Thursday, December 02, 2004

Another Essay for Class

Revolution in Family Structure Forces One Teacher
to Add to Her Teaching Methods

". . . After 1960 the proportion living in one-parent families with their mother also increased. The rise in the proportion of children living in dual-earner families or one-parent families was extremely rapid, since the increase from 15-20 percent to 50 percent required only 30 years . . . to take place." (Hernandez, 2003, pp 266)

In the 1970s, Stephanie Herzog was starting her career as an elementary school teacher. Much to her frustration, the greatest challenge she had was trying to keep enough discipline in her classes to allow effective instruction. She searched, studied and tried many methods to bring order to her classroom, with only lukewarm success. As the years passed, she saw a constant increase in troublesome students (Herzog, 1982, pp 1).

She had a system of discipline that gave some results when she attended a teachers conference and heard Deborah Rozman talk about teaching children how to meditate to help them concentrate better. Herzog was so entranced by the lecture that she decided to introduce it to her second graders - only to avoid the religious connotations of the word "meditation", she called it "centering" instead (pp 2, 53). Thinking only of the benefit of increase concentration, it never occurred to Herzog that this practice would produce a calmer classroom and less behavior problems. However, to the delight of her substitutes, the effects were still in place even when she wasn't (pp 7 -10).

The positive effects of using "centering" were widespread and contagious. Some of Herzog's students taught it to their families and improved the atmosphere at home (pp 29, 58-59). Some parents were so impressed by their child's improvement that they asked to sit in occasionally on these exercises (pp 55-57). Not everyone benefited from the exercises right away. Some students took several months to train themselves to sit still and just concentrate. Others needed clarification of what was actually expected and accepted of them. Many needed encouragement to pretend or imagine during the exercise. Surprisingly, having them imagine their mothers hugging them usually opened the gates and brought great progress (pp 47). Disruptive students whose families were in turmoil seemed to take to meditation right from the start (pp 74). In fact, Herzog found that many of her students spent many hours at home alone because their parents had to work (pp 77). Lacking parental guidance, the centering exercises help these children to be more productive and less helpless. The practice helped Herzog personally as well. She was able to teach with more confidence and enjoy herself in her work (pp 62).

As promised by the original lecture, meditation did increase the students ability to concentrate and helped several below performing students improve their skills. One student seemed unteachable for the first two months Herzog had him. He seemed to retain nothing that was presented to him. When he finally managed to keep his eyes closed and body still during the centering exercises, a great change came over him. "It was as if he had heard and learned everything during all the previous lessons had taught him, but could not concentrate long enough to show me what he knew."(pp 26)


  • Hernandez, D. & Myers, D. E. (2003). Revolutions in Children's Lives. In Skolnick, A. S. & Skolnick, J. H., (Eds.), Family in Transition (pp 263 - 272). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
  • Herzog, S., (1982). Joy in the Classroom, Boulder Creek: University of the Trees Press

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