Over the past three weeks, I have had the pleasure of following the start to what presents itself as a new tradition at Thacher: Quiet Time. In this article I will examine Quiet Time through the lense of both the students and the brain behind implementing it at Thacher, Mr. Mulligan.
Before delving into the deeper matter of Quiet Time at Thacher, it is important to understand Quiet Time as an idea and its intentions. According to Mr. Mulligan, “There are a number of other schools, both public and private, that have started quiet time programs.” He goes on to explain Quiet Time as having the purpose of “helping students find a more peaceful environment for themselves in the school setting by allowing them to get a little more rest and rejuvenation.” Quiet Time overall is meant to be presented as an opportunity for all students to achieve rest in the midst of their busy lives. It is, in some ways, the administration’s expression of understanding of our daily struggles as students grappling with our busy lives. In this regard, Quiet Time should appeal to everyone at Thacher as we constantly discuss our lack of free time to ourselves, away from the madness of riding or sports or work. This template of “quiet time,” borrowed from other schools that are in some regards like ours, is like a pitstop in the race that is our lives: stop, breathe, rejuvenate, and go on your way again.
At Thacher, we are fortunate enough to have the school offer a multitude of reflective and relaxing activities to bring Quiet Time to all of us. From yoga to meditation, Jewish fellowship to Christian fellowship, students are invited to explore ways that are conducive to helping them take a time-out from stress, technology or work; however, the case of Quiet Time at Thacher is very two-sided according to the student responses I received on Quiet Time surveys I sent out: some embrace Quiet Time, while others see it as just another item on the schedule. In response to my survey asking students what they did during Quiet Time, one wrote that they “meditated while listening to Jack Johnson,” utilizing the thirty minute period to slow down and reflect. Another took advantage of the campus-wide time of quiet to “[listen] to music and [relax] in a hammock.” Unlike some of their peers, however, many students expressed a sense of resentment towards Quiet Time. They conveyed that they “couldn’t even participate” due to a conflict with riding, sports, advisees, or head-waiting. One student wrote: “honestly, I just got ready for formal exactly like I would have normally. I was planning on going to meditation but meditating in riding clothes didn’t seem like a good plan. In any case, I would have been 10-15 minutes late for the meditation.” Moreover, several students even suggested a sense of animosity towards the idea. One student expressed that they “played loud music in protest,” while many others admitted to using their phones or doing homework.
So, moving forward, how can such a unique place like Thacher, where students are engaged in a multitude of after-school activities, work towards achieving a more functioning Quiet Time?
“One of the goals [of the administration] is for the kids to see it as an opportunity, not a burden,” Mr. Mulligan responded when I asked him about some of the goals for Quiet Time in the future. He recognizes that Quiet Time is “never going to work for everyone” — he, of all people, understands the magnitude of Thacher after-school commitments — but, he continues: “we ask you to just not be noisy, in other words not [to go] on your tech, and if you want to read a book you read a book I guess — you do what you need to do.” However, Mr. Mulligan also conveyed his desire to “fine-tune to see what appeals to kids and what doesn’t” with the hopes that students “discover the power and importance of taking a time out at least once during the day in order to recharge their batteries.” So, for those struggling to find time in their lives for Quiet Time, understand that this idea of Quiet Time is new and still being tweaked, so don’t give up on it — try napping, or try meditating for five minutes if that is all that your schedule allows.
And, for those interested in integrating more Quiet Time-like relaxation into their daily lives, Mr. Mulligan offers many alternatives: “We will be happy to set up voluntary, weekly, nightly Quiet Time sessions for those who would like to have more meditation or yoga or religious practices. We could have a room we set aside; we could set a dance studio aside when no one’s using it. My home would be available for those to come in at a certain time to practice contemplation or meditation.” In a world as busy as ours, it is imperative that we take time to slow down and put matters into perspective, to call home once in awhile or stop thinking about that tricky math homework you have to do later in the day. And remember, Quiet Time is a work in progress; like many things, it will take time to make it work for more Thacher students. But in the meantime, Mr. Mulligan and many others just hope to “introduce students to this notion that they live happier, healthier, better lives when they take a timeout during the day.”