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The Value of 60 Seconds of Silence in the Classroom

According to the Center for Disease Control, rates of ADHD diagnosis increased an average of 3% per year from 1997 to 2006 and an average of 5.5% per year from 2003 to 2007. How can we as educators combat shrinking attention spans? Easy. We train them.

Google Engineer turned Mindfulness expert, Chade-Meng Tan outlines an extremely persuasive argument that attention is trainable in his book Search Inside Yourself, The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace). The simple act of sitting quietly for a brief period of time and paying attention to attention dramatically increases focus.
Based on his research, I have my students spend 60 seconds at the beginning of each period in silence. I ask them to simply pay attention to their breath, and if a thought comes up in their head, identify the thought, say hello to it, and let it go by focusing back on the breath. I assign one student a bell and she rings it to begin the practice and then rings it again after one minute.

When I started this practice, I thought my always-connected students would protest. I asked them to simply try it for a month and I would check in to see if they found it worthwhile. Here are some of their responses.

I love this practice, and I look forward to it everyday. It is such a great time to think or not to think at all in this world where we are going so fast and always to the next destination and just being stressed. In that one minute, I can really take in the great benefits from just being relaxed and calm.

It's the one time in the day where I can just sit and feel the calm of meditation. It helps me focus in class.

This time before class is irreplaceable as it can calm me down from anything I was doing before class, or sometimes even help me to feel less tired going into class, creating a better learning environment for me.

It gives me a moment to kind of get my mind ready for class. What I mean by this is I stop thinking about everything that came before the 60 seconds and lets me "start fresh" to receive new knowledge.

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