shoot baskets but no one would give me their ball." There are a few more follow-up questions, concluding with, "What do you think needs to be done to make things right?"

Now, you may be thinking this is too time-consuming every time there's a squabble over a ball. But by just asking how their behavior affects others, the seed is planted for students to reflect on their actions and make things right.

San Francisco public schools adopted the Restorative Practices framework in 2009. As it spreads, suspensions and expulsions are decreasing.  In my view, it's no coincidence.

Recently I saw a kid grab a classmate's hat. I used this approach and the exchange went well enough. But afterward what he said blew me away: "You know, what's really bothering me is a problem I'm having with those other kids. Can we have the same talk with them?"

So we did. We simply got to the heart of the matter and worked it out.

With a Perspective, I'm Amy Merickel

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Willie Brown Jr. Academy razed

By: Jill Tucker | SF Chronicle

An excavator carries rubble as the Willie L. Brown Jr.
College Preparatory Academy Dream School is demolished
on Wednesday, August 29, 2012 in San Francisco, Calif.
Photo: Lea Suzuki, The Chronicle / SF
What had been one of the lowest-performing, under-enrolled schools in San Francisco was little more than a pile of rubble as workers demolished Willie Brown Jr. Academy in the city's Bayview neighborhood.

Loud hydraulic excavators bit off pieces of the few remaining walls still standing last week at the school, which served about 160 students in grades four through eight until June 2011. With blue sky visible above and gaping holes nearby, a paper sign directed visitors to the now-nonexistent counseling office.

Soon, the tons of mangled rebar and concrete chunks will be carted off for recycling and the 4-acre lot will be vacant, a clean slate to rebuild a new school.

Three years from now, a $40 million, state-of-the-art science- and music-focused middle school for 650 students will open its doors on the site.

School district officials hope the new school, which incorporates design elements reflecting the importance of circles in African cultures, will be embraced by the neighborhood and families across the city.
"I'm incredibly optimistic about what we're doing and how we're doing it," said David Goldin, the district's chief facilities officer. "I think it's a school that needs to be reborn."

Before closing in 2011, the public school posted some of the lowest test scores in the state. The rundown building, a former police academy, required at least $11 million in upgrades.

One of worst in state

 

When the state designated it as one of the worst 188 schools in the state and demanded the district reform it or shutter it, district officials opted for the latter.

"This can't be a school like it was," Goldin said.

The new school will be front and center on the property on Silver Avenue, rather than pushed to the back behind a parking lot, as the old one was.

"We're saying to the community, this building is part of your neighborhood," Goldin said. "It's going to feel like it's here for a purpose, and it's something everyone in the neighborhood should treasure and enjoy."
The district met several times with community groups to hash out design ideas for the school, which was named after the city's former mayor.

The result will be buildings that spin off a circular central space, hinting at the African and African American tradition of meeting and teaching in circles, Goldin said.
 

Investment in education pays off

SF Chronicle

Mayor Ed Lee (left) and the new superintendent Richard Carranza (right) visiting a classmate at Everett Middle School in San Francisco, Calif., as students introduce themselves on the first day of school on Monday, August 20, 2012. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle / SF

Teacher Gabri Rodriguez going through student paper work during their first day of school at Everett Middle School in San Francisco, Calif., on Monday, August 20, 2012. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle / SF

Sixth grader Geordan Chab (left), 11 years old, and Tulio Martinez (middle), 11 years old, going through student paper work during their first day of school at Everett Middle School in San Francisco, Calif., on Monday, August 20, 2012. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle / SF

The new superintendent Richard Carranza visiting the teen center at Burton High School in San Francisco, Calif., on Monday, August 20, 2012. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle / SF

Jackson Prowell (left), 10, and Tulio Martinez (right), 11, wiggling their fingers in support of their classmates at Everett Middle School in San Francisco, Calif., during introductions on the first day of school on Monday, August 20, 2012. In the background on left is Mayor Ed Lee and the new superintendent Richard Carranza clapping while visiting the school. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle / SF

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Everything You've Heard About Failing Schools Is Wrong

Attendance: up. Dropout rates: plummeting. College acceptance: through the roof. My mind-blowing year inside a "low-performing" school.

The bell rang. A flood of shoulders and sneakers swirled around Maria, and she couldn't see much until the sea of strangers streamed back into classrooms. Then she stood alone in the hallway.

It was Maria's first day at school, her first week in the United States. Her middle school in San Francisco was the biggest building she'd ever seen. It was bigger than the entire Best Buy store she'd walked through in awe on her first day in the city.

Eventually, Maria found her way to class, a special setting for Spanish-speaking newcomers. There she would practice English words for colors and numbers, learn how to introduce herself and how to say thank you. By eighth grade she was moved into mainstream classes, where she struggled. It didn't help that her math teacher started each class by saying, "Okay, my little dummies." He spoke really fast. Maria never raised her hand in his class.

One day Maria stopped by the administrative office, looking for someone to help her with multiplication. She took her spot in line behind a middle-aged woman who chatted with her in Spanish as they waited. Maria said school was really hard for her. The woman told her not to worry. "Latinas usually don't finish high school," she said. "They go to work or raise kids."

The woman was right, statistically speaking, and Maria's middle-school experience all but ensured she'd join the 52 percent of foreign-born Latinos who drop out of high school. She graduated from eighth grade without learning to speak English. She had a hard time writing in Spanish and didn't know how to multiply.

And then everything changed. At Mission High, the struggling school she'd chosen against the advice of her friends and relatives, Maria earned high grades in math and some days caught herself speaking English even with her Spanish-speaking teachers. By 11th grade, she wrote long papers on complex topics like desegregation and the war in Iraq. She became addicted to winning debates in class, despite her shyness and heavy accent. In her junior year, she became the go-to translator and advocate for her mother, her aunts, and for other Latino kids at school. In March, Maria and her teachers were celebrating acceptance letters to five colleges and two prestigious scholarships, including one from Dave Eggers' writing center, 826 Valencia.

But on the big state tests—the days-long multiple-choice exams that students in California take once a year—Maria scored poorly. And these standardized tests, she understood, were how her school was graded. According to the scores, Mission High is among the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools in the country, and it has consistently failed to meet the ever-rising benchmarks set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The law mandates universal "proficiency" in math and reading by 2014—a deadline that weighs heavily on educators around the nation, since schools that don't meet it face stiff penalties.

Read more on MotherJones.com

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Quiet Transformation



 By: James S. Dierke | Leadership Magazine

 

A Quiet Transformation

Stress not only contributes to violence and behavior issues, it impacts focus and memory, fundamentally impairing a child’s ability to learn and make good decisions.


My 40 years as an educator have led me to an impor­tant insight: stress is crip­pling our schools. The students at San Francisco’s Visitacion Val­ley Middle School, where I was principal for the past 12 years, face drugs, gangs and violence every day. Most of the students in our school have a family member who has been shot, who did the shooting, or who saw a shooting. The majority are on free or reduced-price lunch. Many have little or no parental support. 
On top of these extreme conditions, there is the pressure to achieve and succeed in a fast-paced, chaotic world. All of these circumstances together compromise the physical health, and in turn the cognitive and psychological capacity, of our students. This pervasive stress also compromises our teachers’ ability to teach effectively and sur­vive in the teaching profession.

As a result schools like ours have many problems: low attendance, violence, low performance, and high teacher turnover. This pattern in low SES communities is so common it is almost an assumed outcome – the predictive power of demographics. In our case, students reside in zip codes 94124 and 94134. Based on these zip codes, our students’ ethnicity, and the fact that few of their parents attended college, educational researchers feel they can predict our stu­dents’ attendance rate, behavior, test scores, and overall academic achievement.
New initiatives fail to stem tension
In the first eight years of my tenure as principal we introduced many new initia­tives, engaging community organizations offering afterschool tutoring, sports, music, peer support and counseling services in an attempt to improve the school conditions. There was improvement, but at the end of 2006 there was still a lot of stress and vio­lence. Even though we established clear be­havior goals for all students and common standards for all teachers to uphold, high tension and turmoil remained, impairing the learning experience. Fighting was prev­alent in our school throughout the day, so much so that we were known as the “fight school” in the district. Fear, sadness and tension dominated the school climate.
 
At this point we looked for options that would directly address stress. We came across a program known as Quiet Time, an innovative, high impact stress reduction and readiness-to-learn initiative that integrates medi­tation (yes, meditation, not media­tion – we already had that) into the daily routine of the school.
 
A break from pressured activities

Quiet Time was developed by Washington, D.C. Principal George Rutherford at the Fletcher Johnson School in the early 1990s. I spoke to Rutherford, who told me that after he implemented Quiet Time, the fighting at his school diminished significantly and his students started learning more. So I invited the Cen­ter for Wellness and Achievement in Education, a local non-profit that teaches meditation to students, to help us develop and implement the Quiet Time pro­gram at our school. Our teachers voted to adopt the program, with 95 percent in favor. We applied for funding from the David Lynch Foundation and launched the pro­gram in January of 2007.


For QT (Quiet Time) we created two mini class periods of 15 minutes, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. We used our homeroom class period and a few minutes from lunch and our passing peri­ods to create these two class periods. In QT, our students get a break from all of the pres­sured activity in their lives – 15 minutes of total peace and decompression.
 
Every morning after the teachers take role, an announcement goes out to every classroom: “Teachers and students, please prepare for Quiet Time.” Then teachers have students clear their desks, face front and a quiet bell is rung. The students close their eyes and for the next 15 minutes, an effulgent peace engulfs the school. No noise anywhere – safe, quiet, peace.

Afterwards, the students move into their academic classes more settled, clear and ready to learn.

All students and teachers are offered training in an evidence-based meditation technique called Transcendental Medita­tion. This meditation was selected because comparative research indicated it is particu­larly effective at reducing stress and sup­porting healthy brain development.

In QT the students either meditate, or sit quietly and rest. The teachers watch over the students and maintain a safe environment. The teachers themselves meditate before school, during their prep periods, or after school.

When we first started QT, we imple­mented the program in sixth and seventh grades, with the eighth grade as a control group. Over the next four months we ob­served remarkable changes. The first thing we noticed is that the sixth and seventh grade referrals went down and the eighth grade referrals increased.
Multi-day suspensions down 43 percent
Similarly, when we looked at suspen­sions, we noticed they were dropping in the sixth and seventh grade and rising in the eighth grade. When we looked at multi-day suspensions, which are associated with more serious, usually fighting-related in­fractions, there was the largest differential. The multi-day suspensions for the QT stu­dents went down 43 percent relative to the non-QT controls. Fighting in PE in the sixth and seventh grade dropped by about 60 per­cent. It stayed the same in the eighth grade.

We also observed that during the STAR testing, the sixth and seventh graders were remarkably focused, while the eighth grade was more rowdy, consistent with our nor­mal experience. When we received our test results, we looked at the QT student scores relative to the prior year, compared to the non-QT students. We found that the QT students improved much more in math and language arts than the controls. The biggest gains were in the below basic and far below basic groups. This data was the first sign that Quiet Time was helping us overcome the predictive power of zip codes. 

The other thing I noticed as the end of the school year approached is that our teachers were absent less. Usually anywhere from two to 10 teachers would be absent in spring as the wear-and-tear of the year took its toll on the staff. But I was noticing many days where no teachers were absent. When we looked at the data, we found that teacher absenteeism due to illness went down 30 percent over the prior year.

In year-end school surveys our teachers cited Quiet Time as the most impactful pro­gram in the school, helping improve school climate, teacher health and student engage­ment. In student surveys, 85 percent of stu­dents reported that QT reduced their stress levels, increased their focus, improved health, and reduced violence in the school.
 
Over the next four years we saw contin­ued impact at our school as a result of the Quiet Time program. Our district intro­duced a report card on number of suspen­sions per student enrolled. Our school went from one of the highest in the whole district in suspensions to the second lowest – a 79 percent reduction.
  
We saw our average daily attendance start trending up after the start of QT, and after four years it reached 98.3 percent. When the district compared the two QT schools to all of the other middle schools, there was a consistent increase in atten­dance in the QT schools, versus no change in other schools.

After two years of Quiet Time I started getting hand cramps from signing so many honor roll certificates. A district research department check of our student GPA showed a similar upward trend in GPA. Most encouraging was the fact that the greatest GPA increases were occurring in the lowest-performing demographics, indi­cating closing of the achievement gap.

Interestingly, the standardized psycho­logical tests we have administered since the start of QT indicate as our students’ stress levels go down their self esteem goes up. As students become less stressed and more con­fident, we have seen increased engagement as indicated by increased attendance and GPA.

Every year at our school we have a huge influx of new students. As much as 70 per­cent of our student body is new every year. This last year there was a particularly large influx as the result of a neighboring school closing. We absorbed many students from the highest suspending school in the dis­trict. At the beginning of the year we saw our behavior problems increase dramati­cally, reminding us how our school was five years ago. But as the year progressed the stu­dents became more and more acclimated, and by the end of the year a high degree of harmony was reestablished.

Enhancing students’ working memories
What have we learned? After manag­ing strife and violence year in and year out for several decades of my career, I realized that no matter how much effort we put into teaching, if we don’t effectively address the pervasive underlying tension and trauma experienced by our youth, we can’t make real progress. And the research supports this. Researchers from Columbia University found that the stress experienced in low SES communities is significantly higher than other communities, and this stress impairs healthy brain functioning (National Acad­emy of Sciences, 2009). These brain impair­ments, among other things, compromise a student’s working memory, which in turn compromises the ability to learn.

Specifically, working memory is essen­tial to language comprehension, reading and problem solving, and it is a critical pre­requisite for long-term storage of informa­tion. Stress not only contributes to violence and behavior issues, it impacts focus and memory, fundamentally impairing a child’s ability to learn and make good decisions. In summary, the researchers at Columbia found that poverty leads to higher stress, which leads to poorer working memory. Our experience and the research indicates that there is a fundamental need to address the problem of stress in order to overcome the predictive power of poverty and position our students so they can grow and excel.

The Quiet Time program has provided this for us. It is by far the most impactful, transformational program that I have seen in my 40 years of education. By reducing the individual and collective stress levels and fostering a positive school climate, it creates a foundation for all of our other school ini­tiatives to be more successful. Students are engaged and learning more.
Joy and cooperation at all-time high
In the past, almost none of our students went to the top high schools (San Francisco has an open enrollment policy for high schools). In the last two years approxi­mately 20 percent of our eighth graders have gone on to Lowell High School, the top high school in San Francisco, and one of the top in the country.

When I first arrived at Visitacion Val­ley Middle School in 1999 I was taken on a tour of the facility, and when we arrived at the auditorium the front doors were locked. I asked to see the room and the reply came, “Oh Jim, we don’t use the auditorium. It is too dangerous. If we assemble a large group of students, we inevitably will have serious fights. So we don’t use the auditorium.” 

Now we use the auditorium almost every day, often with our whole student body. The level of joy and cooperation between our students and our staff is at an all-time high, and our teacher turnover rate has gone down close to zero.

Most inspiring for me is that our stu­dents are more happy and positive. My staff and I have enjoyed seeing the friendliness and joy of our students grow. In the last Cal­ifornia Healthy Kids Survey, our students reported the highest happiness levels in San Francisco. You do not expect that from zip codes 94124 and 94134, neighborhoods that experienced 41 murders from 2005 to 2007.
 
The last five years have been the most up­lifting of my career. I have a renewed hope. I have concluded if we truly address the needs of the whole child we can make dramatic leaps forward in our educational success. But we need to think outside the box and address the healthy brain development of our students and staff.
 
On the surface, it appears crazy to some educators that we have two 15-minute peri­ods a day when our students “do nothing.” In reality, they are not doing nothing; they are collecting themselves so that the rest of the day is much more productive.
 
The Quiet Time program is a cutting-edge, 21st century educational initiative I believe can help us realize the goals of mod­ern education: help our students grow into healthy, well educated, well adjusted, happy, contributing members of society. I retire with the lowest blood pressure I have had in 10 years and a great optimism about our ability to realize this vision for education.
References
Journal of Clinical Psychology. (1989). “Dif­ferential effects of relaxation techniques on trait anxiety: A meta-anaylsis.” Ep­pley, Abrams & Shear. Wiley Periodicals.

Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences. (2009). “Childhood poverty, chronic stress, and adult working memory.” Evans, G. & Schamberg, M. www.pnas.org_cgi_doi_10.1073_pnas.0811910106.

James S. Dierke is retiring principal of Visitacion Valley Middle School. He was NASSP National Middle School Principal of the Year in 2008.