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The Snake of Brighton

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Normally, I do not sleep the night before school starts because I am so excited about starting a new year. This year, I did not sleep the night before because I was so worried about how school would actually open the next day because I felt we were so ill-prepared. I quickly realized there were very few routines and procedures in place from record keeping to starting the day. In a meeting with the teachers, I referred to our district policy on student transportation and I was introduced to a phrase that I hear too often, “This is Brighton and that does not work here.” I call this dysfunctional attitude the snake of Brighton.


Two years ago, when I first visited Brighton, there was actually a kindergarten classroom that had a problem with snakes. I was in this room one day with a teacher from Federal Programs when we begin finding small snakes. After we found the fourth snake, she and I looked at each other and said we are closing this room. We went to the office to talk to the principal and discovered she was at a meeting. We told the school secretary our plans and she informed us that the snakes had been a problem in this classroom for two years! We found the custodian, who actually had a snake catcher for one of his tools, and the three of us went to the room where we began to sack up everything. Over a period of two days, 16 snakes were found in this room. I was relieved when I was told the snakes were not poisonous. However, this was not the issue, the issue was that children do not need to be in classrooms with snakes! Someone said to me “ I guess it took the Teacher of the Year to do something about the snakes.” This annoyed me because this should have been taken care of two years earlier for the sake of the children not because I was there. District maintenance workers came that day and repaired the hole in the wall where the snakes were entering the room. An exterminator was called to come set off a snake balm and children were moved to the music room. The children stayed in the music room for three weeks with no chairs and tables. I am astonished when people wonder why the children in this school are not achieving at the expected level.


The snake situation is very symbolic of the gap in the standards we have for schools with high poverty. I live in area where we have four very affluent school systems nearby. I am sure if there was ever a snake in any of these schools, the problem would immediately be addressed. Parents would simply not allow this situation. Yet, in my school this was tolerated because- “This is Brighton.”


Ironically this year. I was placed in “the snake room”. I felt like this was probably my just reward for telling this story. However, I was moved the third week of school because we added an additional kindergarten class and I am happy to report it has been a snake-free year.

Please continue to send in your comments and questions.

24 Comments

I am glad you have this opportunity, as an outside person with a voice. Many teachers in low-income schools do care, but when they try to make changes, they are one small voice to whom no one listens. Keep communicating!

I am looking forward to regularly reading your blog.
I suggest, though, that you (or the site designer) modify the type used for your entries. It is very difficult to read the very small and light-colored type. Please consider resetting to something larger and darker.
Thanks!

Hi Rob:

Good comment about the readability, or lack thereof! We fixed it. Hope this helps!

Jeanne McCann

We find apathy and complacency in may places. Overcoming that inertia takes one great teacher at a time. Thank you, Betsy for being one more great teacher.

I am working on building libraries in underfunded urban christian schools...many many of the issues in the tough public schools are in these private schools as well...I am always looking for intelligent hope and working advice - I applaud your humility and will be watching your work very closely...one of your best gifts may not be your advanced education but your positive and upliftiing spirit - at first glance it might be perceived as irritating as hell - but
the tonic of good cheer and perpetual joy (with a backbone) is rare and powerful...

Betsy,
I may be of some help to you for the rural Alabama school. I have about 20 hard back reading books that could be used for first or second grade. They are like new and you may have them. If interested please contact me.
Donna

Betsy, You brought a steady, determined style to solve the problem of snakes in a classroom. Catching the snakes, sealing the hole, finding alternative space for students, insisting that Brighton students deserve a safe classroom without snakes required teamwork and flexibility. I find your work as a teacher/leader an inspiration. Many of our political leaders are speaking in public about their ideas for "reforming" education. My impression is that many of these same people have little or no actual experience in classrooms. I would prefer that teachers speak about issues of public education, because I think classroom teachers face reality every day.
I look forward to reading more about you and your students and colleagues at Brighton.

Betsy,
Keep up the good work and the positive attitude you bring with you. You are to be commended for your inspiration...and remember, if it were easy, anybody could do it.

These students and the school really needed a leader like you because usually parents at low-level schools do not care, therefore, the students need someone to be thier advocate, which of course was you!

Your snake problem rang a bell. At Mountain View Elementary a Virginia school in Rockbridge County where I taught special education for six years, there was a chair shortage. When I requested more chairs for my classroom I was told "there aren't any." Having worked in school systems before I knew that there had to be a storage facility with surplus furniture somewhere in the county. I was told that there weren't any there either! I received this same message from anyone I asked. I finally began bringing in wooden chairs picked up at flea markets and yard sales. The kids actually thought my "different" chairs were cool. The attitude that "This is Mountain View or This is Rockbridge County" never sat well with me. Why in the poorer neighborhoods or sections of country must the children suffer? Also the superintendent denied that Mountain View had parents of any lower socioeconomic status than the rest of the county.

Using your experience of encountering the snakes in the classroom as a metaphor for the attitude of "this is Brighton" was like reading about my experiences in the classroom. I taught in a rural school with a majority of teachers who grew up in the community, went to school there and came back to teach. If anyone realized that doing things the same way was doing nothing but sinking them further into complacency, nobody admitted it. I suppose it was easier to let it go on. Going against the "way" usually led to an even lower level of committment, from the staff, not the students. Not until a new principal came in and began to work toward the concept of taking pride in self and achievement and the school, did things begin to change. In fact, some of the most complacent decided it was time to go. Thank you for what you do!

Go girl. As a professor of reading at the University of Alabama I am well aware of the inequities at the level of the university as well as in school systems. I choose to write Early Reading First grants (one in Alabama and one in Mississippi) in order to actually do something for children and teachers who need my skills the most. I have had a total change in attitude about the role of the University in preparing teachers. The teachers I work with in Mississippi are from the area, attended school in the area, and must work VERY hard to pass the teacher test in order to get a job. The work to improve schools that serve low income children is at the classroom level. I wish I knew how to get teacher education programs in place in communities that need us!

Lea,
Are you familiar with the Capstone Writing Project at the University of Alabama? The foundation for the National Writing Project is teachers teaching teachers. If you haven't spoken with anyone there, log on to the National Writing Project in Berkely. Emily

Kudos!-to you, Ms Rodgers...

Your Work is inspiring, commendable,and sooooo needed. Continue to "Fight the good fight of Faith. Your work is not in vain!"I am ENCOURAGED too,to "BECOME The TEACHER OF THE YEAR!"even if I have to "kill some snakes".

Don't know about Brighton's situation, but the school where I teach is situated in South (Central) LA and poverty is the watchword. My attitude is simply this. The people in our neighborhood don't have the political clout themselves and we teachers are also limited in that regard, but I wonder what would happen if we were to unite behind our parents and all of us stand as a political bloc. Maybe we could chase off a bunch of snakes....

Don't know about Brighton's situation, but the school where I teach is situated in South (Central) LA and poverty is the watchword. My attitude is simply this. The people in our neighborhood don't have the political clout themselves and we teachers are also limited in that regard, but I wonder what would happen if we were to unite behind our parents and all of us stand as a political bloc. Maybe we could chase off a bunch of snakes....

Besty, You are so right about how our schools are staffed. Too many times the strongest and more experienced teachers teach at our stronger schools. Most of the time these weaker schools are where our new teachers are placed. This does a diservice to the teacher who may be so frustrated and lack the necessary support and skills needed to teach in these types of schools, that she leaves the profession. I truly believe this is one reason we have such a teacher shortage in our country. This also does a diservice to the students who need a strong teacher with experience. This is not to say that our new teachers are not some of the stronger teachers, but too many times they are put into situations that they need additional support with. I believe that until we do have our strongest teachers, including National Board Certified Teachers in these weak schools,we will fall short of the goals of NCLB.

Betsy,
Emily Dickenson wrote:
"Hope" is the thing with feathers -- That perches in the soul -- And sings the tune without the words -- And never stops -- at all--


Thank you for being that hope for so many children and inspiring the rest of us to be that hope!

I stand amazed that a school system would ignore the problem with the snakes.Where are the parent leaders and where are the teacher/administrator leaders that should have taken care of the problem two years ago when it started?

I teach in inner city Detroit. I just began reading your blog and decided to write.

We have many "snakes in the classroom" and the attitude comes from years of trying to be heard with no success. We continue to get principals in elementary schools who have a few years of teaching experience all in high school. They have no idea what good teaching at the elementary level looks like. More importantly, they have no ability or desire to collaborate with their teaching staff.

Now we have a "scientifically research based" reading program that we are supposed to follow so that every classroom throughout this large district is on the same page every day. Good teachers are leaving the district and the profession because they are no longer allowed to teach well but must teach this one size fits none program. Some teachers stay but feel they must hide what they actually do in the classroom. Some just go along with the program and blame children and parents for a lack of progress.

If teachers were recognized as the professionals they are, each would be able to determine how to best reach each of the students in their classroom. And the waste we witness daily in our schools would be eliminated.

Betsy,
I know all too well the frustrations of having simple problems unattended to for years on end. As teachers who care deeply about the learning environment of our students, we usually recruit family help to maintain our rooms....build puppet theaters...purchase needed supplies...etc. I always tell my students with a smile that God has a special place in heaven for teachers.
To Molly, I do believe that parents in low socio economic areas care. They work so hard just to survive, and send us their greatest pride and joy everyday. Remember that just because they may not have all the right parenting skills doesn't mean they don't want the best for their children. As a school community, it is possible to begin infusing parenting and early education techniques into our families. Make arrangements for child care, throw out some salsa and chips, have day and evening opportunities, and they will come...especially if give the families an opportunity to allow their child to shine.

Good for you! Too often people accept conditions or have lower expectations for people who are perceived as "unworthy of our time and effort." NEEDLESS TO SAY, THESE PEOPLE SHOULD NOT BE IN THE BUSINESS OF EDUCATING OUR CHILDREN. There was no explainable reason why this snake situation was not taken care of two years earlier. Being a great teacher begins with CARING enough to MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

Dear Betsy, The website is not mine but. It is the website for Consciousness-Based Education. CBE is based on the research that has been done on the Transcendental Meditation technique. The research has been published in major education and other journals for 40 years. It shows that the TM practice increases the efficiency and orderliness of brain functioning, eliminates the disorderly functioning that is the cause of students not doing well, not being interested in doing well, not behaving well, being depressed, etc. During the practice the brain wave coherence within and between the hemispheres increases. This heals the brain malfunctions that cause the listed problems and more. There are quite a few schools around the US and world where all faculty and students practice the TM technique. All students excel in all subjects and in personal growth. Their behavior is excellent and they are interested in self-development and doing what they can to prevent crime, war, etc. You can call or visit the schools. You will be very impressed and I hope pleased at what you discover. The main organization in the US to oversee the teaching of the TM technique is the US Peace Government, a non-political non-profit organization in Iowa. Please look at these websites and pass them around to other teachers. www.maharishischooliowa.org, www.uspeacegovernment.org, www.istpp.org, www.mum.edu, www.tm.org, www.permanentpeace.org, www.globalgoodnews.com. Stress may alter brains of teens
REUTERS

WASHINGTON - Severe stress can permanently affect an adolescent's brain, causing changes in an area important for learning and memory, U.S. re­searchers reported Saturday.

The study, conducted using rats, suggests that teens may not always bounce back from trau­ma and suggests that adoles­cents may be more susceptible to permanent damage from stress than younger children.

Susan Andersen of Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., and colleagues found that rats ex­posed to stress during adoles­cence - by being kept alone in cages - had lower levels as adults of a key protein in the hip­pocampus, a brain region impor­tant for learning and memory.

The protein, synaptophysin, is used to measure how many brain-cell connections are being made. Lower levels suggest re­duced brain activity.

Andersen's team told a meet­ing of the Society for Neurosci­ence in New Orleans that their study was the first to show that stress during adolescence af­fects adult brain-cell connec­tions.

Usually, in humans, synapto­physin levels peak at ages 18-20. Anderson's team tested rats of comparable age.

The rats kept alone - some­thing very stressful for a rat - did not experience the normal increase in synaptophysin as they reached early maturity.

"These data may suggest why early traumatic stress, such as physical or sexual abuse or ne­glect, is associated with a de­crease in the size of the hippo­campus in adulthood," McLean Hospital said in a statement.

"These pre-clinical data sug­gest that stress experienced ear­ly in life alters the normal devel­opmental trajectory of the hip­pocampus, but that these chang­es are not apparent until later in life,” Andersen said.

Study finds exercise is smart habit

REUTERS

WASHINGTON - Exercise fanatics may be right - getting out and moving increases blood flow in the brain, U.S. research­ers said Saturday.

Tests on monkeys show that exercise helps foster blood-ves­sel development in the brain, making the animals more alert than nonexercisers.

"What we found was a higher brain-capillary volume in those monkeys who exer­cised than in those monkeys who did not," Judy Cameron of the divisions of Reproductive Sciences and Neuroscience at Oregon Health & Science Uni­versity said in a statement.

"Specifically, changes were most noted in older animals that were less fit at the start of the study," she added in a state­ment.

"The next step of this re­search is to determine whether other areas of the brain under­go physical changes. For in­stance, how are brain cells af­fected, and does that impact cognitive performance."

Cameron presented her find­ings to a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orle­ans.

"While we already know that exercise is good for the heart and reduces the incidence of obesity, this study shows exer­cise can literally cause physical changes in the brain," she said.

"Furthermore, we believe the study results show exercise causes a person to be more en­gaged and provides another reason for Americans to make physical activity part of their daily regimen. This is especially true in the case of older Ameri­cans with whom decline in mental function over time is a common occurrence."

Stress relief for kids--and you: Natural calming strategies for any age
by Ana Mantica

Prevention Magazine
28 August 2004

An article in Prevention, one of America's most widely circulated magazines, highlights the Transcendental Meditation Technique as an effective way to relieve stress in children and adults. It is a joy for Global Good News service to feature this news, which indicates the success of the life-supporting programmes Maharishi has designed to bring fulfilment to the field of Health.

Experts don't agree on whether or not today's young children face more stress than ever before, but more mature anxieties seem to be on the rise at an earlier age and solutions to the problem must be sought.

The author points out that youngsters are being pressured into growing up fast. 'Younger children are being pushed to be little grown-ups', says Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD, medical director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, MD. 'They have the responsibility to get the grades, do extracurricular activities, and get the test scores'. At the same time, they're exposed to their parents' stresses at home, plus the threat of violence at school and of terrorism in the world around them.

The resulting anxiety and stress serve to increase children's risk for insomnia, skin disorders, headaches, upset stomach, and depression. In addition, one study recently found a correlation between childhood stress and overeating of fatty foods.

If the children seem overly anxious, it's likely that they are mimicking the tendency to feel stressed which they see in their parents. The article suggests creating more serenity in the home.

Prevention Magazine describes the Transcendental Meditation Programme as one solution, 'Kenia Bradley used to worry about everything—birthday parties, homework, even who would feed her goldfish, Sternum, during family vacations. So when her Detroit elementary school offered meditation classes 6 years ago, she and her mom signed up&mdashand soon mastered a stress-control technique they're still using today.

'I'm busy.' says Kenia, 14, now a freshman at Cass Technical High School. 'I've got weekly guitar lessons, club meetings, homework, and eight pets to look after, and I help my dad with the family business as much as I can. But I don't worry like I used to.' Her mom, Brenda, agrees. 'The whole household is calmer.' she says.

Recent studies show that Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation (TM, the meditation that the Bradley family practices) lifts kids' moods, decreases blood pressure, and may even overcome ADHD symptoms.

Every day Global Good News service documents the rise of a better quality of life dawning in the world and the need for introducing Natural Law based—Total Knowledge based—programmes to bring the support of Nature to every individual, raise the quality of life of every society, and create a lasting state of world peace.

Copyright © 2004 Global Good News(sm) Service
Meditation in the classroom
by Ken Chawkin

The Edge
1 August 2004

Walk into most schools and you're bound to see a lot of unhappy faces. It's not easy being a teenager these days. Students are under a lot of pressure, loaded up with schoolwork and extracurricular activities. They vie for each other's attention, are constantly influenced by the latest fashion, and under peer pressure to experiment with alcohol and drugs. A growing number are on medication for stress-related disorders like high blood pressure, depression or ADHD. Incidents of truancy, bullying and fighting are a common occurrence, and in some cases lead to disastrous consequences.

Now visit a small Midwest school and marvel how each classroom starts their day. Imagine students sitting quietly, eyes closed, not fidgeting, not joking around, just meditating in a group for five or 10 minutes depending on the grade level. Stick around and you'll see them focus on the subject at hand, paying attention, responding to their teacher's questions, challenging the teacher for more knowledge with their own probing questions. Students are happy, harmonious and engaged in the learning process.

This is what you find when you visit any classroom at the Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment (MSAE) in Fairfield, a small city in Southeast Iowa. Every day students, faculty and staff practice the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique together as part of their daily routine. Some of the older students participate in the more advanced TM-Sidhi Program including Yogic Flying in the Golden Domes on the adjoining campus of Maharishi University of Management (M.U.M.) to help create world peace.

Maharishi School
Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and is a member of the National Association of Independent Schools. It is one of only five schools in the state to have been granted college preparatory status by the Iowa Department of Education in recognition of its long history of having more than 95 percent of its graduates accepted at four-year colleges. Classes in grades 9-12 consistently score in the top first percentile in standardized tests such as the Iowa Tests of Educational Development. In addition, during the past five years, the school has produced more than 10 times the national average of National Merit Scholar finalists.

Maharishi School students have won more than 100 state, national and international championship titles in the past decade in the arts, sciences, photography, theater, speech and other categories. They have won more Critics Choice Awards than any other school in the state for Choral Reading, Group Mime, Reader's Theater and One-Act Play.

During his recent visit to Fairfield, Hollywood film director and 30-year meditator David Lynch met with students from both M.U.M. and MSAE. He even attended the Maharishi School Theatre Cavalcade where the students were performing their recent state-winning numbers. He was taken by surprise.

'I've seen some great performances in film and in theater,' he remarked, 'but I've never seen anything like I saw that night. Such honesty, naturalness, intelligence—it was phenomenal! And these weren't actors, these were students.'

In extracurricular activities each year, MSAE sends many teams to competitions like Odyssey of the Mind (OM) and Destination ImagiNation (DI). In DI, an international competition that challenges students to think out of the box and come up with creative team-based problem solving strategies, MSAE has placed more top-10 winners at the global finals than any other school in the world. This year, the Upper School boys' team received the coveted Renaissance Award, given for exceptional engineering, performance and 'awesome teamwork and cooperation.'

When it comes to sports, the golf team became state champions in 1996, just two years after they got started under the tutelage of their founding coach, Ed Hipp, and were featured in Sports Illustrated (Dec. 23, 1996). The Iowa High School Golf Coaches Association honored Ed Hipp as Coach of the Year for 2003. And for the first time in the 70-year history of Iowa high school tennis, Maharishi School won the celebrated Triple Crown by winning first-place in State Class 1-A titles in singles, doubles and team competitions two years in a row, 1999 and 2000. The Iowa Tennis Association (ITA) chose Lawrence Eyre Coach of the Year for 2000. The tennis team was later featured in the August 2002 issue of Tennis magazine, the year they celebrated their first undefeated season. In the article, coach Eyre was quoted as saying that, 'Seventy percent of a tennis match is between points and whoever recovers better and can return to a steady state is going to do better.' TM helped his players recover quicker from unforced errors and then move on to the next point without getting upset or distracted.

A few years ago, Teen People magazine chose Maharishi School as its 'Cool School of the Month,' and this year, Worth magazine's May feature story, 'Embracing our Alternatives,' listed MSAE as one of seven alternative private schools promoting leadership, values and the family mission (http://tinyurl.com/2yvbs).

Perhaps all this success may have something to do with the Consciousness-Based(sm) education (CBE) model, which utilizes techniques for developing the total brain of the student. One of the main techniques is Transcendental Meditation. Research has shown that regular TM practice enlivens hidden reserves of the brain physiology, develops latent creative intelligence of the students, increases hemispheric brain coherence responsible for moral reasoning, decision-making, and enhances mind-body integration. What is TM, and how do the students feel about doing it every day?

TM technique
While there are many forms of meditation, the one most widely practiced and researched in our time is the Transcendental Meditation technique. Whereas most employ some form of effort, contemplation or concentration, TM is unique in that it is effortless, relying on the natural tendency of the mind to go to finer, more charming levels of experience. Although students practice the technique anywhere from five to 15 minutes, adults do it for 20 minutes twice a day. Regardless of age, during the practice the active thinking mind settles down to quieter levels of thinking until it transcends, goes beyond the thought process and arrives at the silent source of thought within. The body also settles down to a state of least excitation allowing for deep rest, twice as deep as sleep, dissolving deeply rooted stresses. This state of inner restful alertness triggers the body's innate intelligence and allows the physiology to repair itself naturally.

TM's founder, His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, began teaching this meditation practice 50 years ago and brought it to the West in 1959. Derived from an ancient Vedic tradition, this simple mental procedure is practiced twice a day for 20 minutes while sitting comfortably in a chair. More than five million people worldwide have learned TM in a standardized seven-step course taught by qualified teachers. TM's inclusion into the curriculum at Maharishi School has set the standard for other educational institutions to follow. Students and faculty at schools in Detroit, Ill., Augusta, Ga., Silver Spring, Md., and Washington, D.C., and elsewhere around the world are experiencing the same beneficial results. It's becoming a growing trend in education.

Maharishi School has an open admissions policy, accepting students with a wide range of academic skills and social backgrounds. Families have either moved to Fairfield or have sent their sons and daughters to live as boarding students or with families they know. Young children begin a simple, eyes-open walking meditation technique, known as their Word of Wisdom, as early as kindergarten. When they turn 10, they learn the adult, sitting, eyes-closed technique, but only practice it for five, 10, or 15 minutes, depending on their grade level. The kids find it easy to do and enjoy practicing together in class.

But what is it really like for new students? How are they accepted into their classrooms, into the community? How has meditation affected their lives?

Student Experiences Interestingly, the students at MSAE say they feel clear, alert, happy and self-confident as a result of their regular TM practice in school. They are not as clique-ish as in other schools and tend to get along well together. This allows them to excel at whatever they put their attention on—academics, sports, extracurricular activities. It wasn't that way for some before they got there, whether they had meditated or not.

Katy Kirbach grew up in Fairfield, Iowa. 'Prior to regularly practicing TM,' she said, 'I felt alienated and alone. I was shy, quiet and didn't know who I was or what I wanted to do with my life. I didn't have faith in myself. I felt like I was being packed into a box and a way of life that didn't have many possibilities ahead for me. Practicing TM, and experiencing the Unified Field twice a day, every day, has opened my eyes to the infinity that is around me and in me. I now see that I have all possibilities in front of me, and, at 18, am entering into the world with optimism and enthusiasm. I have become much more grounded in my Self, and comfortable with who I am.'

Katy learned to meditate with other kids of meditating families in town whose children were also attending the local public schools. Since meditation was something foreign to most of the other kids and some of their teachers, it was not discussed, and in some cases ridiculed. Also, without the support and intellectual understanding, she found it difficult to practice on a regular basis and eventually stopped. It wasn't until she attended high school at MSAE, a school where meditation is not only accepted and encouraged but also part of the daily routine, that she began to practice TM regularly. She also took the foundational SCI course, the Science of Creative Intelligence, and gained a deeper understanding and appreciation of her own practice, as well as an intellectual framework for all her courses. She did well academically and went on to excel in fine art. Last summer, she was selected to study at the prestigious Slade School of Fine Art in London. Katy graduated this year and was honored with the Virginia Buckley Art Award.

One of Katy's best friends, Malinda Gosvig, also graduated this year and was one of Maharishi School's three National Merit Scholarship Finalists for 2004. 'Based on the contrast I witnessed in my life after my transfer to MSAE,' she said, 'I feel I can say that, without a doubt, this education has been the most amazing and transforming experience of my life.'

Puki Freeberg seems secure within herself and not easily affected by any peer-pressure. 'One thing I have really noticed is how I find it easy to accept myself and feel comfortable in social situations,' she said. 'That is one issue I know is really tough for most teenagers. With TM I feel fulfilled inside with who I am, and don't feel as though I have to change myself in order to fit in with my peers. It's also great to be in a situation at MSAE where all the students feel that way, so there is not a huge social issue. Everyone is comfortable with themselves and accepting and loving towards everyone else.'

Besides the meditation, the teaching methodology also enhances this growth towards self-understanding and acceptance. Every subject is taught with reference to that whole field of knowledge, to its underlying source in the Unified Field, and to the student's own inner consciousness, the Self of everyone. The students can more easily grasp abstract concepts and feel at home with all knowledge.

'At MSAE we don't only learn math, science and English,' said Ami Freeberg, Puki's twin sister, 'we also learn about our selves, and how we are all connected at the most basic level. That is the most fulfilling part about this consciousness-based education.'

Meditation also improved Ami's basketball game. 'One time, on the day of a big game, I unintentionally had an extra meditation. That night I played my best game of the season. I just felt really relaxed, and kind of 'in the zone.' I think that extra meditation just brought a deeper level of silence into my action, allowing me to play to the best of my ability.'

Another basketball player, Sofia Iwobi, came to Fairfield in 1999 when her Romanian mother left their home to study at M.U.M. Sofia enrolled in grade 6 at Maharishi School. She was 12 years old at the time and wasn't a meditator. Her experience had been typical of most students in public school. She was 'very nervous and hyper and couldn't really focus for any period of time.' After learning to meditate, she became calmer and aware of the peaceful supportive environment.

'The students are more happy and relaxed,' she said. 'I was able to focus better, which improved my basketball skills and my grades.' Indeed, after her second year at Maharishi School, she joined the girls varsity basketball team as a freshman, and made the first team all-conference.

Ben Pollack used to go to a school in New York where meditation was not part of the standard curriculum. 'I had to do TM before and after school and it was really tough to do,' he said. 'By having the TM technique incorporated into the daily schedule at school, it is so much easier and more enjoyable because I don't have to worry about doing it at home.' As for things like schoolwork and personal relationships, 'it made them easier to handle,' he added.

At his previous school, kids formed cliques and you were either in or out. This was an isolating experience for Ben. 'Back in New York,' he says, 'I used to have very few friends, but at this school everyone is friends with everyone. I have also noticed that at MSAE when the kids all practice (meditation) as a group, there is a certain sense of connectedness to each other and the kids always end up coming out smiling and laughing.'

Pollack is currently part of a student organization at MSAE called Students Creating Peace Network (SCPN). 'We are advocating the TM technique as a way to accomplish this but it is not exclusive to students practicing TM. We are a network that has connected with students in many locations, including California, Colorado, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, New York, Washington D.C., and others.'

Faculty advisor for the Students Creating Peace Network, Lynn Kaplan says she is deeply satisfied to work with a group of students who practice a simple technique to not only create peace within themselves, but also in their families, schools and communities. 'They are so fulfilled within themselves that they naturally want to share this knowledge with their generation.'

Because of his involvement and enthusiasm Ben was recently asked to speak at a national education conference in New York this year. Any other student would have been nervous at just the thought of it, but The New Yorker's Rebecca Mead described Ben in the Talk of The Town column as 'a preternaturally self-possessed eleventh grader from Fairfield, Iowa.'

Some of the students were asked to demonstrate the TM Technique by meditating in front of television cameras. When asked if the television-camera lights had presented any obstacle to his achieving meditative transcendence during the demonstration Ben replied, 'I didn't even feel the cameras around me. In fact, it felt more like an inner light than an outer light.' (The New Yorker March 22, 2004, http://tinyurl.com/345p5)

Educator comments, 'Many people visit the Maharishi School—parents, educators, celebrities—and leave inspired. Some come to learn how to model their school after MSAE, others how to introduce TM into their curriculum. Most come just to observe the students in class.'

Patrick Bassett, current President of the National Association of Independent Schools in Washington, D.C., has commented, 'Maharishi School is routinely recognized as outstanding in Iowa, since its students frequently take top prizes in state-wide academic competitions. It is a world-renowned independent school of the highest caliber academically.'

Dr. Charles Matthews, chairman and former professor of science education at Florida State University, was amazed at what he saw when he visited the classrooms at MSAE. 'The students of Maharishi School, from kindergarten to upper grades, have the longest attention span of any I have seen in the 30 years of teaching and educational research in public and private schools. I found that the students were on-task more than 95 percent of the time. Usually I find that students attend to their lessons less than half of the time they are in class.'

Julia Herbert, Ed.S., a reading consultant in the Washington, D.C., area schools, also was impressed. 'As a reading consultant, I have visited many public and private schools, and I have never felt such a calm and silent atmosphere in a school of bright, lively, alert children as was evident at Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment.'

Jill Olsen-Virlee, Iowa Teacher of the Year for 1996 from Marion High School, in Marion, Iowa, came away inspired. 'Your school was truly an inspiration. The inner peace, the concern for one another, the respect and thirst for wisdom and a holistic approach to children are awesome.'

Janet Thomas has worked in private schools in Australia and in Maharishi School for a total of 27 years. She has taught English, Social Sciences and Creative Writing to students from grades 7 through 12. She found Consciousness-Based education to be a win-win situation for both students and teachers.

'I found that meditating makes me the best teacher I can possibly be,' she said. 'It gives me the clarity and creativity I need to create a safe, challenging and nurturing environment that is necessary for profound learning to take place. Students, on the other hand, have the level of receptivity to learning that makes the sky the limit for the teacher. The first thing I noticed when I saw these students was the brightness of their faces. When I got to know them I saw that they had no fear. No fear whatsoever. Very unusual for teenagers. Their self-possession, intelligence and confidence make teaching a pure delight.'

Katy Kirbach affirms Mrs. Thomas' comments with great appreciation after having transferred to and now graduated from Maharishi School: 'For me, attending MSAE was a profound and enlivening experience,' she said. 'The students and teachers at MSAE are all the proof needed to see that Consciousness-Based education really works. I have never been around so many intelligent, kind pure-hearted individuals. The teachers devote their lives to educating the students, often encouraging students to call them at home, and offering their weekends to any students who need help, or simply wish to learn more. The students are energetic and interactive in the classroom, voicing questions and opinions, which I certainly didn't hear in public school.

'While the students are self-confident and forthcoming with their opinions, they do strive to 'Speak the sweet truth' and, in the 3-1/2 years I spent at MSAE, I never had a derogatory or cruel comment directed my way.'

For more information, go to www.maharishischooliowa.org or www.tm.org or call 1 (866) 472-MSAE (6723) or 1 (888) LEARNTM (532-7686).

Ken Chawkin, M.A., has been a TM Instructor, Ayurvedic Health Technician, Reading and Writing Facilitator, published poet and writer. Both his son and daughter have graduated from MSAE and his son from M.U.M. Ken is a publicist for Maharishi University, enrolled in the part-time MA in Vedic Studies. He can be reached at [email protected]
International Herald Tribune

International Education: Meditation helps students

By Dana Micucci

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

New York: New research seems to be strengthening the case for teaching transcendental meditation in U.S. schools, showing it to be a means to improve the concentration of students and a way to enhance their physical and mental well-being.

Proponents say that students who meditate daily are calmer, less distracted and less stressed and less prone to violent behavior.

A study conducted at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Georgia, which will be published in the April issue of the American Journal of Hypertension, found that transcendental meditation reduced high blood pressure in African-American teenagers. The study tracked 156 inner-city black adolescents in Augusta, Georgia, with elevated blood pressures. Those who practiced 1-5 minutes of transcendental meditation twice daily steadily lowered their daytime blood pressures over four months compared to non-meditating teens who participated in health education classes and experienced no significant change.

The technique was developed 50 years ago by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and consists of silently repeating a mantra for about 20 minutes a day. It found its way into classrooms 30 years ago after Robert Keith Wallace, a medical researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, published the first study on its positive physiological effects.

Since then, studies at universities like Harvard, Stanford and UCLA have shown that transcendental meditation can ease stress and enhance both physical and mental health and behavior.

Bolstered by these studies, groups of educators, parents and physicians across the United States have turned to transcendental meditation as a possible antidote to rising anxiety, violence and depression among students. Committees for Stress-Free Schools were established last year in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Chicago and other cities. These committees serve as information resources about the potential benefits of meditation for students and teachers.

"Transcendental meditation is a simple mental technique that can have profound physiological effects," says Gary Kaplan, a neurologist and clinical associate professor of neurology at New York University School of Medicine and chairman of the New York Committee for Stress-Free Schools. "It produces a state of restful alertness that provides the body with deep, rejuvenating rest and allows the mind to reach higher levels of creativity, clarity and intelligence."

However, initial efforts to introduce the teaching of transcendental meditation in schools were controversial. Opponents criticized it as a religious practice and in the mid-1970s a group of citizens brought a lawsuit against several New Jersey high schools, forcing them to withdraw their programs. At the time, a New Jersey court ruled that transcendental meditation had religious overtones and therefore could not be offered in a public school.

."The challenge lies in educating people that although transcendental meditation is rooted in the Indian Vedic spiritual tradition, it is not a religious practice," says Kaplan.

At the Fletcher-Johnson School, an elementary and junior high school in a rough Washington neighborhood, meditation has been reported to help to improve student performance and reduce fighting. George Rutherford, the principal who introduced transcendental meditation 10 years ago, said, "We saw immediate results."

He added, "There was a lot of violent crime around the school. But after we trained our students in transcendental meditation, they were calmer. There was less fighting, and attendance increased. Students scored better on standardized tests. Transcendental meditation helped to remove a lot of their stress."

Now, as principal at Ideal Academy in Washington, Rutherford is training teachers in transcendental meditation to combat teacher burnout.

At the Nataki Talibah Schoolhouse in Detroit, an elementary and middle

school, students and teachers have been practicing transcendental meditation twice daily for the past seven years. Carmen N'Namdi, co­founder and principal of the school, says that "given the enormous stresses of today's world, children, like adults, need to learn how to rest and relieve tension."

Recent research spearheaded by Rita Benn, director of education at the Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the University of Michigan, found that meditating students at Nataki Talibah Schoolhouse were happier, handled stress better, had higher self-esteem and got along better with their peers than non-meditating students at another Detroit school.

In addition to improving the emotional and social development of children, meditation can also be effective in treating brain disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to a study conducted in April 2004 at Chelsea School in Silver Spring, Maryland, a private school for children with learning disabilities.

"We compared students before and after they learned transcendental meditation," said the principal investigator, Sarina Grosswald, president of S J Grosswald & Associates, a consulting firm in medical education in Alexandria, Virginia. "Kids who practiced transcendental meditation for 10 minutes twice each day for three months reported being calmer, less distracted, less stressed, and better able to control their anger and frustration."


Perhaps we must begin by thinking, "This is Brighton (or wherever else we are) and these children deserve the absolute best in facilities, equipment, and teaching."

I shudder at the idea that our students will leave us "and go on to bigger and better things." We should create a Big and Great Thing, right where we are, and then our children will go on to other things that will expand their vision and knowledge - and if our Big and Great Thing is truly so, they will happily realize that they are from a Great Place themselves.

They are the futures of our communities as elected and unelected leaders, professionals, business owners, doctors, and so forth. Perhaps the very best of them will become teachers themselves, worthy of being entrusted with the next generation.

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