Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Quiet Time

Ten Essex infant and junior schools are trialling meditation techniques.  The hour-long classes - which teach children 'how to find their own space' - are funded by a £20,000 government grant.  Why it's necessary to have extra funding beats me, because most people, after a few simple lessons, can teach meditation techniques.  Even me.

Why do I feel so confident when I've never undertaken any formal training?  Because I was taught relaxation/meditation/yoga techniques in primary school back in the 1950s.  In those days there were no fancy titles to our 'quiet time' which was part of every day school life.

We didn't have professionals visit, we had teachers who understood children and childhood and were determined to do their very best for us.  Teaching was a vocation  and these innovative women knew that children required 'wind down' time.

Fifty-five years later I still vividly recall these pauses in our hectic school day. The ten minutes of quiet time occurred during any part of the day with the timing at the discretion of the teacher. We would either lie on the floor and imagine we were floating; sit on our chairs with arms limp at our sides and chins on chests while we 'emptied our minds to make room for more thoughts' or we rested our heads on our arms while we concentrated on music which usually involved the sound of the sea or tinkling bells.  The music was barely audible - a clever ploy.  Apart from the records and a record player there were no props as none was needed.  No floor mats in those days.  

When we reached secondary school quiet time disappeared and was very much missed by those of us who had been privileged to have learnt the skills it involved.

So well done Essex. Maybe some Scottish schools will reinstate 'quiet time'. It doesn't have to be an hour or a professional yoga class: with regular training ten minutes is enough for anyone to recharge their batteries.

I well remember the teachers' whispered mantra: "I must be able to hear a pin drop."  Possibly a difficult achievement these days now that discipline is much more relaxed but it could be done.  It would certainly be of great benefit to our young ones.



Jim said...

My son has been having quiet time just after lunch in nursery since he was 2... that was to replace what was his 'post lunch' nap...

It goes something like this.
1. They get a mat and blanket
2. The lights are dimmed, curtains drawn.
3. They lie down, think about their breathing and relax for 20 minutes.
4. After quiet time is over, they have big stretches to waken up their bodies and if the weather is ok they go outside to play...

It's pretty radical stuff!

£20k government grants you say...

Macheath said...

'Possibly a difficult achievement these days now that discipline is much more relaxed...'

I'd agree with that - the once-widespread custom of under-5s having a short sleep during the day has succumbed to the twin innovations of daycare and television; by the time they reach school age, they have long-since lost the ability to settle and the inclination to cooperate.

By coincidence, I visited a French primary school last week and was treated to the sight of the younger pupils, some of them clutching cuddly toys, being led in silence into the darkened hall for a post-lunch siesta on rows of mats.

Their teacher explained that, without this interlude, they would be unable to concentrate by the end of the school day and the valuable lesson time would be wasted. I wonder what her response would be to the idea that it takes a £20,000 initiative to achieve the same result.

Demetrius said...

One major difference with the longer past is the sheer amount of noise and strong visual images that modern children have to contend with as routine. Also, if they do not walk to school but are carried in cars this is not relaxing. We walked along traffic free roads and in quiet streets.

English Pensioner said...

I suppose the cost depends on how many schools are involved. In these day, I suppose it's not a lot if someone has to go round to all these schools and get them organised. My wife pays £10 a session at Yoga classes, but this has to pay for the hall and instructor, but of course schools already have their own halls.
One interesting point is how it will go down with the religious extremists (of all sorts). One Vicar near-by refused to allow his church hall to be used by my wife's instructor as he considered Yoga and meditation to be "Un-Christian". The Masons clearly don't as they are now using the Masonic Hall!

subrosa said...

Jim, that's interesting to know. There were no, or very few, nurseries in the 50s and my own didn't go to them either. But they had a version of my school quiet time when they were wee. Longer than 10 minutes of course. :)

subrosa said...

Good to see that the French still encourage the habit Macheath and the teacher is absolutely right.

When I was writing the post I thought about how it would take some effort to get unruly children to sit still for 2 minutes. We'd have far less children on drugs if they could be taught to relax during each day. The attention deficit disorder problem would reduce radically.

subrosa said...

Yes Demetrius, life is so much louder today and that makes a short time of quiet more valuable.

I think over-stimulation of the mind is as bad as under-stimulation.

subrosa said...

Professional yoga classes aren't necessary EP. Relaxation can be taught by most of us if we know the basics.

Jings, that vicar sounds like a Wee Free minister!

I don't see why these schools need £20,000 to organise this. All it would take is a progressive head teacher and teachers willing to have 10 to 15 minutes quiet in the middle of their day.

Jim said...

To be honest, most nurseries we looked at had very similar language for the activities and development program for the kids, which we initially found a wee bit surprising.

There is a National curriculum which most nurseries seem to follow though and as you can see from this web site

'Quiet time' is certainly something that the nurseries are aware of and cater for.

Like you I remember having similar quiet moments in Primary school, so I'm not sure why modern Essex primary teachers aren't capable of delivering those moments without external assistance...

Brian said...

I remember quiet time at infants school in the early seventies. Sitting or kneeling on coconut matting in shorts without figeting to listen to a schools radio programme or a story taught concentration and self-discipline. There were thirty-six in the class and no teaching assistant. All could read and we loved chanting the times tables.

Joe Public said...

In my school days (long, long ago), meditation cost nowt. We were just ordered to stand in the corner wearing a conical had with a big "D" on.

subrosa said...

I know that school Joe. It was in Hard Knock Street wasn't it?

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