Oregon: New Report Cards Help Paint the Whole Picture

Last week, Oregon released new and improved school report cards. Rather than simply providing a snapshot of what schools are “good” and what schools are “bad”, the updated version offers: Level 1 to Level 5 Scale Levels 1-3 are lagging … Continue reading

Mindful Teaching & Quiet Time Techniques (with Comments from Guest Blogger Chaz Mortimer)

The sun is out, and it’s the perfect day to share a wonderful article on using “Quiet Time” techniques to help students settle their minds.  I’m grateful to have guest blogger Chaz Mortimer on board to share some of his reflections based on his reading of the article and his experience teaching in Portland.

I am a big fan of Edutopia’s “Schools That Work” series of videos and articles.  After a long week talking with students and colleagues about the problems in the public school system, it’s nice to read about positive, creative ways teachers and schools are meeting student needs and supporting kids.

The site just released a lengthy piece on “Quiet Time” techniques that are being used at Visitacion Valley Middle School to address the problem of student stress and anxiety that all too often result in detention and suspension or full on dropping out of school: Tackling Truancy, Suspensions, and Stress.  This piece is worth a read.  Add it to your weekend reading list.  The article includes resources and tools for educators who might like to try some of these techniques.

Chaz (www.chazmortimer.com) posted on my original link to a piece of this article, and I knew immediately that I should share his words.  He is a local musician and teacher who is always looking for creative, innovative ways to connect with students and to give them moments of peace, through music and beyond.  Here’s his reflection on the article and his experience as a teacher.  In particular, he addresses some reader concerns about having meditation in the classroom (his words are in teal):

All this week I have been reflecting on my two seemingly opposite educations: The Oberlin Conservatory and Naropa University… I am thankful for both the strong social justice movement and activism I aligned myself with at Oberlin and the contemplation, mindfulness, inner-work and meditation I cultivated at Naropa (Founded by Tibetan Buddhist Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche for those that don’t know). This story [the article on Quiet Time] speaks to my experience as a student and a teacher….

In college, I first attended Oberlin Conservatory and then after crisis hit me and my family I took some time off and then finished at the Buddhist inspired Naropa University.  At Oberlin the push for social justice was strong, and I loved that, but the amount of information and expectations thrown at me were unrealistic.  At Naropa, each class started with a brief meditation and bowing in and at the end of class we would sit and bow out. I found that the skills in mindfulness that I cultivated were equally as powerful as the activism that I absorbed at Oberlin. I am finding that for every action that we take (the yang) a brief moment of silence and inner work (the yin) helps to bring balance…and a more holistic success.

As far as the religious piece, I had the opportunity to study meditation quite a bit and feel, like most of my teachers, that Buddhism in particular is not a religion like the others and is more about sitting with your own mind.  There is one class I teach in particular, a 4th and 5th grade music class, where the kids are so wiggly and giggly that it is almost impossible to make progress. The few times that I have been able to get them to quietly listen to silence amidst all of our “noise,” I feel we have made great strides. It is by tying those islands of clarity together that the mad man heals his insanity, and that’s the way the classroom can feel in some of our more intense schools.

Please feel free to comment on the article or Chaz’s comments here at PDXEAN or on our Facebook page.  If you want to check out Ethos Music Center, through which Chaz currently does some of his teaching, please go to Ethos Music Center.

Questions of the day: Would you be comfortable using “quiet time” or meditation techniques in the classroom where you teach?  Would you like your child to have room for non-religious quiet reflection as part of his/her school day?  What do you think about the results in the study?